In His Own Words: Dan McSolla Blogs From Cross Country Championship

Junior Dan McSolla will be providing first-person updates from his trip to the NCAA Division III Men's Cross Country Championship in Louisville, Ky., this weekend
Junior Dan McSolla will be providing first-person updates from his trip to the NCAA Division III Men's Cross Country Championship in Louisville, Ky., this weekend

Junior Dan McSolla (Bridgewater, Mass.) is one of 56 student-athletes competing as individuals at the NCAA Division III Men's Cross Country Championship on Saturday, in Louisville, Ky. During his trip, he is documenting his experiences and will provide regular updates throughout the weekend so check back often. Good luck, Dan!

Saturday, November 19

Good Evening Everyone,

Well, it's over. I'm sitting in Chicago-Midway waiting for my flight home with Coach Dan, putting down some much awaited ice cream.

The race, the weekend, the total experience went as I expected. There were no plans for the race today to be honest. I really just wanted to race the way I know how and leave every last ounce of energy I had out there.

Pat, Alex, and Dave made it just in time to meet up with me for a warm up. It was pretty sweet to have them there to help make the approach seem like it does every meet. Even though I didn't line up with all the boys today, wearing that singlet helped me realize that they were with me regardless. My summer training partner from home even made the trip down to watch because he knew a few of us racing so that was great to have him there.

The gun went off, the nerves were gone in an instant, and the full sprint to the funnel was made. A half mile in, I realized I was in front, so I slid back a bit since I knew there was no way I was holding that pace. By the mile mark I was right around 60th but it was slow. I held on to 5:00 pace as long as I could but the wind and hills got the best of me by the 5k mark. I went through 5k right where I wanted to be, 15:35 around 75th. The fourth mile was where my race slipped a bit (95th place), but if there's anything I've learned in my seven years of racing, it's that not every race can be your best. 

Coach and I talked about being an All-American (top 35) but it was going to require a lot more work. I missed it by 20 seconds or so, but for a kid that was just hoping to make it to Louisville, I'll take it. I picked off about 15 guys in the last mile to grab 78th with the second best time of my life. That was just good enough for me.

That was it, cross country season officially ended in Louisville for Wentworth cross country, but we're sure glad it was there. I can't thank enough people for the support this season whether it's our athletic department, teammates, coaches, fellow athletes, friends, and of course the entire Wentworth community.

I have to end this with a big thank you to my family. My mother and nana making it to every meet (except Bowdoin because I told them it was too far), my father, even though he couldn't make it to meets he still found ways to check in (especially to see if we brought home some hardware), and my sister for her endless sarcastic, yet supportive, comments.

Thanks for reading everyone, hope to see most of you back on campus. Until then, it's track season!

Roll Leps #witxc

Friday, November 18 (Evening Entry)

Hey Guys,

Hope everyone is enjoying the entries so far. This will be my last update before tomorrow's race so I'll segue into what will likely go down tomorrow morning at the end of the entry.

This afternoon and evening was a pretty cool experience to say the least. After lunch we got back to the hotel to hang out for a few hours. Coach Dan had to go to a meeting back at the course so I stayed in my room to chill and start focusing on tomorrow. It was a relaxed few hours of just getting the uniform ready, listening to music and catching up on shows to kill some time.

Every year the NCAA holds a banquet for all the national championship participants where everyone dresses up, takes pictures, and grabs some dinner. So, that was how we spent the evening. We left our hotel to head downtown to the Galt House where they held the banquet in a massive function hall. Coach and I sat at an open table since there was no assigned seating and sure enough our table was full in no time. The head coach from MIT joined us so it was good to see a familiar face around. We also had individuals from Rochester and Wisconsin-Platteville sit with us, one of whom was last year's men's national champion.

The hall was dressed up real nice, just as I expected, full of people from across the country (no pun intended). It's amazing to be able to hear "the big dance" for so many years, thinking about it, dreaming of going, but not until I scanned over the sea of athletes and coaches did I realize…we finally made it.

After the banquet, around 8:00, coach and I headed back to the hotel to go over some pre-race day logistics. Pretty much times on breakfast and race arrival. We talked over how we want to race tomorrow and to just basically be ready for anything. Race could be absurdly fast, so we have to be ready, or it could be slow which can play into anyone's favor.

It was also nice to get a visit from a few of the boys who were lucky enough to have time and take the trip down. Fifteen hours of driving for those guys to watch 25 (hopefully less) minutes of racing. It's safe to say I'm pretty grateful for the teammates I have and I know the boys back home will be watching. I also got a call from a close friend back home who had some experience at the national level a few years back. It was good to talk with him to help hype the race up since he knew I run well on nerves.

As for tomorrow, it'll be race day. The routine is usually wake up 4-5 hours before start time. I'll eat breakfast, which is usually oatmeal, toast and a banana with plenty of water. From here, we'll check out of the hotel and head to the course for 10:00. I'll start the warmup an hour before the race and get on the line 10 minutes prior. From there, it's a stride, a prayer, and then the gun, but this time it's for a National Championship.

Thanks for reading today everyone, and I'll be sure to send another one on the flight home. Hopefully it's a good one. Race start is at Noon and I hope everyone can tune in online. Until then…

Roll Leps #witxc 

Friday, November 18 (Morning Entry)

Hello Again Everyone,

After a Thursday night full of homework, Coach and I started off Friday as tourists at 8:00 am. We took a trip to downtown Louisville to check out the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory since the course didn't open up until 10:00 am. It's safe to say that rush hour in Louisville is equivalent to Boston at 3:00 am (no traffic, no horns, no construction). Regardless of that, the museum was a great way to get my mind off the race and to just enjoy the experience. My Bruins hat was a good indicator to most of the employees that I was interested in Dustin Pedroia's pine more than anything. On our way out, we stopped at a local coffee shop to grab a light breakfast…well "light" can be used in terms of quantity. The biscuits were incredible. Kentucky knows its food that's for sure.

Once 11:00 am hit, we were on our way back to the hotel to get ready for the pre-meet run. The hotel is technically only 10 minutes from downtown, but you can double that since the lights down here take years to turn green…and the speed bumps are another story.

We got to the race location around 11:45. The race is being held at EP Tom Sawyer State Park in East Louisville. It was pretty exciting to be able to go to a park completely dedicated to racing. They had most of the course set up with fences on each side to funnel the runners. The finish area was set up with tents and hundreds of NCAA signs and the start line was full of runners going through their own routines with their teams and coaches. It felt like home, except the weather. I was sweating just stepping out of the car as the temperature was 78 degrees with a breeze. Most people would enjoy that, but for me, anything above 50 and I'll probably complain. Lucky for me, the temperature is expected to be 45 tomorrow, which is the perfect temperature for a race. 

Pre-meet runs for us Wentworth guys are pretty straight forward with nothing really extravagant. We start with a five-minute jog, or as I call it, a "putt around." Then we have our dynamic stretch routine which lasts a good 15-20 minutes. From there Coach Dan and I started our five-mile run. If it's a place we've raced at before, we usually go outside of the park to run/warm up, but since this is all new, it was a course run. We ran the race route almost to the finish (superstition), pointing out key locations on the course that can cause some problems, whether it's a major hill or a tight area where you can get cut off easy, we had it covered. Afterward, I went up to the start line to do some strides and then stretch out one last time. On the way back to the hotel we stopped to grab some more food and, once again, Kentucky did not fail.

That's all for now, I'll be writing again tonight after the NCAA banquet. Until then, thanks for reading.


Thursday, November 17

What's going on everyone,

Well, it's finally here. The national championship. A year ago today we were drained from a long season and a rather disappointing performance at the regional championship. It's amazing what a year can do.

Coach and I left campus at noon, and after a short layover in Chicago, we landed in Louisville. We headed straight to grab our rental car so that we could grab some much needed food after plenty of airplane snacking. By the way, we got upgraded to a Challenger and poor coach didn't know it's push to start.

We're at a local pizza joint just outside the city now, and if you're from Louisville you're supposed to be here when the Cardinals are playing. Let me tell you, we got some interesting looks when they realized we didn't have red shirts on. But lucky for us the food is, in the words of Guy Fieri, dynamite.

Other than that, plenty of homework and sitting on planes. Until tomorrow, thanks for reading.