Athlete of the Week: Rachel Mandt

Junior Rachel Mandt ran a 19:51 last week in Dubuque, placing second on her team and 22nd overall. 


For you, what was a highlight of your most recent competition? 

At our Wartburg meet, there were many teams. It is one of the largest races in the state. It was fun to have a lot of competition and girls to run with. The weather was also a lot colder than it had been, which made it more fun to run.

What makes your sport special and different?

Cross country is a very unique sport because of the team aspect and mental toughness required. Cross country is the only sport where the girls and boys teams travel together and compete at the same location every meet. This is great for building team camaraderie. Cross country requires a lot of commitment such as 6 a.m. runs every morning of the summer, Cross Fit workouts, daily mileage of usually five+ miles and sacrificing time with friends for practice, sleep and recovery.

How long have you been into this sport and, and what were the early days of your participation?

I started XC my seventh grade year when my parents forced me to go out. I didn’t like it very much but for some reason decided to do it again my eighth grade year. By my ninth grade season, I was in love with it.

How did/do you cope with any setbacks/losses you’ve experienced in your sport?

Our first meet didn’t exactly go according to plan. It was super hot and sunny outside, which are not the ideal running conditions. Prior to the race a lot of the girls were nervous and many tears were shed. During the varsity girls race, one of our runners collapsed and snapped her femur. They had to call the ambulance and give her an IV in the middle of the course! Then we almost missed the awards ceremony because we had to take down the tent. Not only that, but on the bus ride home a girl got sick and puked into the trash. It was a disaster but didn’t stop our team from performing well despite the circumstances! Fortunately, the other meets went a lot better after that. Usually a positive attitude and good sense of humor fixes a lot when things like this happen.

Who has been particularly influential in helping your growth in this sport?

My teammates. It’s so fun to be on a team of girls who are your best friends because they push you and also care about you a ton. Also, it helps establish a little bit of healthy competition.

What do you do to prepare yourself before a game?

Before meets I like to distract myself by joking and talking with girls on the bus. Braiding people’s hair has also become a premeet ritual. This year particularly we have incorporated the “Cotton Eyed Joe” dance into our warmup routine, which is fun and helps get the nerves out.

How do you work on improving your skills in this sport?

This is a sport of doing the little things to get better. Eating healthy, stretching daily, rolling out, getting eight+ hours of sleep and doing workouts such as hill repeats to name a few.

What’s a personal skill that you are targeting lately?

Recently, I have been working on my mile splits and keeping them consistent. Typically my first mile is a little too fast, and I progressively slow down, but I have been trying to pick up the pace during the second mile and kick during the third.

Do you have plans to play this sport after high school?

I haven’t decided yet if running in college is something I want to do, but I think if I did it would be for a small school.

What’s the most rewarding thing about your sport?

Cross country isn’t always the most enjoyable sport because it is so painful, but it’s worthwhile in the end when you have really good run days and feel super fast. Especially, when you get to cheer on your teammates and see them progress and meet their goals.

What has been a highlight for you/your team so far this season?

On one Friday after a meet we were all feeling super sore and didn’t want to do our 40 minute recovery run, so the coaches let us play ultimate frisbee with the underclassmen against upperclassmen. Of course, the upperclassman won!

As you see it, what are the biggest tests remaining for you/your team yet this season?

The biggest obstacle with cross country is always yourself. We like to say that cross country is 10 percent physical and 90 percent mental. Basically, if you can overcome the negative thoughts you tell yourself and push through the pain, you can do anything!

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