Consistent membership in the top six of the men’s cross country team isn’t the only thing that makes Tate Knight ’18 the consummate teammate. His dedication to the sport and his team is as glowingly obvious as his platinum blonde hair. Knight is a brother of Psi U and has played classical guitar since he was four years old. He still “dabbles a little bit,” but unfortunately mild stage fright keeps his talent underground. However, Knight did share plenty with The Argus, gladly going in depth on the intricacies of cross country, his roots at Wesleyan, his teammates, and his persona off the course.
The Argus: To start out, where are you from?
Tate Knight: I’m from Bloomfield, Connecticut, which is about 30 minutes away, so pretty close. It’s a little weird being so close to home, but it’s nice to have my parents be able to come to most meets.
A: As a sophomore, you’re looking to declare a major next semester. Any ideas?
TK: Earth and Environmental science. My brother, who’s 23 now, graduated with a sustainable development major from St. Andrews in Scotland and my dad is an environmental lawyer. So we’ve kind of got that going on.
A: Do you know what you want to do future-wise?
TK: I think environmental consulting would be really cool, and I’m also into like, GIS. It’s geographic information systems. It’s basically like online mapping and spatial analysis. I think that has a lot of great uses in the environment and planning spills or clean-up or mitigation efforts, things like that. Something definitely with an environmental twist, but I would like it to be hands-on instead of not really doing much.
A: For cross country, what do you guys do in the winter? Is it tough adding an indoor component?
TK: If you’re coming to Wesleyan to run distance, you’re running XC, and then indoor track, and then outdoor track. So it’s not XC all three semesters. It’s the same coach, John Crooke, who’s a distance specialist. We stay with him all three seasons and obviously we aren’t training for XC during indoor track. We are training for indoor 5ks and 3ks and then outdoor track. But as a team our main focus is XC. On the track, it’s definitely a different mindset and different strategy, I suppose. The reason a couple of the guys like track more is because there are no variables, really. It’s kind of like you go there and it’s literally who’s physically faster, but for cross country it’d be like, “Do hills take out more in my legs than they do your legs?” Or, mentally, [it is more difficult if] the rain is really affecting me, but it’s not affecting you.
A: So what element gives you the most grief when it comes to running XC?
TK: I’d say downhills because I’m pretty heavy as far as cross country runners go, so downhills are a little more clompy for me than other people. But, on the flip-side of that, I’m much better at going up hills.
A: When you’re running, are you just staring at the ground in front of you and focusing?
TK: The sweet spot for me is maybe 10 feet in front of myself, just like on the ground. You really should just be looking up the entire time and having your eyes on the next person in front of you that you want to pass. It kind of keeps you mentally on edge and focused. Your goal is to pass as many people as you can and be in front of as many people as you can. When your eyes are at the ground, you’re not really thinking of that as much. You also have to look out for footing and make sure that you’re not going to tumble or anything like that. So I’m not really taking in the scenery at all. That happens usually on cool-downs.
A: Does your mind go blank you’re locked on that 10-feet-away sweet spot?
TK: I mean, no. If it’s a phenomenal race and everything is moving and grooving and my legs are feeling super peppy, then I can kind of space out a little bit and enjoy them feeling good and keep a consistent effort through the race. But with an 8k you’re going to feel terrible at some point and that’s when you’ve really got to stay focused and that’s when you really have to remember that you’re running for your team. Even though you don’t see your teammates around you, it still counts. So that’s definitely tough to kind of keep mental focus for twenty-five to twenty-seven minutes. That’s something that’s really tough to work on.
A: Do you hit a wall consistently at a certain point?
TK: There are physical walls and mental walls. if you hit a physical wall then you’re kind of screwed for the rest of the race. If your legs just crash and burn at three miles after you run out way too hard in the first mile or two, then the last two miles are absolute hell. Mental walls can kind of come and go depending on how you deal with them. If you go out too fast and start to die back a lot of people are going to pass you and you start to feel bad for yourself and then you slow down. If you’re just like, well these people are passing me I should just like surge ahead a little bit and stay with that front pack, and you kind of pass that mental barrier and just keep running forward.
A: Do you guys have a lot of fun together as a team? What’s the dynamic like?
TK: Yeah, definitely. Our top five actually have an apartment in Senior Fauver. So I’m always over there. They definitely feed off each other and it’s good to have that constant energy and the constant reminder that even though it’s DIII, we are all here to run; that academics should come first, but XC is also a priority.
A: Fun fact time. What’s the most played song on your playlist right now?
TK: Probably “Skinny Love ” by Birdy. [The] Bon Iver version is not sad enough. Birdy gets it just right with the sadness level. My emotions get all mixed up at the end of the season. As far as the rest of the season goes, we’ve got regionals in two weeks, which is all the DIII schools in the New England Region. That’s at Connecticut College’s course in New London, on the shore. It’s right on the water, which is nice, and it’s really flat so it’ll be good for us. The way it works for nationals is that the top two teams from each region automatically go and then it’s up to this membership of coaches across the nation to choose the other teams that go to nationals and usually for New England’s its anywhere between maybe four and six teams [that] go. We are kind of right on that edge right now. So to get to nationals we are aiming for a fourth place finish at regionals and crossing our fingers that no matter what we will be able to go to Wisconsin, where nationals are. I can’t recall the last time we’ve gone as a team. We’ve had some individuals go in the last 10 years, but as a team, it’s been a long time.
A: Time for some history-making, then. Anything I’ve missed?
TK: Some back story that I think would be relevant. My mom went to Wesleyan and ran at Wesleyan and my dad also went to Wesleyan and ran at Wesleyan. My mom is seven years older than my dad. My mom went to Wesleyan, ran, then went to Loomis Chaffee to teach English ,where I went. It’s a prep school in Windsor, Connecticut, which is pretty close by. When she got there, my dad was a junior and he was on the XC team and she was actually his coach for two years. He went to Wesleyan, competed, graduated, and they married after his senior year. Then they moved to Australia shortly thereafter to train for marathons together. Since then my mom has torn a bunch of ligaments behind her knee so she can’t really run competitively and my dad kind of just trains for road races. I’ve definitely got a lot of family that has gone through Wesleyan—lots of running in the blood. My mom is actually on the wall of fame outside the squash courts. She was a hot shot in her younger days. It’s a little bit intimidating. She’s got records up in the indoor track record board and she’s done a bunch of great things. I’ve got to just keep it relative, I suppose.