The season might be halfway over for cross country, but Clarke is not done yet.
With each week and meet, the members of both the boys and girls teams continue to make strides toward breaking their personal record (PRs) times, all while working together as a team. The varsity boys consistently place second or third in meets, while the girls place at the junior varsity level; there are not enough girls on the team to qualify for varsity placement. Each week, many members come close to, if not improving, on their PRs.
“We haven’t had these good of times in forever,” said senior and varsity boys captain Cal Lundquist. “I remember when I started…everyone was just kind of running for fun and not very competitively…now we have the team where we are today, and really running fast at times.”
Even though they all run individually, by keeping their times closer together, the score as a team tends to be higher than other teams who might have a couple finish in the top ten, but have others on their team finish further back.
“It doesn’t matter if they’re getting top 10 or scoring individually, we’re competing as a team, as one tribe, which is our goal,” said head coach Thomas Kedley. “It’s about hitting that sweet spot.”
Kedley credits a summer running program, Renegade Running Club, as something that has greatly helped the cross country team coming into this year’s season.
The club, which ran June to August, Monday through Friday, saw the athletes getting up at 8 a.m. to take on a variety of exercises including distance running, sprint running, running hills, and pool workouts. Even though it wasn’t mandatory, close to 25 athletes would show up each day. The result of the summer of work is not just an improvement on individual PRs, but that when cross country officially started, Clarke was ready to go.
“Our first meet, we came in second because we were ready, and it’s taken these other teams times to catch up,” said Kedley.
Another training tactic is what the team calls “attacking hills,” which is just as it sounds - they don’t walk hills, but instead attack and run up them.
“During our warmup where we walk the course to get the layout, we always run up the hills,” said Lundquist.
Pontier agreed that it is a good warmup, and that during the meet is helpful mentally as they approach hills, remembering that they had already conquered them with ease and laughter as a team.
The mental aspect of the sport is something else Kedley has worked with the team on this year, helping them to get into the mindset of running, and knowing they can accomplish their task.
The training has paid off, and Clarke is getting noticed by other schools.
“The biggest thing that made me excited, we’re at the [Pleasantville] meet [Sept. 12], and I’m hearing other coaches call our team the ‘dark horse,’ the biggest compliment I think we can get. That’s going to motivate us, it means they’re looking at us,” said Kedley.
After a season last year with low team numbers, this year’s cross country program has almost 30 students, but looks to grow even more.
“We’re trying to leave a legacy. One of our mantras is ‘live a legacy to leave a legacy,’ " said Kedley. “Kayleen McCann did a lot of good with this program; we want to continue that legacy, but grow it. Carry that torch, change the status quo, keep moving us forward.”
One way to get more members is for the current members to promote cross country to others.
“One way I got some kids to go out, I would tell them, you can make varsity,” said Lundquist.
Just because an athlete might be in a varsity spot one week doesn’t mean they will be the next - they have to keep working for it, challenging themselves to keep improving on their previous times.
“If they want to keep that spot, they have to stay hungry. And every week, these young men and women challenge each other,” said Kedley.
“I feel we have a lot of appealing characteristics. I think when people see us running around the school and they see us going to meets and medaling, it makes them think they can enjoy it; we have a lot of fun here,” said senior and girls captain Audrey Pontier. “Cross country, the team environment is just different than any other sport…we’re definitely a lot closer when we’re running cross country.”
“Coming from last season to this season…to see the growth and development from last year to this year while getting second and third most meets is really cool to see, really cool to be a part of,” said sophomore Micah Domina.
Clarke’s only home meet of the year is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 27 at East Lake Park.
“East Lake is the hardest - it’s a sincere cross country course, running every terrain. You name it, you’re running it…some of the other [schools] don’t send their athletes. We’re ready, we’re very excited about it,” said Kedley.
The team is ready to compete, and ready to show their hometown what they can do.
“We want the Clarke faithful to come out. We fill the stands for football, we fill the gym for volleyball, I want to fill East Lake Park for our athletes,” said Kedley.
“It is nice when you have fans, people who cheer you on,” said Pontier.
The meet at East Lake is set to start at 5 p.m. The teams will travel to Centerville on Oct. 4 for the Big Red/Redette Invite.
Pleasantville Invitational Results
Claire Jacobsen, 23:33.58
Audrey Pontier, 24:26.98
Eleanor Shinn, 25:41.17
Team results: Clarke 2, 130
Micah Domina, 18:24.50
Richie Donaldson, 18:50.23
Calhoun Lundquist, 19:15.30
DeVante Caldwell, 19:32.54
Cooper Bahls, 20:29.52
Conner Williams, 21:22.74
Caden Earls, 21:40.71
Alex Shinn, 23:46.66
Trenton Engle, 23:55.98
Ethan Earls, 24:01.01
Casey Wade, 32:03.15
Cooper Ciecalone, 35:57.55