Cougars on the Field: Cross country's Prenzler leads the pack

Junior international business major Roland Prenzler of Edwardsville runs in the OVC Championship meet on Oct. 29, at Cookeville, Tennessee.

Junior international business major Roland Prenzler of Edwardsville is a member of the men’s cross country team, and one of its many record holders.


After an outstanding performance last season, Prenzler is one of the team’s top performers.


During the last season, Prenzler was the only runner on the men’s team to break under 25 minutes in the 8k and under 33 minutes in the 10k, beating his next best time by over a minute.


Prenzler said his start in running was inspired by running in a 5k with his mother. He said soon after, he tried out for the middle school cross country team and has run ever since.


“Distance running, to me, seems like something that the more work you put in, the more results you get out [and] it’s very direct,” Prenzler said.


In his early high school years, Prenzler was one of the only freshmen to run on varsity and was consistently performing well, but he said that his team vastly improved over his time with them.


“[I believe in] trusting the process and trying to get better every day. It’s just about finding progress wherever you can and celebrating that and building on top of that,” Prenzler said.


Prenzler said he enjoys looking back at all the progress he’s made.


“Sometimes, now that I’m running in college, I see that I hold the same pace over a distance that is a lot further than any distance that I could hold that same pace over in high school,” Prenzler said. “So, sometimes it’s cool to see when I’m running a longer race and I come through halfway and think about [that] it wasn’t that long ago that I was only able to run that fast that far and be able to take it so much further.”


Despite starting in 5k runs, Prenzler said he doesn’t get involved with them as much anymore during off-season but his personal favorite is the Mud Mountain 5k in July held by the Edwardsville Track and Field Booster Club. Prenzler said he is also considering running the Turkey Trot on campus.


Last season saw one of the biggest records Prenzler ever broke, when he made history with the best ever individual finish in OVC history at a championship meet.


Not only does Prenzler perform well in cross country, but he also places well in track and field distance races with his fellow runner, sophomore Spencer Hielkema of Rockton, Illinois.


It is also with Heilkema where Prenzler once again broke an SIUE record as being the second ever duo to break under 25 minutes in a single meet for the 8k race this season. He also became fourth fastest 8k runner in SIUE history with a time of 24 minutes and 47 seconds, beating Brian Taghon by about one second.


This particular feat hasn’t been accomplished since 2014, when it was done by Clint Kliem and Keith Mayer at the OVC Championship meet.


As a college athlete, with cross country in particular, Prenzler said he runs 80 miles every week and runs multiple times a day, and enjoys it solely because it keeps him active.


“It just seems to fit into my life really well. Being physically active is always something that's been really important to me and it seemed like something that would be really sustainable for a long period of time,” Prenzler said. “With running, it’s not as common to get injured as in other sports and most of the time you're 100 percent on top of taking care of your body.”


Prenzler said being a college athlete isn’t entirely what it seems sometimes, and is all too often a humbling experience when competing against other people who are at the same or similar levels to you.


“Most runners in college were standouts, special runners in high school, so one thing you have to learn is it’s not all about you and you really have to put the team first and do what’s best for you and the team,” Prenzler said. “It’s not as individualistic as it might seem.”


Despite the difference, Prenzler said he enjoys being able to be in athletics at the college level and what it brings to his life.


“It provides a very unique opportunity to do something that so many people do when they’re younger, but at a higher level and it just teaches so many lessons about accountability, respect and teamwork,” Prenzler said. “It’s really just the friendships you make from being together and also having a sense of direction and a goal.”


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