Men’s cross country ready for the long haul


Nick Walczak, Men’s Sports Journalist

The UW-Whitewater men’s cross-country team’s 2022 campaign launches Sept. 10 at the Ken Weidt Invitational hosted by Concordia University-Wisconsin in Mequon, WI, where the team looks to start off strong and fast.
The Warhawks ended up matching their highest finish in program history at the national meet last season, placing fifth out of 32 teams. Three of the team’s runners earned top 26 finishes. The team also finished second in conference, which was the program’s highest placing since 1999.
Beginning this season, the Warhawks are ranked ninth nationally in the United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association coaches poll. The ranking is five spots higher than last season’s preseason national rank of 14th.
Head coach Jeff Miller is back for his 41st year as coach of the team, which is the longest tenure by a Whitewater cross-country coach. He has led the men to seven NCAA Division III championship appearances and has helped 16 student-athletes reach All-American honors along with 30 runners earning WIAC first team awards.
“It doesn’t seem like it’s been all that long,” said coach Miller when asked about how it feels to return for his 41st season. “It’s just fun to see people progress, you know? Go from one level to the next with their training and see how far they can go with it… It’s rewarding to watch people go through that and see the satisfaction that they get from it.”
Following the Ken Weidt Invitational, UW-Whitewater will host the annual Tom Hoffman Invitational on Sept. 17. The Warhawks travel to Olivet College Oct. 1 and then to UW-La Crosse Oct. 15, before their final home meet at the Warhawk Open on Oct. 21.
The WIAC Championship takes place October 29 at the Maple Grove Venues in West Salem, Wis. The NCAA North Regional will be held Nov. 12 at St. Olaf’s campus course and the NCAA Championships are scheduled for Nov. 19 at Forest Akers Golf Courses in Lansing, Mich.
The Warhawks graduated four seniors last season: David Fassbender, Conner Hackett, Brian Kuehl, and Kyle Neuroth. Three of last year’s seniors were running in the top seven on the team and they may prove difficult to replace.
Though the team returns a few key runners, they will be made up mostly of new faces.
“I think we could be pretty good. We won’t be as strong as we were up front… we really need to see what the other guys can do, that’s going to be the big deciding factor.” Miller said.
Though the team will be made up of mostly inexperienced runners, Miller believes many of them can step up and provide support.
Sophomores Christian Patzka and Gunner Schlender earned All-American rights last season. Patzka agreed that the All-American nod is nice recognition, but he can’t get complacent.
“Nothing is for certain, I just need to continue to keep working hard and doing what I’m doing, and not settle for what I had last year,” Patzka said.
Justin Krause, a junior, is a vocal leader on the team, a role he took over last year according to Miller. He is hoping Krause will provide support as a top three runner this season as well as continuing his strong leadership.
Prue Thomas is the only returning senior this season and Miller believes that he will be able to provide leadership and provide support in the very changed top seven on the team.
“Especially now after last year, we are considered the dark horse where we are always kind of, you know, seen on the national level, but we’re not really seen with everyone,” Patzka said. He agreed that while a little national recognition is appreciated, “I know we’re still hungry to place up toward the front of where the rest of the teams are this year.”
While last year was by all accounts a successful season for the Warhawks, the team hopes to reach new heights and compete at a higher level this season.