Blugold cross country teams striving to be part of the nation's elite

Their journey is never really over, not even after a season that ranks as one of the best in school history.

"We have high goals, and all season long, we've focused on that one day of nationals," said UW-Eau Claire cross country runner Elly Prunty. "Each day, we're striving toward making the goal of nationals."

Division III's top meet is where the UW-Eau Claire women's cross country team made their mark last year, capturing only the third N-C-A-A title for the school. This season, expectations are just as high. The Blugolds climbed to number one in Division III before finishing second at the Roy Griak Invitational.

"It's definitely different dynamics, but I think we're just as good as last year," said Blugolds junior Alyssa Sybilrud. "Everybody's improving and getting stronger."

"Griak is a big meet, but it's not our most important meet, so even though we did well, it's not like we're getting a big ego over it," Prunty said. "It is something to build off of."

The Blugold women are once again setting the pace for all of Division III, collecting three top five finishes so far. The Blugold men, meanwhile, are moving up through their own field, qualifying for the NCAA Championships last year for the first time in a decade.

"Getting the national experience just made us want to go back hungry, despite graduating a lot of guys, to get back there," said Blugolds senior Tom Breitbach. "But really, our primary goal is to be the best team in Eau Claire history."

To set a new standard, the UW-Eau Claire men know getting back to nationals is just part of the overall goal.

"Going to nationals last year was a great accomplishment for us and, you know, we at least want to do that again," said Blugolds senior Josh Wieland. "Improve upon the 16th-place finish we had last year."

"If things go right we'd like to be one of those teams that brings home a trophy in November," Breitbach said. "Seeing the women do that last year was fantastic. We want to see if we can take it to that level, too."

It's a run they've already seen end in success.

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