Today’s forecast in Bellingham, Wash. calls for cold, moist temperatures with the possibility of snow falling. For the Foldager twins of Cal State Stanislaus women’s cross country, the conditions aren’t a big deal.
For their teammates, it is.
Twin sisters Denali Foldager and Rubye Elhard (who got married last summer, explaining the new surname) are familiar with freezing temperatures. Today’s NCAA West Region Championships at Lake Padden Park in Bellingham is a homecoming of sorts for the juniors, who were born in nearby Edmonds before growing up in Seward, Alaska, where they spent most of their lives competing in the backwoods.
Because of their upbringing, their Stanislaus teammates have been bombarding them with text messages asking for tips on running in the cold.
“I told them everything that I could remember,” said Denali, who hasn’t competed in this type of weather since her high school days three years ago. “It’s been awhile. Pretty much, we just told them stuff so mentally they don’t freak out. If we all run together and we run the way we need to run, we can go to nationals.”
The Warriors, who are ranked seventh in the region, have to finish in the top six today in order to advance to the NCAA Championships on Dec. 4 in Louisville. And if the Stanislaus women qualify, it would be only the second time since 2003.
Coach Diljeet Taylor is convinced that Denali and Rubye can perform well despite today’s expected high of 39 degrees. The sisters have combined to win three races this season, each one resulting in being named the California Collegiate Athletic Association’s top female runner of the week. And at the conference championship meet on Nov. 6, they finished in the top 15 to earn all-CCAA honors for the second straight year.
But today’s challenge, Taylor said, “is going to be different for us.”
The women’s 10,000-meter race begins at 11:15 a.m., and the Warriors coach believes her group will have a legit shot at making nationals. Besides Denali and Rubye, Taylor is confident in her No. 3 and 4 runners, in freshman Marina Ghabbour and junior Chelsea Deerinck, saying that “they really stepped up in the last couple races.”
Rounding out the top seven are Alyssa Thiele, Katie Timmermans and Lindsay Garcia, all Californians like Ghabbour and Deerinck.
“They’re all going to be close up there,” Taylor said. “Being a team from California, it’s rare that you even get ranked. I feel really confident in their capabilities as a team. They want this so bad.”
And it’ll be Denali and Rubye who will lead the way. The twins are doing it by passing along their knowledge of running in damp conditions to their teammates. One suggestion: Don’t get freaked out by the cold! Leading up to today’s event, the Warriors also practiced at 5:30 a.m. every day to imitate what it’d be like to run in the Great Pacific Northwest.
“In the cold,” Denali has instructed, “your body starts overheating. You think that you’re fine, but your body tenses up.” Then she reminded her teammates, who are used to warm California weather, “to relax and don’t think about the cold.”
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