NIRCA Nationals Race Recap

NIRCA Nationals Race Recap

Running Club Does NIRCA Natty’s

A short story by Mark Schenberger

From the moment we departed Hersey, Pennsylvania after NIRCA Nationals 2013, my eyes had been set on next year’s version of the event. After a promising showing racing under the name Will Schumacher, I was secretly anticipating a top ten placing, preferably under my actual name (gotta attract those pro scouts right?).   Due to circumstances out of my control (that concrete wall came out of nowhere, I swear!), I was unable to compete this year at nationals. But when the time came I was no less excited about the weekend, even if I was only going to watch.

The following is an account of NIRCA Cross Country Nationals 2014 in East Lansing, Michigan as told through the eyes of a spectator. It may contain excessive sarcasm, dumb jokes, and possible run-on sentences. This post does not reflect the views of Running Club as a whole. Well, actually, it might. I don’t know ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

First, I think a heartfelt “thank you” is due to the Buckeyes Football team. We were no doubt a bit relieved after last week’s victory, else we would have been the targets of endless ridicule from Sparty fans (not to mention some delusional M!ch!g@n fans). Thankfully we won, opening the door for talking shit crap to the locals on Yik Yak.

While running romanticists like Jack Schlabig would try to tell you that the journey to nationals started in the summer when everyone was putting in base miles, the actual journey began on Friday, November 14, 2014 around 5:30pm. In keeping with a long-standing Running Club tradition, we were not on time but managed to finally get going by 6 o’clock or so. Statistics for the departure were as follows:

Number of people on time: I don’t know, I was late

Number of people late: ~34

Number of cars: 9? Right?

Number of people pissed off because our cars were in the way: 3, Including a Megabus.

Number of people almost left behind: ≥1

The ride up was expected to take four hours, though for some it took upwards of five as they had to detour around Ann Arbor for fear of Brady Hoke trying to steal their Jimmy Johns. Luckily my car had no such delays as we made the pavement under our car disappear faster than Michigan’s bowl game chances. Upon arrival at the luxurious Comfort Inn – Okemos the results of the all-important room lottery were announced. I say it was fixed after being screwed over worse than the Sixers in the NBA draft as I ended up with the snooze fest roster of Jeff Laux, Evan Hatton, and Faris Ahmed. To end the night we gathered in the hotel conference room for a productive session of kendama and trolling John Lin. We were also given instructions on what time to wake up, leave by, etc, but I wasn’t really paying attention.

Saturday morning started with everyone’s alarms going off at 8am. My plan to wake up early and get work done was squashed by my ability to not care that much. However, in a moment of retribution, I managed to be one of the first ones at breakfast. After the bread had been buttered and the cereal poured it came time to what we had training for all year, figure out how to get 45 people to the race site in that thin window of time between too early and too late. Luckily, all races had been pushed back an hour and a half due to the weather being so weather, giving us extra time to figure out the ride situation. After some minor hiccups we managed to get everyone over in time. All that was left to do was exactly what Chris McDougal would say we were born to: run.

Men’s B race (8K):

First on the NIRCA Nats docket was the men’s B race. After a solid warm-up of talking about how cold and flat the course was, the squad was ready to go. With a Stadium O-H-I-O pre-race chant, it was clear the boys were focused and ready to tackle their goal of getting this the hell over with so they could put warm stuff on. One final pep-talk and it was time for me to run up the line to take in all of the awesomeness that is a cross country start. The race started with a bang (literally, as most do) and before anyone knew what happened, sprinter turned distance runner turned probably sprinter again Jeff Laux took the early lead…well…except for that one guy who was ahead of him. After the first thirty seconds I really have no idea how the race played out for anyone as I was too busy taking pictures and trying to figure out where the course went. At one point Doug tossed his gloves to me for some reason and then I forgot about them approximately two seconds later. Eventually I ended up at the finish line to see everyone sprint it in. Jeff managed to finish a respectable, not last, thanks to his strong start.


It’s the arms of the tiger, it’s the thrill of the fight

Risin’ up to the challenge of our rivals

And as the last known survivor stalks his prey in the night

And he’s watchin’ us all with the arms of the tiger



Jeff taking the lead…



The start of a cross country race always make for a great picture.


Doing what we do best; beating Michigan:



Kyle leading the team:




Kyle Schmitz – 29:07.9

Jack Bargemann – 29:39.3

John Lin – 29:45.5

Tom Krajnak – 30:49.2

Zach Dombi – 30:56.2

Armon Kennedy – 31:07.8

Faris Ahmed – 31:32.7

Darin Nash – 31:40.5

Steven Hornyak – 32:28.2

Evan Myers – 32:36.8

Jonah Larsen – 33:03.8

Gabriel Nunez – 34:10.0

Jeff Laux – 38:40.3

Doug Morgan – 42:48.9


Women’s B race (6K):

After a quick stop in the heated tent for some much needed thawing, a reunion with the A teams who got to wait at the hotel an extra hour, and some Vitacoco drinking it was back over to the start for the women’s B race. Just like that they were off and it was back to soccer mom mode for me in my effort to run around and take pictures.


The best and worst part of any race:



Jenn running down Michigan State:



Kirsten Fast making her last name true:



Definitely got a better picture than Rita did here:




Molly McNamara – 26:55.0

Elsa Saelens – 27:17.8

Rachel Eckert – 27:53.9

Sarah Bourdon – 29:47.1

Kristen Fast – 30:38.1

Jennifer Doerr – 30:58.9

Kennedy Hall – 32:38.4

Christina Szuch – 35:15.7

Men’s National Championship (8K):

Through a rigorous selection process of throwing darts at names on a wall, the racing committee had decided on seven men to represent the club in the “A” race. I don’t feel like writing all of their names out here, so just scroll down to see.

Getting psyched

After failed start gun, everyone was on edge, but before anyone could recollect their thoughts, they were off.

The pace started fast and hardly lessened as the front pack seemed to glide over the frozen ground. In the race for first, Penn State took the early lead, followed by the monstrous Indiana chase group.



Finally in the waning miles, it came down to a single runner from IU and UPENN. Using the famous Zak Martins over Jack Schlabig tactic, IU kicked it in the final stretch, taking the title and probably some notice on NIRCA Crushes.




More importantly, however, was the race for OSU Running Club bragging rights. In this one, Jack put in a Prefontaine-esque effort to go wire-to-wire for the win. Along the way he held off surges from freshman standout, Nick Bandy, and a pack of Ryan Dull, Tm Villari, Tallin Forsey, and Regan Roshetko. Closing it out for THE Club was “Go” Bobby “beat Mark” Klett, whose decision to wear matching shoes would come back to bite him.

The frozen lake background was, by far, my favorite spot for pictures.




Bandy trying to run down Jack:



The group of four running-clubbers:


This was actually taken before the race but let’s just pretend it was post-race:




Jack Schlabig – 27:37.2

Nick Bandy – 27:50.7

Tim Villari – 28:23.6

Ryan Dull – 28:29.3

Tallin Forshey – 28:33.1

Regan Roshetko -29:00.7

Robert Klett – 29:57.9


Women’s National Championship (6K):

After having all morning to let the nerves build and the cold lessen, it was finally time for the last race of the NIRCA XC season. With new members Regina Gallagher, Vicky “Darkhorse” Evankovich, Jenny Sanderson, and Anna Schfer-Skelton joining returning stars Rachel Hahn, Rita Mayer, Lacy Nagy, and someone, the team was poised to compete for a top ten placing.

With a shot of the gun, the nervousness vanishes and the pain begins.



Minnesota clearly had the advantage in the cold as their girl grabbed the race by the horns (Dodge if you’re reading this we would love to have you sponsor this sentence) and solo’d from the start.




Following in the chase pack was our own Rachel Hahn:



After watching the crew come through the halfway point it was over to the finish to see how everything would play out. (I totally would have tried to follow more of the race, but managed to add to my list of stupid injuries by pulling my groin while chasing the men’s championship)

Minnesota girl’s strategy of leading from the gun was even bolder than Average Joe’s forfeiting, but it would indeed payoff as she took the win.



Rachel held strong throughout and came in in 14th for All-American status:



Not far behind was Jenny kicking stride for stride with Princeton:



Rita Mayer

Rita Mayer

Lacy Nagy

Lacy Nagy


Anna Schfer-Skelton

Anna Schfer-Skelton

Regina Gallager

Regina Gallager


Vicky Evankovich

Vicky Evankovich

We were now left with a waiting game as the scores were tallied. Would the girls crack the top ten? Top five? Alas, it was not meant to be as they finished an agonizing, but still remarkable, 11th in the country (probably because of SEC bias).


Rachel Hahn – 23:20.0

Jenny Sanderson – 24:34.0

Rita Mayer – 24:52.6

Lacy Nagy -25:27.5

Vicky Evankovich – 25:47.4

Regina Gallagher – 26:10.5

Anna Schfer-Skelton – 26:21.1


With the conclusion of racing it was time to pack up and wait, and wait, and wait for awards to start. To answer Green Day’s question, we we were indeed the waiting as the hunger grew and the tensions heightened. It would be well worth it however to hear one our own’s name called out among some of the fastest runners in the country.

After getting dinner and heading back to the hotel my memory gets a bit fuzzy for some reason, but I think the night can be summed up well by this tweet.



After a terrible night’s sleep due, in part, to leaving the TV on full volume it was time to leave the frozen mitten state.

…but not before leaving our mark on the hotel….



The ride home made for a good chance to reminisce. This was my first chance to see the team race this year, and it made me all the more eager to get healthy so I can come out and crush it with these guys and girls next semester. Right now it’s time for everyone to rest up before the build to track/half-marathon nationals. I’m not one to make guarantees, but I can tell you that MRun should be sleeping with one eye on central Ohio come April.