Profile: Men’s Cross Country Team Captains
Jessica Pellegrino – General Assignment Reporter
The men’s cross country team will begin their 2014 season on Sept. 13. But before the boys lace up their running sneakers, we caught up with this year’s team captains, Tom Saksa and Dean Bhatt.
Tom Saksa, born in Milford, has been running cross country since he was in high school. During his time at Seymour High School, Saksa made the All-Division selection. He graduated from Seymour High School in 2011, and the next stop on his running career was Southern Connecticut State University. This year will be Saksa’s fourth year running for the Owls.
What is a typical day look like for a college level runner? “I practice for two to three hours every single day,” said Saksa. “My training varies. I lift a couple times a week. Sometimes, I cross train as well.” In order to pump himself up for a race, Saska likes to listen to alternative music, like Anberlin.
When asked what keeps him motivated, Saksa said, “I enjoy running with my teammates. We’re like a brotherhood. And I love my coach, John Wallin. I would come to Southern a million times over if I could.”
Saksa stepped into his leadership role in an unusual way. “I’ve always taken on leadership roles. I was in a Youth Leadership Organization when I was younger,” said Saksa. “So when our captain graduated in the middle of the season last year, coach trusted me with the position.”
The cross country team’s other captain, Bhatt, junior, didn’t get his college start at Southern.
“I did cross country in high school. I was fortunate to have an extremely powerful and motivating coach who led an extremely large team,” said Bhatt. “Each year we would have upwards of forty people on the team. I instantly fell in love with the sport and continued to do Cross Country and Track when I went to college at the University of New Hampshire.”
After transferring from the University of New Hampshire to Southern, Bhatt instantly felt like the Owls were a great fit for him. “I’m an extremely motivated person in general. And it is very hard not to be when you have a coach that lives, sleeps, and breathes cross country and track,” said Bhatt. “His passion bleeds into the spirit of the team, which creates a very comfortable, hard working environment.”
The thing Bhatt loves the most about the sport is the way it makes him feel. He loves being fit and strong and even loves the amount of healthy competition the sport gives him.
“Many people have the misconception that the fittest person wins,” he said. “I believe once you get to college athletics everyone is fitness is in a similar zone. The people who win big competitions are the people who know and love competition.”
Bhatt said he believes that the Owls have a lot of potential and a great roster.
“Right now, the team is extremely young,” he said. “A lot of learning is still yet to be done here,” suggests Bhatt. “In the future I would like to see a group of young men extremely dedicated to their team’s success. I would love to have a team go with me to Nations before I run out of eligibility.”