Adriaan Wildschutt has taken the college cross country ranks by storm. Since January 2021, Wildschutt has won six races in two seasons and has emerged as one of the top runners in the country, but the South Africa native is different from most cross country athletes. He somehow makes running countless miles look easy. It doesn’t seem like he’s competing for a conference or national title. It looks more like a stroll in the park. When he crosses the finish line, it looks like he could turn around and run that race all over again.
“Everyone will tell you this, but races are better than training,” Wildschutt said. “If you run 90 to 100 miles a week then race in an 8k, you’re going to feel good afterwards. The recovery after your race is based on how you train.”
Wildschutt’s journey to the top wasn’t as smooth as one would hope. Growing up in South Africa, Wildschutt didn’t begin running until he was a sophomore in high school. His brother, Nadeel, was always the runner in the family.
“My brother was a huge cross country runner since elementary school. He always competed in cross country. He wasn’t even that great of a runner. He just loved cross country that much,” Wildschutt said.
This began a little rivalry between the two with older brother Nadeel usually taking the bragging rights. The two trained together day after day. They both received offers to run at Coastal Carolina. Nadeel continued to beat his little brother, but towards the end of their time at Coastal Carolina, a switch flipped for Adriaan.
“I started becoming really competitive. Usually, the last 100 meters would separate us. For the most part, he always got the edge on me. I continued to get better and finally started beating him.”
With a coaching change on the horizon, the Wildschutt brothers decided their time was over in Conway, S.C. Nadeel began to get recruited by Head Coach Bob Braman. Nadeel decided it was time to go back home to South Africa, but Braman didn’t look far and extended an offer to Adriaan. Florida State was exactly the change Adriaan needed to get over the hump.
“Florida State has a lot more resources. You can make use of Coach Braman’s 35 years of coaching. That provided me with better consistency and a bigger group of training partners. Here I have great coaching, great training, great teammates. Everyone here wants the same thing.There’s no reason for you not to perform.” Wildschutt said.
Amid a strange COVID season, Wildschutt made his staple as becoming one of the greatest distance runners in Florida State history. With the cross country and indoor track and field seasons overlapping, Wildschutt posted the highest finish in school history with a second-place finish at the 2020 NCAA Cross Country Championships just three days after breaking the school and ACC record in the 5,000m at the 2021 NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships, where he placed fourth.
In the middle of the championship race, Wildschutt teamed up with eventual champion Conner Mantz to catch the lead pack of runners.
“It was very windy that day, so it wasn’t beneficial to run on your own. You want to run with someone. I saw him struggling. I told him, ‘We can catch these guys.’ There was about 600 meters where I was running into the wind for him. After that, he ran in front of me for about 1k. After that, we caught up to the front pack very quickly.”
Adriaan Wildschutt and Conner Mantz race heading to the finish
Ironically, Mantz and Wildschutt are the favorites in this week’s NCAA Cross Country Championship at Apalachee Regional Park. The two had another epic battle at the Pre-Nationals race where Mantz pulled away from Wildschutt in the final 400 meters. Wildschutt hopes to flip that script on Saturday.
“He’s a great guy and a real tough competitor. There’s a level of respect between us. He’s a tough competitor,” Wildschutt said. “I’m ready. I’ve been training really well. I am confident in my ability to compete my best on race day.”
Wildschutt has the advantage of the championships being held at FSU’s beautiful home, Apalachee Regional Park.
“It’s our home course. It gives me purpose not only to run for myself but for FSU as a whole,” Wildschutt said. “There’s very few people who got to have the cross country national championships on their home course. That gives me even more purpose. It would be foolish to think I’m not capable of it. I was second last year, and the only way up is to win it.”
Wildschutt says he likes to visualize how each race plays out the night before. The Pre-Nationals race played out just like he visualized it except he didn’t know who was going to pull away in that last stretch. In most circumstances, Wildschutt claims he doesn’t go into a race thinking about winning, but on Friday night when he sits down and visualizes Saturday’s race, one would have to think that Wildschutt will see himself standing on top of the podium.