Nick Wilson | Staff Writer
The boys and girls cross country teams hit the road this weekend for one of the most important meets of the year. They will be racing for the MIC championship against the seven other rival schools in the conference. With both the boys’ and the girls’ conferences having over five teams ranked in the top fifty in the state, the conference races are filled with rigorous and demanding competition.
“Our goal is to finish top half of our conference. We are looking forward to the challenge,” girl’s head coach Wes Dodson said. “We can not control the lack of success of other teams. We can only try to run to the best of our abilities. So as long as we compete and do our best, I will be happy.”
As for the boys team, their goals consist of placing in the top three teams, finishing with two runners as All-Conference and average a time of 16:40 for the top five runners for the 3.1 mile race.
The cross country teams step into this year’s meet with the boys team ranked 31st in the state (3rd in MIC) and the girls ranked 49th in the state (5th in MIC). The team steps into the MIC race with few races under their feet including the Flashrock Invitational where the girls finish 2nd overall and the boys 3rd, and the annual Halftime Meet where both teams defeated the conference rivals from Warren Central.
“For the team to do well, we all need to just run, not think about anything else, and remember the work we did at practice, and just run the race,” junior Archit Malik said. “The MIC meet gives us a chance to defend our stance in all the conference rivalries.”
Harrell also sees this as an opportunity to show leadership to younger teammates, as three of the team’s top 8 runners are freshmen or sophomores.
“I can encourage the girls to always do their best and to always push the pace not only in a race but in practice. Unlike the years prior, I am able to lead the team in practice and act as a leader to the younger girls.”
Both teams are also fairly young and inexperienced in high school cross country, with only one senior in the top five runners for both teams. Two-fifths of the varsity cross country point-scorers are also made up of freshman, including Raef Sauer and Christian Antal for the boys, and Hudson Gilstorf and Rebecca Stockman for the girls.
“As a newcomer, I have been able to step up to the challenge by just staying focused on my goals, my body, and always making sure to push myself to the limit on workouts,” Sauer said. “I can attribute my success so far to following Coach Harrell’s instructions and pieces of advice, and doing them to the bets of my ability every day.”
Gilstorf also has aimed to improve the team and herself stepping up to the conference meet.
“Looking up to the older girls on the varsity team has pushed me and has inspired me to step out of my comfort zone with running,” Gilstorf said. “I admire their success and determination. It has inspired me to step up to improve on each run.”
Saturday’s conference meet at North Central, a course the teams have not run in recent years, will be a chance for both the girls and boys cross country teams to run against some of the best competition in the state.