Matt Canterbury has been the head cross country coach at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction, Colorado for four years. We'd like to thank Matt for taking the time to answer some questions and to get the perspective of running for a Division 2 college in Colorado.
You ran cross country and track at Augustana College in Sioux Falls, SD and Chico State University in Chico, CA. Tell us about yourself and what type of runner were you back in high school and college?
I ran for East High School in Sioux City, IA, about an hour away from Sioux Falls. I ran XC/Track and focused on the 800/1500 in high school and college. I ran relatively low mileage in high school and ran 50-60 mile weeks in college. My body couldn’t handle more mileage than that!
Tell us about the recruiting process at Colorado Mesa University, what does the scholarship situation look like at the D2 level in terms of numbers on the men's and women's side and are most of those partial scholarships?
We look for athletes who, first and foremost, have a solid academic background. Then we look to see how they could benefit the team in both XC and Track. The last part of the process involves trying to get athletes to visit our campus. We have an extremely modern campus and outstanding facilities, and we enjoy showing recruits what it would be like to be a student-athlete on our campus.
12.6 scholarships is the max for DII programs, but in my experience, very few programs have the full amount. They are mostly partial scholarships.
I’ve spent a good amount of time in Grand Junction and Colorado Mesa’s campus has really improved over the years. Even parents that I’ve talked to that have visited, are pleasantly surprised. Looking at your roster you have a lot of runners from the Denver area. Grand Junction has a different vibe than Denver, to say the least, does that present any hurdles during recruiting?
The biggest hurdle is convincing potential athletes and parents that Grand Junction and CMU exists! I’m continuously surprised by the number of people on the Front Range who haven’t heard of CMU or who don’t realize how close Grand Junction is to the Denver area. Grand Junction is an outdoor adventure playground and there are miles and miles of great running trails. That’s why getting recruits to visit CMU and Grand Junction is such an integral part of our recruiting process.
When recruiting Colorado athletes what type of 5K times do the boys and girls need to be running to be in the scholarship discussion? Your roster has a ton of Colorado kids on it, is your first preference to find in-state kids?
We look for men’s times to be sub 16:00 and women sub 19:00.
We don’t put a preference on in-state athletes versus out-of-state athletes. Distance running in Colorado is very deep so it’s natural that we have a large number of Colorado athletes on our team.
Looking at last years cross country schedule, your season was really short (two months) with not a lot of meets. It looks like you ran six races including the NCAA Regional meet which I assume was limited to just varsity? Tell us about traveling at the D2 level, is the team flying or taking a bus to meets in Hays, Kansas, Chadron, Nebraska or Canyon, Texas?
We are road warriors! With the exception of the Roy Griak Invite in Minnesota, we take vans or buses to the other meets. The longer trips, like the one to Canyon, TX, are broken up into two days.
Yes, only our top 7 men and women race at the NCAA Regional meet. We try to race every other week. The 100% effort during races is really hard on the body, so racing once every two weeks helps us minimize the effects of traveling and racing.
Does Mesa or a typical school in the RMAC have a shoe sponsor, such as Nike that provides the kids with shoes and some clothing or are you working within your internal budget?
I can only speak for CMU in terms of team gear. We have a partnership with Under Armour for team-issued clothing. Shoes are the responsibility of the athlete.
What type of ancillary work do your cross country athletes do in terms of strength and mobility work and is this work programmed, if so how often?
We are in the weight room two days a week. Most of what we do focuses on mobility and correcting muscle imbalances. We do perform some lifts, but it’s always with low weight/high rep. We also use our Human Performance Lab to diagnose muscle imbalances or glitches in form. It’s all about injury prevention for us.
I think it’s safe to say the RMAC is the premier D2 conference when it comes to cross country. What types of challenges does this present to a school like Mesa when you have to compete with powerhouses like Western State and Adams State on a yearly basis and now Colorado School of Mines.
We have a relatively new program in terms of how long our team has been in the RMAC. The schools you mentioned have great traditions behind them, and that’s what we want to establish. The challenge is convincing top recruits that we can compete with schools that are near the top in the nation every year. It makes us work harder at recruiting and it makes us train smarter and harder.
Can you tell us about training, where does the team do most of their training runs and what type of mileage are the top men's and women's runners logging on a weekly basis?
During the Fall we do most of our runs and workouts on trails and at local parks. There are a lot of great trails near campus, some more technical than others, but it provides a lot of variety for our athletes. Our mileage is individualized, to an extent. A rough average for our men is between 60-80 miles per week. For women, it is 40-60. A lot of it depends on the individual.
Last question, what advice do you have for high school runners that would like to run at the D2 level, in terms of getting recruited and making a positive impression on a collegiate coach?
Be proactive about being recruited. Contact coaches and do your own research on schools and their running programs. Then set up times to visit your top choices.