Devin Wiegers Enjoys Time With Teammates On and Off the Course

Sept. 29, 2011

Cross country is more than just a sport for redshirt junior Devin Wiegers. For her, it is an opportunity to build relationships and make lasting friendships.

092911aaa_147_5610743.jpeg“I’m really good friends with (senior Rebeka) Stowe,” Wiegers said. “I feel like with (Distance Coach Michael) Whittlesey, we are so team oriented now. We are best friends. We not only go to practice for four hours a day and hang out, but we hang out after and before practice. We just love to be around each other and accept each other as friends and teammates. The friends have been the best part of being here.”

The closeness of the team this year has translated into exceptional results as the women’s team has already earned a second place result at the Bob Timmons Classic and won first place at the Missouri Cross Country Challenge. Wiegers’ strong friendship formed with fellow runner Rebeka Stowe has gone past results and allowed the two to become strong leaders for their teammates. The duo has really stepped up and embraced the role of leadership whether it is in regard to running or on a more personal level.

“I feel like Stowe leads more in practice and at meets, but outside of practice and in life, I feel like I’m more of a leader because those girls will come to me and ask me things that aren’t even related to running,” she explained. “I feel like I can relate to them on other levels and not just on the running side.”

Already being a leader provides tremendous benefit to Wiegers as well as the team as a whole. She will be able to assume the role of a senior leader much smoother in her fifth year at KU. Even though Wiegers has already established herself as a leader and strong competitor, cross country wasn’t the first sport she stood out at. She was a competitive and successful soccer player before she found out about cross country. It didn’t take long for her to realize that running long distances in soccer was what really drew her into the sport. This would eventually open the door to her love for cross country.

“I was always a really competitive soccer player. I played for a premier team from the age of five until junior year of high school,” she said. “I realized I just liked running up and down the field, and I would beat everybody. I had speed and endurance, and I could last the whole game. When I got to high school and realized what cross country was, I loved it and stopped playing soccer.”

After making the choice to switch sports to cross country, the decision to come to KU was relatively easy. The Leawood, Kan., native always had her sights set on the University of Kansas. Growing up so close to Lawrence and having two parents who went to KU helped Wiegers establish a strong sense of desire to be attend the University of Kansas.

092911aaa_147_5685273.jpeg“Both my parents went here. I always wanted to be a Jayhawk,” Wiegers said. “When I chose cross country, I decided on KU and loved it. I looked at some other places, but for me, I wanted to be closer to home. (My first time being away from home) freshman year was a good thing because it was really tough for me to adjust.”

Even though Wiegers has loved her time here, it hasn’t always been easy. Fighting through injuries has presented obstacles that she has had to overcome. Starting in her senior year of high school, Wiegers experienced stress fractures. It changed her whole approach to running. She had to have a specific mileage plan that Coach Whitt adopted wholeheartedly because she faced the possibility of becoming injured much easier. She had to redshirt her junior year after the injury resurfaced after only one race.

“Last year at this time, I had a stress fracture. I was in the best shape of my life and then it was a mental blow,” she remembered. “I was devastated confidence-wise as well as mentally. When I tried to come back and saw where all those girls were and where I wasn’t (it was difficult). I’m still working to get (my confidence) back up. It’s been growing lately. I think summer helped a lot to get away from it all and rebuild my self-esteem. My goal is to be confident and strong and race like I know I can.”

Wiegers hasn’t let her personal injuries dampen her spirits or expectations for the team. She anticipates great things from her friends and teammates this year.

“As a team, we definitely want to make it to Nationals and make it strongly,” Wiegers said. “We want to run well together in a pack, too. We’re big on pack running.”

092911aaa_147_5685272.jpegThe pack mentality goes beyond just a style of running. It extends into all of the KU cross country runners’ personal lives and has caused a strong team bond away from the competitive environment. The friendships Wiegers has developed over her four years at KU will be tough to replace.

“I’m going to miss the team aspect, the people, Coach and the workouts. I’m going to miss everything. I love it all,” she concluded. “I don’t know what I’m going to do after my time is officially up because I’ve always been involved in team sport. I’m going to need to find some sort of team thing to do. I need it.”

After this season, she will lose close friend and classmate Rebeka Stowe this year to graduation. Wiegers will have the opportunity to undertake the senior leadership role vacated by Stowe and continue to compete in that much-needed team sport with some of her best friends.