Lauren Ossege, a junior Agriculture and Pre-Veterinary Studies major from Ft. Thomas, Kentucky, starts her day at 6 a.m, gets ready and hits the ground running. For a typical morning workout, the EKU Cross Country team meets up around 6:30 a.m. to warm up and begins practice at 7 a.m. Usually, Ossege and other runners will practice at the woodchip trail behind Stratton or at the Arlington golf course nearby.
After practice, the team typically goes to the trainers for ice baths, physical therapy and any other sports medicine. In the afternoon, Ossege says the practices run pretty similarly starting at 3:30 p.m.
For workouts, the men and women’s cross country teams usually come together for joint practices, but the girls and guys tend to stay in separate packs while running. In past years, Ossege notes that they would have separate practices altogether.
Other than practices and meets, the cross country team regularly meets to develop their core and do weight training.
“To make sure we’re not injured, we do a lot of conditioning … You have to be aware of what you’re feeling,” Ossege said.
Ossege began her cross country career in sixth grade and has been running ever since. She said that the main difference she’s noticed has been heavier competition at the collegiate level.
“In high school there’s a bigger divide in talent … you have these elite runners … and those who run much slower, more for fun and to be physically fit. I would say that’s probably the biggest difference. You come to college and everybody’s at the top of their game and everybody’s the best of the best,” Ossege said.
For Ossege, the cross country team is more than just a sport, it’s a community.
“I really enjoy the team,” Ossege said. “They’re very friendly, and they’re all my closest friends on campus. We all get along really well, it’s like my own little family.”
Ossege says one of the main challenges of being a runner is adjusting to the drastic changes in weather throughout the season as well as overcoming any mental obstacles that stand in her way.
“There’s nothing I really dislike about the sport other than the mentality and just how mentally tough you have to be. Which is also a thing I like. I like that you have to be mentally tough … It depends on the day and how frustrated I am with the sport, but it’s fun,” Ossege said.
Her favorite thing about being part of the team is the community.
“I just love the girls I’m with, I love having them. I get to talk to them, I get to rant if I need to … they just make it feel like I have a family on campus. Which is especially important because I’m away from home and it’s just nice to know I have people here who support me,” Ossege said.
To Ossege, teamwork is the most important part of the sport.
“It means being able to be supported and to support each other, make sure everybody is doing the best they can, and having the most fun they can while also representing Eastern Kentucky in the best light possible,” Ossege said.
“I think she’s very motivated,” said Meggan Grams, a senior cross country runner from Hagerstown, Maryland. “She gets up in the morning and does what she has to … you can always go to her and talk to her. She’s a good person, her heart’s warm and she’s very motivated which is what a good athlete is.”
Grams notes that while she and Ossege have never let being a student athlete get in the way of their schoolwork, that is not always the case for others.
“We’re the type that puts school first and then comes the sport,” Grams said. “But sometimes it can get really hard when you know you want to do well in your sport, but you can’t get enough sleep or eat enough and you have to play it by ear and try to get everything done. I think for us school is very important … but we also want to be in the sport and be the best we can be.”
Being in a sport offers a sense of family and community for Grams as well.
“You feel like a family within the sport and you always have people to talk to. You’re never alone,” Grams said.
Both Grams and Ossege seem very confident for their team this upcoming season.
“I’m very excited for this season,” Ossege said. “We had a lot of freshmen who just came in and I’m very excited to see how they do. I’m excited to see how they can push me and I can push them to be the best they can be.”