Boys cross country hopes to continue a tradition of victory

The boys cross country team historically has established a reputation for victory, and this year’s team is faced with the task of upholding this tradition by winning an astounding sixth-straight state title.  The runners unfortunately stumbled out of the gate this season, and the Wildcats had to recover from an early disappointing ninth-place finish at the Carrollton Invitational. The team has overcome this setback and responded with strong finishes throughout the season, thanks to the continuous effort put into training by the team and committed leadership of coaches Joe Tribble, Sofia Walcott, and Geoffrey Sudderth and senior captains Gaston Quantz, Joe Sheehan, Adam Willis, and Walker Green. Now, as the season progresses toward the regional and state championships, the team looks to continue improving its times in order to uphold the standard of winning set in years past by competing for their sixth-straight state title.

Despite this repeated success,  the boys cross country team has managed to stay grounded and focused on the task at hand, rather than looking too far into the future. The season has been long and grueling, with every practice building upon another so that the entire team improves together. The coaches complement the runner’s commitments by making efforts within their practice structure to assure that the runners benefit the most they possibly could out of every practice.

“We want to make sure that the runners are getting better and better during every practice and that they are gaining confidence every day,” said Walcott.

In many cases, confidence can quickly develop into cockiness, but the captains have worked toward eradicating that attitude within the team. Under the experienced leadership of Willis, Quantz, Sheehan, and Green, the team knows what effort must go into training in order to win a championship. The captains have put every effort into emphasizing the importance of fitness and the role it plays in victory, especially to the inexperienced runners.

“Our past successes are great,” said Willis. “But they will not affect how we run at the given moment. Only we can control [our performance].”

Early in the season, the team suffered a disappointing defeat in the Carrollton Invitational, finishing ninth behind schools such as St. Pius X and Woodward Academy. Although the defeat provoked frustration among the runners and coaches, it also revitalized the determined attitude of the entire team and has led to an increase in work ethic and effort during practices.

“I really feel like since [the Carrollton Classic] we are getting more out of our practices and workouts,” said Quantz. “More runners are rising to the occasion and putting forth everything they can when we need them most.”

Just as the runners used the defeat as a learning experience to help them improve, the coaches used the ninth-place finish to reevaluate their practice methods and increase the intensity of the training. Practices run longer and everyone is expected to keep up with the pace. In addition to training, the coaches have put an emphasis on race strategy, specifically grouping. Grouping is a method of racing in which teams try to stay close together so that runners who run at similar paces can run relative to each other. This way, every runner will have a teammate to help keep him on pace.

“The runners are starting to realize the difference between running and racing,” said Walcott. “Grouping is really important when trying to win races, so we have been really trying to make sure [the team] understands how to do it.”

As the team progresses through a vigorous training schedule in preparation of the regional and state championships, a bond has formed within the entire squad. Cross country is a unique sport at Westminster for the large size of the team as well as the diversity of ages represented within the team. Despite this variance, the entire squad has come together and bonded over the common goal of victory.

“Coach Tribble will really throw you into the sport,” said freshmen Andrew Taylor. “Once I started running, it was impossible for me not to relate to all of the guys around me.”

As the season now approaches its culmination, the leaders of the team are able to focus their preparation toward winning another state championship. Although the team lost key seniors last year–six of their top seven fastest runners–the current captains feel confident that despite their hardships, the team possesses a balance of talent and experience that make them a force to be reckoned with during the state meet.

“We are really ramping up the intensity of our practices now as we come toward the end of the year,” said Willis. “If we stay focused, we will have a solid chance of coming out with another victory.”

See the boys take the state championship title here !