IR cross-country sets season goals and strategies
On a sunny day haunted by mosquitoes, the Indian River boys and girls cross-country teams opened the season at home with good attitudes and room to improve.
The boys topped Delmarva Christian High School, 19-40, but were shut out by Sussex Technical High School, 15-50.
“Cross-country is a big humbling experience, knowing full well that if you don’t run hard enough or fast enough and you’re a senior, a freshman can beat you,” Ryman said.
Freshman Donald Hattier kept pace this week with a Sussex Tech senior before finishing as IR’s second fastest boy.
“We kept going back and forth in front of each other. He’s a senior, so I’m just fine with that,” Hattier said.
He said cross-country was a fun way to stay in shape for track season.
“I wanted to improve myself for track, but in a way, this is even more challenging,” said Hattier. “For track, you just go out there, give it your hardest, and you only have to be out there for, like two, three minutes. Here, you have to be out there 20, if you’re going fast.”
Top scorers for the Indian River boys included Will McCabe (20:13), Donald Hattier (20:23), Nathan Ferrell (21:09), Merrick Kovatch (21:12) and Jake Elliot (22:07).
With no seniors on the four-year-old team, coach Frank Ryman still considers it a young squad. He said he sees talent and potential in the freshmen and leadership in the juniors.
“We have talent on the boys’ side and the girls’ side,” said Ryman. “I’m at the point now where they’re developing the mental savvy — they have the tenacity. And that’s something I really appreciate about the students. They have the tenacity to dig in, and every one of them kicked it in at the end.”
This year’s goal is fine-tune the race strategy, which includes starting or finishing strong, building momentum on the course, moving as a pack and moving other teams around.
“It’s nothing new. It’s from what we learned running against other teams,” said Ryman.
Cross-country is a personal sport, as the athlete races another team, the few individuals she sees or his own best time. But Indian River’s 11 boys and 10 girls train together, unlike other individual sports.
“I tell them every day, make it count for something. You see happy-go-lucky high-school kids, but when they’re out on that line, they’re all business,” Ryman said.
Sussex Tech brought 31 girls to fill the first-place slots to beat IR, 15-50.
IR’s top runners included Meredith Mitchell (26:12), Katelyn Jensen (27:01), Tate Daisey (27:09), Aline Guzman (27:23) and Katie Bird (29:27).
Alexandra “Alex” Myers wasn’t a top-five finisher, but she was grinning as she charged over the finish line to high-five Ryman. The junior had just beaten her personal goal of 32 minutes. After starting the season around 37 minutes, she’s now aiming for her 24-minute best from last season.
“It’s good to have my team, knowing they’re here waiting for me. The adrenaline of seeing the finish line really gets you going,” said Myers.
After rounding the last corner of IR’s course, runners still have another minute to pick up speed and race straight for the finish line.
“It’s a different attitude,” said Ryman of cross-country runners. “They’re at the finish line, rooting and cheering on the folks that are still coming in, regardless of team, and that’s something you don’t see enough of.
“Despite how good or bad you’ve been running, you make that final turn, you’re in hyper-speed,” Ryman continued. “And that’s the tenacity I want to see in the runners. That’s going to carry them at least to mid-season.”
IR was set to race at Dover’s Schutte Park on Sept. 19, after Coastal Point deadline. They will run again at Polytech on Wednesday, Sept. 26.