Cross Country keeps working

Christian Patzka Q&A

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Photo courtesy of Chrisitian Patzka

Chrisitian Patzka looks on as he prepares for a race.

Parker Olsen, Mens Sports Editor

The UW-Whitewater cross country team is one of the best in the nation. With runners like Christian Patzka, the bar is set pretty high, yet they keep on looking to raise it. 

The team is ranked No. 10 in the country and they finished second behind No. 4 UW-La Crosse at the WIAC championships. Whitewater was 24 points short of first but they separated from the third place UW-Stout, who trailed the Warhawks by 45 points.

Including two top four finishers, Patzka and Gunner Schlender, the team had five top 20 finishers and only one of them was an upperclassman. 

With so many of the team’s top runners being younger there is an opening for an odd power dynamic. Patzka and the Warhawks aren’t looking to anyone specific to be a leader though, that is up to the runners themselves.

“We don’t really have captains on our team, all the freshmen are like ‘who are the captains’ and we just say we don’t,” Patzka said, “If you want to be a leader then you just have to be a leader.”

Despite having already been one of the fastest in the country, Patzka finished as an All-American by taking 23rd at the national meet last year, he does not have to look far for a good race.

“The new freshmen are some of the division’s best. Combining that old and new, has been really helpful,” Patzka said. “Having my own teammates who are some of the best in the division is like having the perfect training partner.”

Patzka is always looking to get better, those close training partners sure do help. There is also help from participating in track & field as well. He referenced the track season as part of why he and the team are able to build on to their skills and continue improving.

Of course, continued progress means there is pressure to maintain growth, but that doesn’t slow down one of the nation’s fastest, who has brought his personal record down since last season’s All-American finish.

“Last year it was the first year getting All-American in cross country by getting 23rd. Now it’s like ok now I have to do better than I did last year, so just continuing to set that bar higher,” Patzka said.

With regionals coming up on Nov. 12, the Warhawks will try to defend their regional title against conference rival La Crosse, and Patzka knows it will be a tough run versus a very deep La Crosse squad.

“It’s going to be between us and La Crosse for that team regional title again, it’s always going to be us versus them,” he said.

After the regional meet the Warhawks will try to keep their high status as one of the best in the nation by proving it at the national meet on Nov. 19. Despite an unfavorable ranking, Patzka believes in himself and his teammates.

“I think we can repeat where we placed last year as 5th. We’re ranked 10th right now but there’s teams in front of us right now that I know we can beat them so I really think we could be 7th to 5th, somewhere in there,” Patzka said.

With just two juniors on the team and no seniors, this Warhawks cross country crew could be stampeding to the top of the rankings in no time and could stay there for a long time.