Cross country team excels at national meet with help of physiology faculty at the Hybl Center

Claws out! The UCCS men’s cross country team set a new record and celebrated their highest-ever finish, taking fifth place at the 2021 NCAA Division II National Championship. The women’s cross country team tied their program’s highest finish since 2006 at a NCAA Division II National Championship, placing in seventh. With the help of physiology faculty and the use of the training chambers in the William J. Hybl Sports Medicine and Performance Center, the teams were able to prepare for record-breaking performances at the  national meet.

Head coaches Mark Misch (men’s team) and Corey Kubatzky (women’s team) have years of experience with the cross country program and its high-caliber athletes, and knew the challenges the team would face at the national meet on the St. Leo, Florida course. Coaches Misch and Kubatzky reached out to Andrew Subudhi from the UCCS Department of Human Physiology and Nutrition (HPNU) to explore the training options available at the Hybl Center.

“The coaches and I have a long history of working together, but never in this type of capacity,” said Subudhi. “As a physiologist, I’ve always dreamed of having access to a facility with the level of training equipment that is available at the Hybl Center. Features like the altitude and environmental chambers are even available to our students, the community – everybody.”

Team coaches worked with Subudhi and Nathan Morris, also from HPNU, to simulate training conditions that mimicked the same heat and humidity of competition conditions in Florida.

“The main challenge for us was coming from a cold, dry climate at high elevation to compete in hot, humid conditions at sea level,” said coach Kubatzky. “On the women’s side, we were also concerned about the faster leg turnover of a sea level championship race. The men’s race is longer and later in the day, so heat acclimation was far and away the main priority compared to leg turnover. The women worked mostly under the guidance of Subudhi, and the men mostly with Morris. We developed protocols for each team’s needs.”

Unique training opportunities exist inside the Hybl Center. The altitude chamber is capable of simulating altitudes from approximately sea level to over 18,000 feet. With highly adjustable control of altitude, temperature and humidity, the environmental chamber can duplicate virtually any climate on the planet.

“In my past Olympic training experiences, the athletes would have greatly benefited from the equipment and training facilities at a facility like the Hybl Center,” said Subudhi. “I know I say this a lot, but there is no other facility in the world with the accessibility or equipment of the Hybl Center.”

The collaborative eight-week training program utilized the Hybl Center’s environmental and altitude chambers, expert altitude and temperature physiologists, the experienced Olympian and world-champion team coaches and a driven team of endurance athletes.

Men’s cross country team member Will Young shared, “I have never worked with a physiologist before. Working with [Morris] and learning about heat training was really cool. He discussed the benefits of heat training, to match our environment for the national meet, and how we could apply the information to our everyday training. We were really fortunate to have someone like him.”

The team completed eight weekly training sessions in the environmental chamber leading up to nationals. Morris and Subudhi got creative with their training options outside the environmental chamber and sessions as well. Morris introduced the men’s team to heat training through a hot bath method in which runners get into a hot tub for 40 minutes immediately after their run to force their bodies to acclimate to heat.

Coach Misch reflects on the collaboration, “I am just thankful that we were fortunate enough to not only have access to the Hybl Center and its facilities, but really the fact that both Subudhi and Morris went above and beyond with their time when they had no obligation to, just to help us be the best that we could be.”

About the William J. Hybl Sports Medicine and Performance Center

The William J. Hybl Sports Medicine and Performance Center is a collaborative partnership between UCCS and Centura Health that brings together world-class clinical practice, health sciences education and research. The Hybl Center is the academic home of three UCCS bachelor’s degrees and four master’s degrees. It also hosts healthcare services provided by Centura Health, including Centura Orthopedics, Centura Sports Medicine, sports performance training, physical therapy, state-of-the-art imaging, nutrition services and more. Learn more about the William J. Hybl Sports Medicine and Performance Center at UCCS.