Though Joshua Mirth is only a sophomore, he has already established himself as the “low stick” of the men’s cross country team. Don’t let his quiet, modest demeanor fool you – Mirth is a hard worker both on and off the track, always angling for a top finish and working diligently toward a physics and math double-major.
CM: How long have you been running?
JM: Competitively since about freshman year of high school, before that probably for a couple of years every once and a while. Both my parents run so they’d take me out for a mile or two, so I guess it’s been six years that I’ve been running competitively.
CM: You were homeschooled, correct? How were you able to compete during high school?
JM: Actually my dad put together a homeschooled team, so we were able to compete just like any other high school except it was a group of homeschoolers who my dad coached to run both cross country and track.
CM: And is that a common thing, to have a homeschool team?
JM: Not really. There are two of us on the men’s team who are homeschoolers, and that’s incredibly rare, I mean, you probably couldn’t find another NCAA D-II prospect team with two homeschoolers on it in the entire country, so no it’s not a common thing. It was a really unique opportunity that I’m glad I had the chance to come here with, because most homeschoolers don’t have that opportunity.
CM: How have the Chargers been doing this year?
JM: We’ve been up and down this year. We were hoping to be one of the top competitors for nationals, and as it’s looking right now we’re very much on the edge, not quite as good as we were hoping. We lost our number two runner Matt Perkins. With him I think we’d be pretty much where we wanted to be, but we don’t have him obviously so… Other than that, the team’s been doing pretty well. We placed eighth at conference which, again, is a little disappointing, but it was a solid effort from the guys that ran. So it’s been a pretty good year; we have a really young team and we’ve improved a lot.
CM: What’s the breakdown of the team, class-wise?
JM: We have two seniors, Andrew Koehlinger and Matt VanEgmond, they’re our team captains, and then we have no juniors, six sophomores and the rest are freshman, so it’s a very young team.
CM: How are the coaches?
JM: I really like the coaches. They’re new for the men, this year at least, because Coach Lundberg retired after last cross country season, so it’s our first season with Coach White and Coach Mirochna. I like them a lot. The guys’ team mostly works with Coach White. We started training last indoor season and I think he has a really good handle on how to train distance runners and what kind of workouts we should be doing. He’s also just a great guy, so it’s a lot of fun.
CM: What does practice consist of?
JM: Practice can vary on a typical day. We have easy days and we have workout days. An easy day is just everyone shows up, coach says a few words and then you go run, anywhere from four to ten miles. On a workout day you get there, do a couple miles warm-up, go run workouts, tempo run on the track or on the course or something, then you get back and do core exercises and weight lifting and stretching, all stuff like that, so it’s a lot longer day.
CM: And is that every day?
JM: We’ll practice typically four to five days a week, so we’ll practice Monday through Friday, sometimes we get a day off, then go to meets on the weekends.
CM: The team placed fifth last year at the NCAA Division II Midwest Regional Championships. How is the outlook going into those this year?
JM: Well our goal is to place at least fifth again this year because top five qualify for nationals. It’s going to be a little tougher this year because there are a few more teams in our region than there were last year- Cedarville moved up from NAIA and they’re pretty good. There are a few more teams like that, so it’s going to be little more difficult to place fifth, especially as we placed eighth at conference and all those teams are going to be back at regionals, but I think that if we run well, and execute our strategy for the meet we still have a chance to get into the top five.
— Compiled by Chris McCaffery, photo courtesy of John Mirth