Skyler Lattuca of the men’s cross-country team had a productive first fall season of competition. Nabbing first-, third-, and fourth place finishes in the regular season, earning All-Region and Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) Runner of the Week honors and being named ODAC Rookie of the Year, Lattuca will be a regular name in the cross-country conversation the next couple years.
Lattuca is a two-year student at Virginia Wesleyan who joined the cross-country team his sophomore academic year. Naturally, Lattuca was a little nervous to join.
“Coming from someone who didn’t run last year, it was intimidating because everyone was already so close and I didn’t know what to expect.” Lattuca said. “With that said the guys have been super supportive of me joining and I can honestly say that I’ve never seen a team encourage each other the way that they do.”
Since he took an entire year off from running, Lattuca had a lot of catching up to do to get in shape for a cross-country season. He started slow and built his way back by doing base training. He noted that he started with about 10 miles per week and gradually made his way to hitting 60 a couple times.
He faced obstacles and his mental toughness was tested as preparation for a cross-country season can be grueling. “There were a lot of times when we would do workouts at Mount Trashmore and I would just think maybe I’m not cut out for this, but it was a lot of looking up at that hill and telling myself ‘I can do this I have to keep fighting,’” Lattuca said.
Even though Lattuca took time off, his track record at the beginning of the season did not show it. In his debut on Aug. 31, he placed first at the Bridgewater XC Challenge with a time of 16:12.26, which was 28 seconds faster than the second-place runner. This first-place finish earned him ODAC Runner of the Week honors.
“I’m still getting the hang of running cross country and it was really cool to get that recognition. I felt like I didn’t really deserve the recognition because so many of my teammates have been doing it for longer than me but it was still cool,” Lattuca said.
Just three weeks later on Sep. 22, he placed third at the Hornet Harrier Invitational, which was hosted by Shenandoah University. On Sep. 29 at the Don Cathcart Invitational hosted by Salisbury University, he placed fourth, and also set the second-fastest time in school history with a time of 25:33.17 according to vwuathletics.com.
Lattuca’s prolific first year garnered the attention of other runners. Leading runner for the Marlin women’s cross-country team Gina Donatelli said, “He’s always giving 110 percent no matter what he is doing. He doesn’t let competition get to him and is always working hard to improve.”
As regular competition came to an end, Lattuca and the Marlin cross-country squad headed to Shenandoah for the ODAC Championships on Oct. 27. Lattuca walked away with a sixth-place finish and also ODAC Rookie of the Year honors.
“We had a couple guys perform very well, and then a couple guys do not so well…but even so we stayed together as a team and enjoyed the moment and were able to find good in maybe a not so great experience,” Lattuca said.
In the most recent NCAA South/Southeast Regionals competition in Berry, Georgia on Nov. 10, Lattuca placed 32 out of a field of 239 runners. Despite a less successful showing for the team as a whole at Regionals, Lattuca still remarked on how great the experience was that he got to share with his teammates.
While he consistently leads the team in races, he is still one of his teammates’ biggest fans. “I honestly think about finishing the race as fast as I can so I can cheer on my teammates. I’ve never really been in it for the individual aspect. I enjoy seeing my teammates continue to improve and beat their personal times,” Lattuca said.
Lattuca will now enter his first indoor track season for the Marlins and looks to this time continue his success in mid-distance events.