Running Full Steam Ahead Into The Season

Some runners on the track team pose ahead of the season.

Keelin Davis, Executive Editor

New staff, new beginnings. 

The cross country team has turned a new leaf with a completely new head coaching staff going into the season. 

Along with the new coaches, the team has new goals that they hope to achieve this season. They have been working hard to make sure the team improves as a whole. Some runners have obstacles they are hoping to overcome this season.

There was a coaching change at the end of last school year and it ended with the hire of new head coach Nathan Lentz. “I was hired pretty late. I didn’t really know what to expect because this was my first year coaching cross,” Lentz said. He was thrown into the role very quickly and faced some challenges to start the season.

The first challenge Lentz faced was the size of the team over the summer. “My main concern is that we did not have a lot of kids at the time. I had high hopes for the kids who were there but my main concern was with recruiting and making sure we had a full team,” Lentz said. As the summer went on, the team was able to pick up runners and build a complete culture. 

The team is now made up of a variety of ages that fill the roles that they need to have a successful season. Lentz said, “we have freshmen, transfers but we are in a phase of getting our numbers up. We are pretty strong up top, both the boys and girls. We are just trying to find our way towards the middle of the pack. We have a cool mix of veterans and kids with no experience.” There is plenty of leadership and mentoring on the team at the moment. 

During the offseason, the team was hard at work focusing on improving their times. Lentz and the other coaches put together a program focused on building their endurance. “The team has been super on board with our training program this summer. We really focused on consistency and building up a solid base for them. Having a new coach makes them really different but they have bought in with what I have tried to do with them this year,” Lentz said. The team is able to stay so focused because of their relationships while running and outside practice. 

The relationships between the runners are part of what makes this team special. Lentz said, “We have a really tight knit group which helps keep morale high. They hang out with each other at school and outside of school so I think it has helped build team culture.” Lentz believes that this aspect of the team takes them far and helps the runners perform better.

The coaches have high expectations for the boys and girls teams this season. “I see us at the state meet. We are setting out to accomplish this and I know we have the ability. It is something they want really badly, to go as a team. I see us there on the girls and boys side. We are looking to see some real success,” Lentz said. The runners themselves hold themselves to the same standards that the coaches do. 

Junior runner Raelee Hawkins gives herself and her teammates high praise and hopes to make it far this season. She said, “I want to break 20 on my five K. I want our girls to get to state and at least second in the region.” She knows that in order to achieve these goals, the team must put in hard work. “(Lentz) pushes us very hard. (Lentz) always makes sure he is not pushing us too hard but as much as he needs to,” Hawkins said. Running is a sport with many aspects to success and the team is very aware of that. 

With the physical toll that cross country takes on runners, they also have to deal with other factors. Hawkins said, “the toughest part is just pushing through the pain because it is so much. It is mainly a mental sport as much as it is physical.” Hawkins is currently recovering after she was diagnosed with systemic lupus in 2020. 

Systemic lupus is an auto-immune disease where the immune system can attack itself and its tissues, causing flare-ups in heart rate, inflammation and more. Hawkins struggled with this all last season and it kept her from participating in cross country and track seasons. “I was kept in the hospital and I wasn’t able to run all season. I have trained and trained all through the first part of the summer. In our first race, I did great for coming back and starting again but at the finish, my heart rate was around a 200. It is tough to run with systemic lupus because you never know when you will get a flare again,” Hawkins said. Although her condition is still ongoing, Hawkins is pushing through and improving physically every day. 

As a whole, the team is facing new challenges to begin this season but they are overcoming them slowly and showing success. They have high hopes for themselves and all of the runners are showing promise as the season is opening up. In the first meet of the season, the Central Kentucky Run for the Gold, the girls team finished 16 out of 29 and the boys team finished 14 out of 33 teams. 

The next cross country event is the Shelby County Invitational Sept. 4 at 9 a.m. at East Middle School in Shelby County.