The Cedar Park Boys Cross Country is one of the top teams at the school. This year however, they have exceeded everyone’s expectations. As of August 29th their dreams come true and were ranked number one in the entire nation.
Their road to the top was not an easy one. Through intense workouts and grueling mental strains, the team persevered and over came all the obstacles they faced in order to be the best.
Their first race of the season was a relay. After months of brutal workouts in the hot summer heat, Cedar Park brought two separate relay teams to Dallas to compete. At the time they were ranked fourth in the nation, but the boys wanted more. After a spectacular showing, relay team A, consisting of Parker Stinson, Jay McIllece, Bobby McIllece, and Austin Geerts, took first place with a time of 30 minutes and 11 seconds. Relay team B: Weston O’Donnell, Herbet Gutierrez, Richard Weeks, and Cameron Shoppach, placed third. The impressive performance earned the guys the number one spot in the nation. However, this success didn’t happen over night.
“We typically run 70-80 miles a week, on hills and through trails.” Jay McIllece, senior said.
That amount of running is more then most teenagers drive in a week. But their training doesn’t only consist of running. Two to three times a week the team practices with medicine balls and performs complete agility workouts. They also improve their strength by lifting weights and doing abdominal workouts daily. On Sunday mornings, the team travels downtown to Lady Bird Lake to train with long runs. These runs consist of a 14 to 17 mile run with the last six of those miles being run at around a 6 minutes per mile pace.
These intense workouts are not only physically draining on the team but mentally draining as well. Research shows that 20 percent of running is physical strength while the other 80 percent is pure mental strength.
“Beating a person in a race is not about being physically faster but being able to mentally outlast the pain longer than the rest.” Cameron Shoppach, senior said.
The extreme training is the secret behind their success. Most other cross country teams take a month or so off in the summer but for CPXC there is no off season. The boys stay physically and mentally fit year-round, so that they are always race-ready.
Cross country differs from other sports not only in the amount of training but in their competition as well. Their meets are early in the morning on weekends as opposed to Tuesday or Friday nights. They also travel all around Texas to compete against the best rather than staying strictly within the district.
The team has had to face adversity in order to be where they are now. Last season the team was expected to win state but some of the runners fell victim to injury. They ended up placing third, but still were able to continue to regionals.After a strong showing at the race,they advanced to nationals in Oregon where they finished their season strong. This year they want revenge at state and another trip to Oregon. The only team standing in their way is the Woodlands’ cross country team. Last season, it was the Woodlands who placed first at state and the guys would like nothing more than to take their title.
At school, which is normally dominated by football spirit days, the team is starting to feel the support from the student body. There are signs posted all around the school telling the student body just how good the cross country team is. They also offer words of encouragement to the guys; a small gesture to boost their day.
“We love seeing support from the school. It gives us more motivation and pushes us to work harder.” Parker Stinson, senior said.
It may seem like the boys’ lives are completely devoted to running but when they do have free time they’re just like every other student at Cedar Park. They attend every sporting event they’re in town for and do their best to keep up with how each team does. Almost all of the team is looking to continue their running career in college and maybe one day even the Olympics. For now, the guys are working as hard as they can to make their goals a reality.
“We’re really good this year and this may be one of the last years that Cedar Park Cross Country is known as such a national powerhouse. I’m enjoying every minute of it.” Bobby McIllece, senior said.
Only time will tell if they accomplish everything they are hoping to this season. With the support of each other and the school, these boys seem to be capable of anything. They’ve come exceptionally far within the last four years to get to where they are now, and their future is bright.