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DWU's Panec reaches NAIA nationals

Jeremiah Panec's goal coming into this season was to break 27 minutes in an 8,000-meter race and place at the conference meet. He will finish the season at the NAIA Cross-Country National Championships on Saturday. The Dakota Wesleyan University ...

Dakota Wesleyan's Jeremiah Panec, left, will compete in the NAIA national cross-country meet on Friday in Illinois. (Dakota Wesleyan athletics Photo)
Dakota Wesleyan's Jeremiah Panec, left, will compete in the NAIA national cross-country meet on Friday in Illinois. (Dakota Wesleyan athletics Photo)

Jeremiah Panec's goal coming into this season was to break 27 minutes in an 8,000-meter race and place at the conference meet.

He will finish the season at the NAIA Cross-Country National Championships on Saturday.

The Dakota Wesleyan University junior will be one of 85 individuals to compete at the national meet at North Farms Cross-Country Course in Elsah, Illinois.

Panec is the first national meet qualifier for the DWU men since Thomas Madut did it in 2008 and 2009. He's the 10th Tiger man to qualify for nationals.

"Obviously, it is great for the program," DWU cross-country coach Derik Fossum said. "It is just a reflection of Jeremiah's hard work and his dedication. He has put in a lot of work. It is always good to be rewarded with a trip to the national meet."

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Panec qualified for nationals with his fifth-place finish at the Great Plains Athletic Conference meet on Nov. 5 in Hastings, Nebraska. He finished with a personal best time of 25-minutes and 32 seconds.

"That was pretty exciting," Panec said about qualifying. "I gave our coach a big hug when I found out."

Panec's preparation long before the conference meet prepared him for the event. He upped his training regime last spring and that continued into the summer.

"Last spring, he actually had a little bit of mental breakthrough as far as what the training needs to look like for him to be successful," Fossum said. "We had a couple weeks where he felt flat and he kind of came to the realization of the things that he needed to do in order to be successful."

He logged an average of 50 miles per week during the summer, with a high of 55 during one week. But he still did not have nationals on his mind entering this season.

He just wanted to break the 27 minute barrier in an 8K race, which he accomplished at the Briar Cliff Invitational with a time of 26:20.53.

"It was a turning point in me having the realization that I have the possibility to make it to nationals," Panec said.

That possibility continued throughout the season.

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"He just kept building off one week to the next and the competition before the conference meet is when I really thought we are close and this could be a real possibility," Fossum said.

Panec also credits a pre-race ritual for also helping him reach nationals.

"I think the biggest difference was that I would always say a little prayer before I started running," Panec said. "I always try to have God on my mind when I practice and I think that is the biggest difference for me."

That has helped lead him to this point.

"Right now, I feel like I am running pretty well," Panec said. "My last practices have been better than the previous ones. I thank God for that."

Related Topics: NAIA
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