Preview: Mayden to Return to National XC Meet

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Men’s basketball season preview

NCAA logo Terre Haute is French for “high ground.” And on Saturday, senior Samantha Mayden will try to reach higher ground than anyone else in Muhlenberg cross country history.

Mayden qualified for the NCAA Championships for the second straight year by finishing seventh at the NCAA Mideast Regional last Saturday. The national meet is hosted by Rose-Hulman in Terre Haute at a course near the campus of Indiana State University.

Last year, in her “mayden” voyage to an NCAA meet, Mayden finished 195th in a field of 277. Since then, she has also competed in the NCAA Championship in outdoor track and field, and the experiences have left her more prepared for this meet.

Samantha Mayden “When I got to the starting line last year, I was like, oh my god, I’m at nationals,” she acknowledged.

A phenomenal season in which Mayden has finished in the top 10 in all six of her races should have erased any doubts about her belonging at the NCAA Championships.

“Last year I peaked [before nationals] and then just held it. I was pretty tired at the end of the season,” she said. “I feel like this year I’ve been training with the goal of nationals being my last race.”

The field for the national meet (about 280) will be smaller than it was for the regional meet (about 350). The big difference, of course, is that everyone at the NCAA Championships is a top-flight runner, which changes the strategy.

“Something I realized last year is that there are a lot of people at your level,” said Mayden. “Usually when I run races, I run up top and it gets gapped. There isn’t anybody right behind you. At nationals you have to get used to running in packs, which can be pretty stressful.

“If I stay composed and run the races I’ve run all season, I should have a pretty good time.”

The well-traveled Mayden, who hails from Tennessee and has represented the Mules in competition in Wisconsin, California and Connecticut, will run in Indiana at one of the few courses in the country built specifically for cross country races. The city of Terre Haute has been proclaimed “Cross Country Town USA” due to its tradition of hosting nationally recognized events, including eight consecutive NCAA Division I Championships from 2004 to 2011. Division I moved to Louisville this year, giving Division III the opportunity to use the course.

“I’m excited,” said Mayden. “You think about all the great people who’ve run there.”

As the second Muhlenberg female to earn all-region honors three times and the first to qualify for nationals twice, Mayden is establishing herself as one of Muhlenberg’s all-time great runners. And she can add to her credentials with a solid performance in her last cross country race as a Mule.

“I didn’t know realistically what my goal was last year,” she said. “My ultimate goal is to be an All-American, and I think that’s realistic.”
Click here for the meet site.