Badger Uses Science to Boost UCCS

By Marc Knutila published November 16, 2006

In science there are few absolutes. The scientific community has theories and laws, but they are made to be proven wrong. Even an apparent absolute like the Law of Gravity can, scientifically speaking, be proven incorrect.

The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs women's cross country team, however, is bucking that trend. The Mountain Lions are trying to prove science to be correct.

The UCCS cross country team is in Pensacola, Fla., to compete in Saturday's NCAA Division II National Cross Country Championships. There, the Mountain Lions will put the "Badger Theory" to the test.

As a small-budget program, UCCS can't afford to bring in scads of the 20-something foreign athletes that dominate the rosters of most of the teams that qualify for nationals. Desiring to compete at the national level but unable to do so the way most approach it, Badger turned to science.

The results have been impressive. Saturday will be the third time in the past eight years that the UCCS women have competed as a team at nationals. In each of the five years that UCCS failed to qualify as a team, at least one member of the women's team qualified as an individual.

Moreover, of the eight cross country All-Americans UCCS has produced, male and female, only one came to the school having been an All-State runner in high school.

"The key to our program is we see it as a long range project," explained Badger.

What the coach means is that because he has the majority of his athletes for four years, he uses a step-by-step process to build them into a national contender. Think of it as building Col. Steve Austin over four years but without the robotics or the $6 million dollars.

OK, bad comparison. Let the coach explain it instead.

"The first semester, a freshman will just run in the afternoon practice and lift weights," said Badger. "The next semester, maybe we will throw in a morning practice for them."

Scientifically speaking, that is a pretty simple regimen. Here's where it starts to get complicated.

Badger, along with Dr. Andrew Subudhi of the UCCS Biology Department, put each athlete through a treadmill test.

"We are able to get an athlete's threshold and BO2 mass," Badger said. "That allows us to see if, over time, the athlete is improving."

It also gives Coach Badger an idea of an athlete's potential and if they are achieving their potential.

"(The tests) give us a sense of what they should be able to run in races," he said.

The vast awesomeness of science. I could just see:

"Son, we got your test results and according to this, you have the lung capacity of a seven year-old. I'm sorry, but we are going to have to revoke your scholarship."

Maybe science isn't so awesome after all!

Seriously, however, Badger's regimen for the UCCS cross country team is quite intense and as confusing as whatever BO2 mass means. Basically, they build up their strength through a 21-day "micro cycle."

"It's a gradual build of volume and an increase of intensity," Badger explained.

As part of the 21-day micro cycle, the UCCS cross country teams partakes in a process called tapering. Tapering allows for athletes to peak at a certain point of the season. For the Mountain Lions, their tapering gives them the ability to peak at the most important part of the season: regionals and nationals.

"We drop their volume and increase the intensity," Coach Badger said while explaining how tapering works. Volume meaning the number of miles an athlete runs.

"Usually, early in the season we will run four times a mile, with a three minute recovery," Badger explained. "Then late in the season while tapering we will run two times a mile with full recovery."

What it accomplishes, according to Badger, are athletes ready to compete to their maximum ability.

"We are doing less, but doing it faster," Badger said.

And, as the results would seem to indicate, better.


Additional News Stories
November 18, 2006UCCS Takes Seventh at NationalsThe University of Colorado at Colorado Springs women's cross country team earned the highest national finish in school history by capturing seventh place at the NCAA Division II National Cross Country Championships Saturday.
November 17, 2006XC Nationals Preview: Getting There Not Fun Whoever said "getting there is half the fun" never traveled with the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs women's cross country team.
November 4, 2006UCCS Women Qualify for NationalsThe University of Colorado at Colorado Springs women's cross country team finished third at the North Central Region Cross Country Meet Saturday at Wayne, Neb. The performance earned the Mountain Lions a berth at the NCAA Division II National Cross Country Championship Meet on Nov. 18 at Wayne, Neb.
October 21, 2006Women Grab Third at RMAC ChampionshipIn the parlance of most sports, the term "uphill" indicates facing adversity, as in an "uphill battle." For the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs women's cross country team, "uphill" is all about opportunity.
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