Runners shoot for district

Richard Weeks

     Another summer has passed and it’s back to work for most people. However, for the cross country team, work has been well underway for some time. Since the end of the last school year, cross country has been preparing for September meets and they’re ready for another competitive season.

     Last year, the cross country team impressed everyone with a pre-season ranking of number one in the nation. They finished with a bronze medal at the state meet and eleventh place in the Nike Cross National meet (NXN). However, last year’s team was made up of six seniors, two juniors and one sophomore. This leaves the team with only Weston O’Donnell and Richard Weeks, seniors, and Herbert Gutierrez, junior, as returning members. Of those three runners, only Gutierrez and O’Donnell have gone to NXN.

     “Obviously we’re coming in with a lack of experience,” Timo Sheard, cross country coach, said. “It’s making people step up to the challenge of varsity.”

     They are indeed stepping up to the challenge. After training all summer the team has already shown some incredible improvement: the team finished first in both of their first two races of the season. However, they’re trying not to get over confident.

     “We’re excited by recent results, but it’s a long road [to district], with some tough competition,” Jordan McWilliams, junior, said.

     Despite this, the team’s inexperience is still evident. It’s forcing them to race more and increase the demand of their physically training, but they are taking this in stride.

     “Like every team, we’re going to have our setbacks, but we’re confident we’ll do what it takes to pull through,” Chris Mulverhill, sophomore, said.

     A positive team mindset is key to excelling in a taxing sport like cross country. This philosophical attitude is mirrored by their coach.

     “I think if we stay healthy and we continue to progress, we can be one of the top teams in state,” Sheard said.

     A large factor in that progression has been the addition of two more runners. Miles Pierce, senior, and James McIlwain, sophomore, moved to Cedar Park during the summer and have slotted nicely into the team.

     “[They add] two more strong runners to our pack and tightens our team bond,” said O’Donnell.

     In helping the new runners feel at home, the team has also started to come together. The new runners have taken some of the pressure off of everyone with added depth to the team, but this is not to say they are slacking off because there are more people. In fact, they’re more determined than ever to avoid mistakes.

     With the season newly underway there is still a great distance between the team’s present shape and their season goal. Five weeks separate those first races and the district competition, and many things could happen on the way to the team’s goal of winning the 4A state meet. Despite the many challenges and obstacles on the road ahead the Cedar Park cross country team is still looking forward to the races that matter starting October 29.