It was a little over 10 years ago that then-Indian River High School soccer player Kelsey Minyon, looking to improve her speed on the soccer field, suggested to coach Frank Ryman that the school needed a cross-country team.
Ryman spoke to athletic director Todd Fuhrmann about developing boys’ and girls’ cross-country teams, and Fuhrmann, in turn, took it up with the school board, who gave it their blessing.
So, when it came time for the 2008 fall sports season, Indian River’s athletic offerings included boys’ and girls’ cross-country competition. Ryman was named boys’ head coach, and his wife, Katie, was named the girls’ head coach.
“It took me four years to teach that girl to run like a runner, and not like a soccer player,” Ryman recalled, with a laugh, of Minyon.
After 10 seasons of head-coaching IR’s boys’ cross-country teams, Ryman retired at the end of last season for more important duties — being a stay-at-home dad to their 7-month-old daughter, Anira.
“We won the Southern Henlopen Conference championship in 2010,” Ryman noted.
Last year’s boys’ squad suffered a 2-9 season.
“We always go to states — it’s a question of how we train to get there,” the Rymans explained, with Frank Ryman adding, “One of the reasons we go to states is it gives our individual runners an opportunity to get noticed, post some good times and get the experience. The experience is invaluable, especially for the new runners. They get to mingle with other folks, and get to talk and to see other teams at work, and get to talk with other runners.
“We talk about running form and discuss our ideas about coaching in terms of training. The conference competition is what gets you ready for states. So we put all the money in preparing for conference, because the state changes locations from year to year. We never know where the states will be held.
“When it’s up north in the hills, we’re at a slight disadvantage, being here from the flat ground. About all we can do is just crank up the tempo. That’s one of the biggest obstacles we have to prepare for. You have to run up there. The folks that live up there have got a big advantage. Anyone who lives north of the C&D Canal has a big advantage.”
“Hopefully, in the next few years, they will finish the track in Georgetown,” Ryman continued. “We’re looking at that as a possible site for a state meet here in Sussex County, which will kind of level the playing ground.”
The Rymans said they also have to defeat local powerhouses, including Lake Forest.
“Lake will be the girls’ greatest challenge,” Frank Ryman pointed out, adding that to the fact that, as of now, they only have one meet at home, with another possibly in the works.
Last year’s girls’ team made history as the first IR girls’ cross-country team to win a state championship — a feat they hope to repeat this fall season.
Katie Ryman will continue on as the girls’ head coach, and Steve O’Boyle will be coaching the boys’ team. Frank Ryman will contribute as a volunteer coach.
“We’re the defending Southern champs,” Katie Ryman said. “So, for us, it’s just focusing on each and every meet. If we win, we win, and if we don’t, we don’t. We literally take it meet by meet, team by team. Our real competitors so far are Milford and Lake Forest — it’s traditionally been us three.”
The IR cross-country teams kick off their seasons on Wednesday, Sept. 19, with a tri-meet at Seaford that will also include Sussex Tech. That Friday, they’ll travel north to St. Andrews School, where they will join 25 other teams for the Middletown Invitational Cross Country Meet. The following Wednesday, Sept. 26, the Indian River teams will travel north again — that time to Dover High School.
On Oct. 10, the Indians will host a quad-meet, which is their only home-course contest currently on the 2018 schedule, with Caesar Rodney, Poly Tech and Sussex Academy all squaring off with the Indians that day.
By Bruce C. Walls
Special to the Coastal Point