KLAMATH FALLS, Ore.--At 6 o’clock in the morning, the day begins for sophomore Mark French and the Oregon Tech cross country team.
"We start with a two-mile warmup,” French said. “And then the workout will be anything from hills to grass loops, thousand meters and miles. Usually we're looking at around 10 to 12 miles for that day."
The early workouts are one of two training sessions the team undergoes each day—they also have a light afternoon session, which is typically harder to gather the whole team at, given different class schedules.
Overall, the mileage doesn’t bother Mark. After all, as a freshman, he became just the second All-American in Oregon Tech history.
"Mark has the potential to be one of the best," OIT cross country coach Jack Kegg said.
"He's probably looking top-15 and then by the time he's a senior, he's probably going to be in your top-5" assistant coach Zach Hammond, a former teammate of Mark’s, said.
Keep in mind though that Mark is an elite endurance student athlete. Incidentally, his choice in majors takes every bit of that elite endurance.
"He does a fantastic job of just challenging himself every day at 'Can I handle a little bit more?' and being so regimented about getting to bed on time and the things he needs to do to stay healthy," Kegg said.
"It's not easy,” said French, who added that on a good night, he’ll be in bed by 9:30 p.m. “But that's one of the things that makes it worth it for me is putting in the work."
Putting in the work consists of settling into a three-hour block of mechanical engineering classes after the morning workout—something that’s not all that unique within the confines of OIT.
"I knew I was signing up for something that probably wouldn't feel too good as far as sleep,” French said. “I'm in a CAD class right now. We're doing drafting, modeling and programming. (I’m a) partial math minor and humanities minor too. It's hard to balance it on my 6 a.m. practice days."
But what puts Mark in first place more often than not is his balancing act. And each day, he sets out to see how far he can stretch his lead.
"I think I found limits that I don't think I would have found at many other places," French said.