Off the radar to on top of Linfield cross country

Joe Stuart, For the Review

It is rare to see an athlete who was only somewhat strong in their sport in high school come to the college level and rise to be one of the best.

But cross country captain Alex Mangan, ’16, has done just that.

“In high school, I wasn’t a big runner at all, I was a tennis player, that was my big sport,” said Mangan.

“I did cross country because my dad ran marathons and he was really into. I did it and I was good enough to make the team and everything, but I never really enjoyed it.”

“But by my senior year I had gotten pretty good and I got to go to state. By then I was all about running and really hyped on it,” he said.

Mangan began the recruiting process for cross country, and when he came to Linfield and talked to the coaching staff, he was instantly sold on the program.

He succeeded instantly as a Wildcat, becoming one of the top 7 runners his first year and ending up going to regionals as a freshman.

He continued to play tennis his freshman year at Linfield.

“I had never ran track before, so I played tennis that first year, and I got a lot of grief for that,” said Mangan.

He became all-conference cross country his sophomore year, and decided that it was time to hang up the racket and have some real accomplishments in running, leading him to run full time for the Wildcats in cross country and track.

Mangan has lettered every year in cross country at Linfield.

Being the captain, Mangan is the core leader of this year’s Wildcat team.

“We chose him as captain because of the qualities he has in regards to doing the right thing, following the program, being a good influence to the younger runners,” Travis Olson, head coach of the cross country and track and field teams said.

“He does a great job and you can see that all the other people on the team really respect him,” Olson said.

Unfortunately, Mangan has seen more than his fair share of injuries through his career.

“During the winter of my sophomore year, I was getting ready for track season, I had a really good winter of training, and then I had a hamstring injury that popped up, and I ended up missing the entirety of my track season my sophomore year. That spilled into the summer so I wasn’t able to train that much during that summer,” Mangan said.

Mangan was still able to have a very successful season his junior campaign, making it all the way to regionals. But the week before regionals, he ended up unknowingly breaking his foot.

As one would expect, this led to not a great showing in the regionals race. He then took some time off to fully recover, and now is back in peak condition.

Despite the injuries at the beginning and end of last season, Mangan finished 19th at the Northwest Conference Championships, running 26:43 in the eight kilometer course. But this year, he wants to do much better.

“The ultimate goal for my senior season is for me to go to nationals,” Mangan said. “I want to finish in the top 20 regionally, and then just being able to make it and race at nationals, that’s the ultimate goal for me.”

With his determination, Mangan has very strong odds to achieve his goal.

“I think he can make it there. He’s a very strong runner and really has the drive to want go there,” Olson said.

“He’s in the best shape of his life, and I really think he can make it nationals. And I never say that to people unless I mean it.”