VCU men’s cross-country team has dominated the competition so far this season. The team has placed no lower than second in its respective meets, notching two first-place and two second-place finishes.
Cross-country head coach Nicole Cook said she feels the team’s success is a result of the upperclassmen being seasoned and understanding the type of competition the team is up against.
The leader of the pack is senior Mohamed Adam. This season, the Sudanese phenom has single-handedly posted two first-place and two top-10 finishes. Adam feels he has significantly put in more effort this fall than seasons past because this is his last year of competition.
Throughout his career, Adam has competed with a chip on his shoulder. He believes there is always room for improvement and trains tirelessly in order to shed seconds off his times.
Over the course of this season alone, he has shaved more than 50 seconds off his 8000 meter-dash time, improving from 26:51 to 25:58. While this doesn’t match his personal best of 25:35, which he posted his junior year, Adam is still determined to keep improving.
Despite his tenacious work ethic and talent, Adam is deemed a quiet, poised leader by his coach and peers.
“He leads by example rather than saying something because he is very quiet,” Cook said. “When he does say something, it’s a value in meaning to the team.”
This season, Cook has directed more attention to the diets of her athletes. She has gone as far as having the athletes document what they are eating throughout the day. The objective of the precautions is to have the athletes implement healthier choices, such as fruits and whole-grain wheat, in their diets.
“I always compare their bodies to a car,” Cook said. “If your car is getting the wrong kind of gas, then your car is going to break down.”
In conjunction with Cook, the team nutritionist Chad Austin implemented an interactive method to encourage healthy eating among the athletes. He did this by creating a Facebook page and having the athletes post photos of their meals.
As this season winds down, the team is bracing for a depleted upperclassmen roster. There are currently six seniors on the 11-man roster; the remaining five slots are occupied by underclassmen.
However, Adam has faith in passing the proverbial torch to the talented underclassmen. In particular, he is impressed by sophomores Austin Lushinski, Calvin Wood and freshman Dylan Richeson. So far this season, the trio has given remarkable showings, placing in the top-20 in every meet.
Over her four-year tenure, Cook feels she has grown to become more sincere when interacting with her athletes. She still has a stern coaching temperament but has been able to tone down her tenacity.
“I’ve grown to be understanding and not being hardcore all the time,” Cook said.
Cook hopes her team will continue its momentum into the Atlantic 10 Championships and also into the NCAA postseason. In the process, she hopes the team will continue to improve as a collective unit.
As for Adam, he plans to focus on his education after this season. He would like to enroll in medical school and pursue his dream of becoming a doctor. In the interim, the Sudan native plans to continue working hard on the course.
“Since it’s my last year, I’m trying to leave a mark,” Adam said.