Chelsea Lynes and Michael Castel have taken very different paths to success as cross country runners for Western Illinois University, but both have ended up as championship competitors.
Lynes, a junior and a native of Canada, is proud of her heritage, and one day hopes to compete for her country in the Olympics. Chelsea grew up in a town in southwestern Ontario called Woodstock (population: 35,480), and started running when she was in the fourth grade.
"I always wanted to be competitive with my friends, and I always wanted to be the fastest," Lynes said. "I love running. On tough days, I tell myself there's nothing I'd rather do than go running."
Lynes' coach, David Beauchem, said that she selected Western for its leading reputation in a particular academic area. "(Chelsea) wanted to be at a mid-size Division I school that had a strong kinesiology program," Beauchem said. "She felt she could come into Western Illinois University and grow with the program."
Lynes placed first in the 5K race at the Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville Cross Country Challenge on Sept. 16, turning in a faster time (18:44.01) than 52 other competitors.
Sophomore Alycia Thurston placed 10th (19:36.91) for the Western's women's team at Southern Illinois-Edwardsville, with freshman Kristen Bonsor (17th, 19:47.65) and sophomore Mackenzie Gray (19th, 19:51.11) also faring well.
According to Lynes, her title performance in that race was only the beginning.
"My ultimate goal for this year is to become an All-American and win the conference meet," said the red-shirt sophomore, who also excels in the classroom. Lynes was named to the 2010-11 Summit League Commissioner's List of Academic Excellence, and earned Summit League District Scholar Honors in 2010 for maintaining a grade point average of 3.60 or higher.
Lynes said she trains hard to try and turn her goals into reality. Every week, Lynes runs 45 to 50 miles, lifts weights twice a week, and caps all that off with two more interval workouts.
While training, Lynes says sometimes she needs a little inspiration to keep going, so she will either focus on the goal ahead, or even keep a song in her head to continue to push herself.
"Lately, I've been singing ‘Party Rock Anthem' (by LMFAO) while running," Lynes said.
Lynes had nothing but good things to say about her coach, David Beauchem. "He's a really awesome coach," Lynes said. "He's very concerned about my progress, and I trust him with my training."
Upon graduation, Lynes said she would like to continue running by joining a competitive club. Next summer, she will be competing in the Olympic trials in Canada.
Castel, a sophomore from Moline Ill., has made a significant impact to this year's Leathernecks team as well. Castel also placed first at the Southern Illinois-Edwardsville meet, winning the men's 8K race in 25:58.74 to outpace 51 other runners.
"Mike and Chelsea had very different races at Southern Illinois-Edwardsville," Beauchem said. "Chelsea broke away from the leaders at the 2,000 meter mark and held a solid lead through the race. Mike went back and forth with a couple of different others. The lead changed four or five times before Mike broke away in the last mile to win."
Sophomore Zach Wiedeman placed 13th (26:51.31) overall for the Leathernecks' men's team at the Southern Illinois-Edwardsville competition, while teammate Jeffrey Woolridge, a junior, was 25th (27:41.85).
Castel didn't actually start running until his sophomore year of high school.
"My sister encouraged me to go out for the team," Castel said, "and my former coach (Tauwon Taylor) started slow with me and slowly progressed me up."
The law enforcement and justice administration major who hopes to be a police officer after he graduates, also said that Taylor still inspires him to run today. They keep in contact after each meet, and he still listens to Taylor's advice.
Castel said that he runs because, "I enjoy it. I love running, and in order to run fast you have to do it a lot. I want to place in the top 10 at the conference meet this year."
Castel trains constantly, running between 70 and 80 miles per week, averaging about 11 miles each day. He also runs up and down hills, which he admits are not his favorite.
"I hate hills," Castel said, "but they are necessary for my training." Castel noted that it was tough adjusting to Beauchem's training methods, as the previous Western cross country coach (Matt Morris) was the one who recruited him.
"Well, I was hurt freshman year with tightness in my knee," Castel said, "and it took me awhile to get adjusted to (Beauchem's) training after that, but it all worked out in the end."
After he graduates, Castel said he plans to keep running but just recreationally to stay in shape.
"The one similarity Mike and Chelsea share is how they lead by example," Beauchem said. "But they are very different. Chelsea is much more vocal and direct with her teammates. Mike is a little more reserved, but he still sets the tone for what the men's team does in practice every day."
This past spring, both Lynes and Castel competed in the 800-meter and 1,500-meter events for Western's track and field team. And although the cross country season is often considered to be a mere tune-up for the track season ahead, Beauchem has been pleased with the progress he has seen from his two talented competitors.
"Mike's progression from this past track season has been great," Beauchem said. "He had a great summer of training."