He’s Going the Distance

Michael Stockinger

Cross country is a sadistic sport in which people run countless miles, through physical pain and suffering, pushing themselves to their mental and physical limits. For fun!

Dominic Vogl took up the responsibility of team captain of the Sacramento State men’s cross country team, leading it through the best and worst of physical conditions, training and, of course, pain.

“I think my type of leadership is more silent. It’s more of ‘follow my lead’ because I’ve been in the program the longest and my teammates recognize that and follow along,” Vogl said.

For Vogl, running began very early on with his parents’ own exercise; walking, biking, and then jogging alongside them as he got older.

“I’ve been running most of my life,” Vogl said. “My parents used to run for recreation and just to stay fit.”

With his bleached hair and relaxed attitude, Vogl plans to focus on the 5k and 10k in track this coming season.

“It just keeps bumping up. The longer races just seem easier for me because I’m not very speed-oriented and I rely a lot on my endurance,” Vogl said.

Although he was accepted into Chico and Stanislaus, Sac State enticed the runner because of its growing cross country program and central location.

“In Sac, it seemed like they were building their program. They just got their brand new coaches when I was in the process of applying,” Vogl said.

“I was really excited to come here because I wanted to be a part of something that was building and we’re still doing that,” said Vogl.

“Plus the whole location thing. It’s two hours from home, two hours from the mountains, two hours from everything. So it’s close enough and far enough away at the same time.”

The team captain, who is currently taking 15 units, says the subject matter really interests him but he doesn’t exactly know what to do with his sociology major.

“Not that I have a lack of direction, but I think it’s a general enough major that I have enough ways to jump,” Vogl said. “I view the training for cross country and track to be part-time jobs. Given that and school, it’s enough for me.”

Vogl said that the 12-man team is looking strong this season.

“We have some good guys, good transfers, good freshman, and our returners are looking stronger and stronger,” Vogl said.

The team got a preview of its season on Sept. 16 at Granite Regional Park, when it hosted its own invitational, the Hornet Jamboree.

Vogl said the team can expect more out of the freshmen because it was their first 8k race of the season, which is tough coming off of 5k high school races.

“I’m trying to fill the shoes of a leader as my main focus this season,” Vogl said. “I want to guide the team and become more mature, and not only guide the team to victory, but I also want them to be good at other life activities like school. I want this to be a good experience to take with them.”

As team captain, reinforcement of the rules is necessary and Vogl’s teammates appreciate his leadership.

“He makes sure people are staying on top of things and acts as a role model,” Colin Szehner said, a sophomore runner and roommate of Vogl’s.

“For new runners, he shows them that college running is a lot different than high school running and is a good role model, showing them how to practice and live the lifestyle of a student athlete.”

Freshman runner Garrett Infausto agreed with Szehner.

“He’s been a good leader and he shows his leadership through training,” Infausto said. “All around he just makes sure everything gets done.”

Infausto said Vogl helps teammates along, but is also the team clown, helping to boost team morale and making sure everyone has fun.

“He’s kind of spunky and upbeat, and is always up when things are down. We all feed off of his energy,” Infausto said. “If you have any questions about running or anything, you pretty much just go to him.”

“He’s definitely upbeat. He’s always joking and being a loud guy,” Szehner said with a laugh. “When you’re in a bad mood, he’ll cheer you up. He’s never really in a bad mood.”

Vogl also keeps the group of runners close, arranging team outings outside of practice, Szehner said.

“We’ve gone rafting, to his cabin, and have had a whole bunch of barbecues,” Szehner said.

Coach Rodney Rothoff talks to the leader regularly about the team’s performance and morale and works with him to get the team on the same page.

“He’s done a good job,” Rothoff said. “It’s hard in this day and age to be a leader, and it’s very courageous for him to step up like he has.”

Rothoff said he and his coaching staff provide Vogl with the guidance that he needs to be a leader.

“The biggest thing is you can’t develop a leader without helping him out,” Rothoff said. “We’ve been helping him with his confidence as a leader.”

Rothoff predicts that Vogl’s performance as a runner and a leader will show throughout the season.

“He started out the season with a lifetime best at our first meet, and I think his maturity is going to show at the end of the season,” Rothoff said. “He’s learning to run like a leader, and when to put in the energy and when not to.”

Leading by example and having teammates follow is the runner’s preferred method of leadership.

“I’m not one of those dictator types. I like to have a flock of bird approach where you can’t tell who the leader is, but just a subtle change in movement and everybody takes off,” Vogl said. “I just want everybody to be on the same page, but at the same time have equal opportunity.”

Michael Stockinger can be reached at [email protected]