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Craig Lutz ready for Redemption - Wisconsin Adidas Invitational 2013

Published by
RunnerSpace.com/College   on Oct 18 2013, 05:42 PM

Last year expectations were high for the sophomore at Texas, Craig Lutz.  He finished 33rd as a freshman at the NCAA cross country championships and he would be the 13th best returner at the NCAA cross country meet the next year.

 An injury wrecked that NCAA meet as he could not finish due to quad strains.  For a guy who powers through pain it was a shock he did not finish.  In fact that whole year was tough and Craig and his coaches decided there were some training issues and once they figured out the problem, the pain started to go away.      

Not having success was unusual for this sophomore originially from Illinois. The son of a mother who was an Olympic developmental field hockey player and a baseball player at Murray State, he was in the right household for success.  His parents became Chicago cops.  Eventually they tired of the life and his father took a job as a restaurant manager in Dallas.  His dad eventually became a personal trainer and started Lake Cities XC Club out of Dallas. 

The passion for running started for him in the second grade with Marathon Kids, a children’s health and wellness group that has a goal for kids to walk or run a 26.2 mile marathon after six months of training.  Two weeks ago there was a kickoff event for 10,000 marathon kids that was held at Myers Stadium at the UT campus. 

Lutz, of course, was at the event and reminisced about his own experience.  He told Ashley Goudeau of KVUE news, “It’s definitely like a flash from the past.”  Past kick-off events struck a chord for Lutz as he told Goudeau, “You’re standing out here in front of all the UT athletes and it’s just an awesome experience where you get really excited when you kind of see a life that would be really cool to be a part of.” 

 This program did light the fire as he said to Goudeau, “It got me really excited about running.  Granted it was still years away from me actually starting to train for it but I just really enjoyed getting out there.”  (quotes from KVUE News story)

He eventually competed nationally with his eighth grade cross country team while running for Lake Cities XC Club.  Flash forward to 2009.  The maturity was clearly there as he reached his junior year at Marcus High school in Flower Mound, Texas.   He impressed volunteers at meets with his maturity.  

 Craig Lutz had a great cross country year as he dominated Texas district (near 10 seconds) and state meets (almost 23 second victory).  He came to NXN and won with a solid, gutsy performance on a difficult course in December.  He followed that up with a fourth place finish at Foot Locker as Lukas Verbizcas from Illinois ran away from the competition.  

The next year he was faster all year (pr 14:41 at Texas state for a 26 second victory) but finished third at Nike, once again to Verbizcas and now to Edward Cheserek too.  He finished 29th at World Junior Cross country in the winter as the first US finisher. In the spring he was his first Texas state track title in 8:52.91 for 3,200 meters. 

In his freshman year he clearly blended well with his teammates (Craig Lutz's Blog).  Across the country in the middle of the season, Lukas Verbizkas decided to move on from Oregon and went back to triathlon training in Colorado.   Many criticized his choice to leave the Ducks before the conference meet, but Craig Lutz went online to defend his former vanquisher.  Knowing the pressures of being a top runner, he understood that maybe it was time to take a break.  (Craig Lutz defends Verbizcas).  

He had a strong season (15th at Wisconsin, 4th Big 12 and 3rd NCAA South) that culminated with a  33rd place finish at the NCAA meet.  Outdoors was not as strong and it was up and down.  He was having quad strains throughout the season without an answer to the problem.  He ended up with a 5k pr of 14:00.95 at the Stanford Invitational. 

In the summer of 2012 Lutz put in 80-85 miles all summer but his legs had been bothering him.  At the NCAA meet training indicated he would have a good run but quad strains were hampering him and he did not finish the race.  It was determined he was having a training issue.  

They changed his training and he slowly recovered.  He pr’d at the Mt SAC 5k in 14:00.53.  He was fourth at the Big 12 for 10k in a pr 29:22.75 and seventh in the 5k at 14:12.87. When he found himself on the track in the 10,000 meters at the West Regional in Austin, Texas and he was not out of the race, he decided to go for it and finished in the top 12 (9th) to qualify for the NCAA championships.

“That was kind of a wake up call”, he said about sitting somewhere around 20th at regionals.  He said, ”I realized the end of my season was closing in and if I didn’t do something about it I wasn’t going to take anything from this outdoor season.” There were 12 or 13 in a pack in front of the rest of the heat.  Coach Hayes gave him a plan, “with a mile to go I put in 800 meters of good effort.”  Afterward he thought, “Every time you step on that line it’s just another chance for you.”

In the national final it was a varying pace.  The runners started to string out and then they bunched up and Lutz found himself in third.  “I all of a sudden had this surge of good feeling and realized that it was anybody’s race.  8 months ago I dropped out of the national meeting in cross and all of a sudden I am sitting here thinking I am going to grab an all-American spot.”   He finished third in 29:41.97 and thought, “This is crazy, I still can’t believe this” after the race. Between west regionals and the NCAA meet he admitted, “I got my head on straight.”  (Lutz 3rd Place Interview)

With a great finish to the season he was in position to have a great summer. He ran between 85 and 90 miles per week with no issues.  At the Texas Invitational he dominated the competition with a time of 24:02.  

At the Wisconsin Adidas Invitational will be the start of his redemption.  He went into the 2012 NCAA meet as the #13 returner.  Among runners from 2011 he is the sixth fastest returner.  He was disappointed with last year’s performance, “I should have been up there.” he related to me recently and said, “the Big 12 meet will be a good indicator.  (Last year) And I had quad strains leading up to the meet.”

 At Wisconsin last year he was 12th, ninth at Big 12 and finished sixth at the NCAA South regional.  He feels he is ready to improve on those performances.    

Because of his history of success I asked him how he deals with pain.  This is what he said, “I reach back to times where I had adversity sitting right in front of me and I couldn't deal with it. I remember the feeling of defeat and failure that comes with not being able to get over these obstacles and how I never want to feel that way at the end of the day. Every workout is used to shape the habits of my mentality to make it as strong as it possibly can be.”  

 With this great mental approach and training finally underneath him again he should have a great season.  The Wisconsin Adidas Invitational will be his first chance to prove he should in the top ten of the NCAA meet.  If he is in it near the end, expect a battle for the title, because Craig Lutz is back!

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