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November 17, 2014

Mick Byrne

THE MODERATOR:  We will have opening comments and questions for Coach Byrne.
COACH BYRNE:  Obviously we're extremely happy and excited about the performance of both squads on Friday, at regionals.  Both teams executed the race plan to perfection.  On the women's side we knew that it was going to be a battle of Big Ten teams between Michigan State and the Michigan and us, and one of the instructions we gave to our women going into the race was to make sure it didn't become an intense battle like the Big Ten meet 12, 13 days previously with Michigan State.
Right from the beginning of the race Michigan State through a few of their big guns out front and we made sure our women stayed back and protected their spot, their qualification spot into the NCAA meet and not get involved in a real intense battle with Michigan State like the Big Ten meet.
It didn't really make a lot of sense for that to happen and they did a fantastic job with that, the way they ran with confidence and poise, not getting too excited about what was going on up front.  Just controlled their group and came through over the last kilometer, too, was really excite to go see that, and moving forward into the NCAA meet, hopefully that means something‑‑ some good things are going to happen.
And I guess on the men's side to see those young guys bunch up in the group and run together the entire race and, again, ran with great poise, great confidence.  Big question mark, obviously, going into the regional meet was the 10K distance and how they would handle that.  They did a fantastic job just controlling the tempo, not getting too excited too early, and not really going into the tank.  So hopefully again they've got some energy left and it's going to be good for us for NCAA meet on Saturday.

Q.  Mic, what's the‑‑ how would you project a five‑second split at the regional meet between 2 and 7 on your team at the Nationals and what's the likelihood you can keep them bunched that long at Terre Haute?
COACH BYRNE:  Good question, now, again, a different beast.  The pace was controlled, spent most of the race running five‑minute pace.  For a lot of our kids that's just an up‑tempo run.  It did heat up over the last couple of kilometers and certainly the team battle changed a bit, Michigan State 30 points ahead of us on the men's side, at 8K, and our guys were able to turn it up a notch over the last couple of kilometers and kind of real them in.  It's a different beast next week.  It's early pace.  First 5K is going to be much, much faster, may not be in their comfort zone like they were this past weekend, but hopefully they'll handle it, we'll keep them in a bunch together and I think there is great energy when you look to the side and you see your team mate, the big question in Terre Haute is are they going to be able to find each other real early in the race off the start line.
And it's the same for the women, the comfort running together as a team and hopefully they can pick each other up quickly after the start and, again just settle down.  Again, it's all about settling into a rhythm that you're comfortable with and not getting too much out of your zone early in the race.

Q.  A lot of times it's easy for observers to take success for granted if you're winning 47 Conference Championships and you're going to Nationals every year.  Just how hard is it to sustain that kind of success over time?
COACH BYRNE:  We were just up in the office talking about that with one of our freshman, who is probably getting anxious, a little excited.  Five days out from the race and trying to explain to him; we were looking back over the last couple of years, results.
You're right, we do take it for granted, and he was asking us, what's a realistic finish and we kind of broke it down the last couple of years.  All we can control is what happens to our guys, keeping them calm, keeping them relaxed over the next couple of days, worrying about other teams, taking the pressure off those guys.  They understand and I keep talking about this, they understand the history, 18 times in the Top‑10 consecutively over the last 18 years, that's pretty amazing; 43 years qualifying, you know, some teams in this meet for the first time.
It doesn't matter whether it's our men's team or our women's team, we have to go back to 2006 for the last time our women's team finished in the Top‑10.  We can't take any of this for granted, and especially with two young teams, but they're going to go in there this weekend.  They know that it's a National Championship.  They've had some really good success this season.  They're very confident.  When you win and you run well you take that confidence into the next meet, and there is a great buzz about our teams right now.  They're excited about getting out of here on Wednesday, going to Terre Haute and getting ready for the meet.

Q.  The last thing anybody in this room wanted to do last Friday would be to run a 6K or 10K.  How do cross‑country athletes do that in such cold weather and do it successfully?
COACH BYRNE:  It was a‑‑ early on last week, as you know, we were talking about snow.  We were talking about some really bad conditions.  As the week went on and the snow was blowing to the east and north from here, we were getting more and more excited.  Thursday out at the course it was awful.  It was windy, cold, but then on Friday the sun came out, the wind died down, there was very little wind and that was great for the athletes, all athletes.  But with that window of two hours when the sun came out, it was pretty nice out there.

Q.  It's still hard to do.
COACH BYRNE:  It's still hard to do.  They're calling for pretty nasty conditions in Terre Haute this week, so we'll see.

Q.  (No microphone.)
COACH BYRNE:  Just do it.  It's tougher on the coaches.  (Laughter.)

Q.  Mick, speaking of Indiana State, they've hosted this meet a lot here in the last couple of decades.  Has it become the "Rose Bowl" of cross‑country, do you feel, and what does a coach do to challenge runners at this level in this meet?
COACH BYRNE:  Again, it's like our course, it's spectator‑friendly course, and that's great for the kids.  You get 10,000, 15,000 people out there next week and, you know, when you're on that starting line and all the kids from different universities qualify, have road trips, it becomes a competition whose got the most supporters there.  A lot of fans, it's in the center of the country, so it's easier to get to.  It's just a good atmosphere.  They put on a good show, and it's just an overall atmosphere that the presentation is real good.  I think the kids buy into that.

Q.  Where does your men's squad fit in the grand scheme of things as far as a possibility of bringing home a National Championship?  And, secondly, can your women beat Michigan State?
COACH BYRNE:  I was wondering who was going to ask that question.  Again, you look at the history, the past 18 years Top‑10.  Realistic goal for us going into this meet is finishing in the Top‑10.  We have a really good day, maybe it's ate Top‑5.  I'm not sure if it's a podium team.  They're so young, but these young guns have surprised me so far this year.  Again, the way they executed the race plan last Friday, they ran with such poise and maturity, I don't think I've seen that in my 30 years of coaching.
How they were able to handle, number one, the pressure but also the increased distance.  Just the smartness in the way ‑‑ the race savviness of those young guys out there last week was incredible, and it's the same on the women's side.  They're learning how to run together as a team, which is something we always stress.  They're learning to get excited about winning and that's also real good for them.  I think a realistic goal for the women is in Top‑5 or Top‑6.  There are some people talking about them being a podium team, that's‑‑ go we have a really good day that's a possibility.  But when you look over the progress we've made over 12 months, I think, you know, we would all agree that we're in a pretty good spot right now.

Q.  You mentioned after the meet on Friday that you hope especially those young guys can recover.  What is that process like?  How does one recover from one meet to the next, and then with this is the second year it's gone to a Saturday start, how does that loss of two days impact that recovery?
COACH BYRNE:  Hopefully it's not going to hurt us.  I certainly would prefer going back to the Monday.  I think it's good for the sport.  It is what it is, and we've‑‑ we've got to go on Saturday.  We came back on this past Saturday, it was a very, very light jog, a lot of recovery stuff.  We have ice baths, massages, stuff like that.  Yesterday was another very late day because it was extremely cold here and with the snow overnight we wanted to make sure that nothing happened with them going outside, slipping or something like that.  Today although it's cold we will do a longer run and for the rest of the week it will be easy just maintenance runs.
THE MODERATOR:  Thank you, Coach.

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