For the fourth time in school history, UW-Oshkosh will host the NCAA Division III Cross Country Championships. The prestigious event, set for Saturday (Nov. 17) at the Lake Breeze Golf Club in Winneconne, will feature three UW-Oshkosh runners, each first-time qualifiers.
“Both of our teams are very young, so it is very special to have student-athletes of both genders representing us as we host the national championships,” said UW-Oshkosh head cross country coach Eamon McKenna. “Evlyn (Noone) and Lucas (Weber) are both Oshkosh Lourdes Academy graduates, so it is particularly awesome for them to be able to continue their careers as student-athletes in their hometown and to have the opportunity to compete at a national championship that we host. Cody (Chadwick), our other qualifier, was coached by a UW-Oshkosh alum while in high school, as were Evlyn and Lucas, so that is yet another cool connection about the power of our Titan family. It will be a fun experience for all three to compete in front of the home crowd.”
Noone ran both cross country and track and field during her high school career at Lourdes Academy, but neither sport was a priority when she stepped on the campus of UW-Oshkosh to pursue her undergraduate degree in fall 2015.
“During my undergraduate studies, I was primarily focused on finishing my degree early, since that was a goal I had set for myself,” Noone said.
She did just that. She earned her economics degree in three years, graduating last spring.
To accomplish her goal, Noone jam-packed her schedule from morning until night with classes, studying and – running.
“It was pretty stressful and intense at times,” Noone said. “I had a pretty strict regimen of running in the morning, school, work, studying and sleeping for the last two semesters of my undergraduate degree. I’m glad I accomplished my goal, though, of graduating early.”
After commencement, the Oshkosh native decided to return to UW-Oshkosh to pursue her MBA in what would have been her senior year. Running for the Titans still wasn’t on her mind until Weber, also a NCAA Division III Cross Country Championship qualifier, gave her the push she needed.
“I never really thought about running for UW-Oshkosh and, when I did briefly, I didn’t think I was good enough to make it on the team,” she said. “This past summer, I ran with Lucas (Weber) and he was the one who brought it to my attention that I could run on the team and maybe be decent.”
It was an eight-mile run that Noone and Weber did together that fateful summer day – at a 6:19 pace – that not only made Weber nudge Noone, but also pushed him to contact Coach McKenna to even see if it was even a possibility.
“Once Coach McKenna confirmed she’d have eligibility, I mentioned it to her and she decided to give it a go,” Weber said.
Noone’s expectations for her first collegiate season were minimal as she hadn’t raced in a cross country meet since her senior year of high school. “I really didn’t have any goals for the season,” Noone said. “I didn’t know what to expect, so basically every race was just learning how to race.”
She’s thrived despite the fact she hadn’t raced competitively in three seasons. She has been UW-Oshkosh’s top runner six different times this season, including NCAA Division III Midwest Regional, where she placed eighth out of 255 runners in a time of 22:06. That finish allowed her to grab one of just 56 individual at-large berths into the NCAA Division III Cross Country Championship.
“It feels pretty awesome to qualify for the national championship,” Noone said. “I’m super excited to be in the same race against all these great runners from around the country.”
Noone knows how special and rare it is to take a three-year hiatus from competitive running and earn a spot in the national championship – hosted by her own university – during her first year back. She’s ready to savor every moment.
“It’s really cool to be racing on our home course. I’ve been racing on this course since I was a freshman in high school, so it’s even more meaningful,” she said. “I’m excited to see all the people who have helped me get to this point, cheering me on. It’ll be a really cool moment, so I hope to enjoy the day, race well and remember as much as I can.”
Both Cody Chadwick and Lucas Weber had strong freshman campaigns in 2017, leading the way for UW-Oshkosh throughout the season. Their goals of earning spots in the national championship fell short, as their finishes at the NCAA Division III Midwest Regional weren’t enough to earn them at-large selections.
“We didn’t finish where we wanted to last year at conference or regionals, so we knew as a team heading into this season we would have to step it up and come with a new sense of urgency if we wanted a different result,” Weber said.
The desire to reach the national meet in their sophomore campaigns had both Chadwick and Weber adjusting their training heading into their second season.
“We focused on slowly building up in mileage, then geared our training towards reaching the national championship by slowly cutting down in mileage over the course of the year,” Chadwick explained.
The training paid off for the duo. Weber finished 21st at this year’s Midwest Regional in a time of 25:18 and Chadwick crossed the finish line five seconds later to place 26th. Both finishes earned them their first berths into the NCAA Division III Cross Country Championship.
“Qualifying with Cody is awesome,” Weber said. “It is really a culmination of almost six months of training, and it was a relief to find out last Sunday (Nov. 11) that it paid off.”
Chadwick echoed Weber’s sentiments.
“Having someone to run with at nationals is one of the best parts of qualifying for nationals,” Chadwick said. “Having Lucas there to run with is pretty awesome, because we both started our careers here together and it is pretty cool to grow with him as athletes.”
Both credit their teammates for helping them prepare for this moment.
“On race day it may seem that cross country is more of an individual sport, but what the spectators don’t see is all of the miles and grinding workouts the team does together,” Weber said. “I can’t imagine showing up on workout days without 30 other guys all pushing each other to be their best. Having great teammates is what can really make or break a season, and this year our group played a huge role in getting me and Cody to nationals.”
Written by Liz Smith, UW-Oshkosh Associate Athletics Marketing Manager