Cougar of the Week: Nathan Buck

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Nobody goes harder than senior Nate Buck on the cross country trails. And nobody in the Worcester Consortium runs a faster five mile race than him. Buck is coming off of a first place finish at the Worcester City Invitational with a time of 27:06 that helped lead the cross country team to a second place finish.


Scarlet: What did it mean to you, after coming in second last year, to win the Worcester City Invitational?

Nate: It was sort of a surprise because I went in not even considering it as an option. I was just trying to run with a couple WPI guys that I knew would be out near the front.


Scarlet: Looking at the standings, it looked like they had a lot of good times.

Nate: I think they had second, fourth and fifth, but my whole race plan was to keep up with them and then I decided to go for it.

Scarlet: So was that your mentality before the race, not even worrying about where you were going to place, just running?

Nate: Yeah, just to run with the pack and, if I felt good that day, then try to separate.


Scarlet: What was going through your mind during that race?

Nate: I do something a lot of people on the team do, something our coach talks about. We split the race into three part. For the first couple miles, I’m just thinking about keeping as comfortable and relaxed as possible, and just saying “easy” over and over in my head, just trying to stay relaxed. And then, the second part of the race, that’s when you really want to settle into your pack, and you want to be aggressive and put yourself in the place that you need to be. And then the last part of the race is all about doing whatever you have to do. You’re not even really thinking at that point; it’s just about dealing with the pain.


Scarlet: It’s all in at that point.

Nate: Yeah, but for the last part of this race, I was sort of by myself, so it was a weird finish.


Scarlet: Does it add extra motivation when you’re up ahead? Does it makes you think, “I really want to keep this up”?

Nate: Yeah, I took the lead around a mile and a half to go, and then the rest of the race, I was just paranoid that they were going to catch up to me. I knew there were two people that were behind me.


Scarlet: I saw that you won by about ten seconds, which is a pretty comfortable lead, but isn’t it still a little precarious.

Nate: It was comfortable in the sense that I didn’t have to kick, but if I cramped or if I had fallen off the pace, they would have caught me pretty easily.


Scarlet: I know that in cross country, you’re competing with yourself more than anything. You’re focused on how you’re team does, but also how you’re doing and what you can do better. What are your goals going forward?

Nate: I have four goals for the rest of the season. My goal time-wise is that I want to break 26 minutes.

Scarlet: I noticed you got around 26:30 at last year’s Western New England Golden Bears invitational.

Nate: Yeah, the [Worcester City Invitational] course is a really slow course, I got like 27:30 on it last year, so I’m hoping that I can be sub-26 on the [Golden Bears] course. It has a very packed and flat surface.


Scarlet: So if you shaved 30 seconds off the Worcester City Invitational time, then it’s possible to shave it off that one too. What are your other goals?

Nate: I want to be NEWMAC All-Conference. Clark has never had an all-conference runner in the program’s history, so I would like to be all-conference. And, also, we have a goal of finishing fifth as a team in the NEWMAC. We’ve always been in sixth or seventh, and I think this year we can actually beat a couple more teams and come in fifth. And then for regionals, this is where we can measure our improvement the best. There are 50 teams, and every time you get a little bit better, you can see it. My first year running here was my sophomore year and we were 36th. Last year, we moved up to 25th, so we were right in the middle at 25th out of 50. This year, the goal is to take another step up and be in the top 20.


Scarlet: I know it’s hard to compete with some of the NESCAAC schools in regionals. They have amazing runners who are getting, like 25 minute 8k times. But you’d be up there if you’re able to break 26 on that course.

Nate: Yeah, if I was able to break 26 on that course, I’d be in the pack with a lot of NESCAAC people. The other thing is that it’s really impressive that we’re able to do this without a track program. Last year, we were the second best team at regionals that didn’t have a track program. Other schools are running year round and we just run in the fall.


Scarlet: How much of what you’re doing right now is preparation of the NEWMAC?

Nate: Really everything we do now is in preparation for NEWMAC and regionals.


Scarlet: Is that what you’re thinking about when you’re going through these races?

Nate: Yeah, because it’s cross country, the regular season doesn’t matter at all. I mean, it matters just because you’re trying to tune up. So the races do matter, but really what it comes down to is your finish at conference and your finish at regionals.


Scarlet: So the races are kind of like benchmarks leading up to the main races, and that inspires you to take them seriously.

Nate: Yeah, it’s really about seeing where we’re at as a team in relation to other schools, and trying to move up.


Scarlet: How would you assess where you guys are at right now?

Nate: I think we’re running really well. We have a lot of freshmen and returning sophomores who are running very fast. The problem with last year was that we weren’t very deep and that we had a couple of guys at the top, but we couldn’t maintain that through our top seven. This year, it looks like we’re going to have a really good top seven.

Scarlet: It’s really hard have a top seven that finishes near the top because if you scroll far down the standings, you’re still at 30 minutes and that’s still really good, that’s 6 minute splits.

Nate: I think our #7 was 30:53 at this course, and on a flat course, that’s probably sub-30 so that’s huge for us because last year, we had 5 runners at sub-30 and to have seven will be helpful.


Scarlet: Walk me through a day of exercise in the fall. How much do you run?

Nate: I run 70 miles every week, so I average 10 miles a day. It really depends on the day. Tuesday and Thursday are workouts and Saturdays are races, those are the days where it’s the hardest.


Scarlet: What are some of the best routes in Worcester?

Nate: We go to Cascades Park a lot, that’s my favorite run.


Scarlet: When did you start running cross country?

Nate: I had always played soccer, so my junior year of high school, they had a really strong cross country team that year in terms of the top three guys. They had three of the best guys in the state, and they were trying to find a four and a five to help them win states. So they came to the soccer coach and I was on JV soccer, and I was the best at running on the soccer team. The coach asked me if I wanted to run cross country and I was like, yeah that sounds like fun.


Scarlet: I was on JV soccer as a junior as well.

Nate: I was pretty disappointed that I didn’t make varsity.


Scarlet: What if you made varsity? Maybe you wouldn’t be running cross country.

Nate: I guess it was a blessing in disguise.