The 2019 Redskin Cross Country season officially begins on August 29th with the GMC Small School Showdown at Georgia Military College Prep School in Milledgeville. Most of this year’s harriers have been working out together since August 1st. With only one day below 90 degrees, the team hasn’t shied away from acclimating to the heat. It has shortened the duration and intensity of workouts, but still helped the group get comfortable being uncomfortable. I believe this year’s team will be amazed at their improvement as temperatures drop and fitness rises.
Breakdown of this year’s team
Returning varsity runners: The boy’s team return two Seniors, Vyshawn Fontenot and Jordan Starnes. Returning varsity girls are Junior, Maddie Hope and Sophomore, Julia Russell.
Notable starters / Impact runners: The boy’s top three are expected to finish in front of most mid-pack runners. It looks like they will be led by, new to cross country, Senior Walker Thomas, followed closely by Jordan Starnes and Vyshawn Fontenot. Sophomore Julia Russell should be seen in, or near the lead pack. She will be followed by Maddie Hope who made big strides late in the 2018 season.
New runners to program and their grade: New to the Varsity Roster this year are Freshman; Colby Dalton, AJ Kellum, Neely Flanagan, Lanie Oliver, Ryan Zapatka, Alaina Russell, Fantasia Hopkins, Sophomore; Zack McQueen, and Senior; Walker Thomas.
Keys to success: This year’s keys to success include raising the bar in regards to commitment to the team and sport. And recognizing that each athlete’s individual improvement has a cumulative effect on our overall team improvement.
Social Circle Athletics was able to have some Q and A with Cross Country coach, Coach Thomas Russell
You held a 2 mile time trial last week. What have you learned about your team from this experience?
TR: Our team time trial gave me an opportunity to evaluate individual fitness levels and was a great race simulation for the team. We used a three plus lap course and charted all the the individual lap times. Some ran more evenly paced (what we want) than others and we looked at those lap times with the team. Along with finding areas to improve pacing, we are able to better assign workouts and predict 5K finish times.
What are the strengths of this year’s team?
TR: Our biggest strengths early on seem to be that the team is buying into expected commitment, and our team unity. This is a group of kids/young adults that genuinely like to be together and that is fun to be a part of.
What are some of the challenges you anticipate this season?
TR: With only two returning harriers for each the boy’s and girl’s team we are a young, when measured by running years. We made a lot of improvement over the course of the 2018 season and I see no reason we won’t see the same this year. With the big group of Freshman and Sophomores that enjoy running, things are looking brighter as they continue with our program.
Any one team you are looking forward to?
TR: Monticello will be a team we will be seeing a lot over the course of the season. On the girl’s side, Julia Russell will be facing her friendly rival, Mari Jablonski. Those two have traded finishing positions at Cross Country and Track meets since Middle School.
This is the 1st year we are fielding a middle school team. What has the response been, and what do you see as the future of the cross country program?
TR: Middle School response was a little lower than expected. Our first season will be fielded by 7th Graders; Nasir Christian, Lawson Davis, Ty Hope, and 8th Grader Montana Archer. Montana is leading pack in team workouts and has high expectations for his first Cross Country season. As this group gets competing, I’m hopeful others will see and hear about what they are missing out on and that will fuel next year’s growth.
What home meets do we have on the schedule?
TR: Another boost to our program will be the Redskin XC Invitational we host on September 26th. We currently have 12 High School and 6 Middle School Teams registered to attend. Our 5K race course and 3000 Meter Middle School course will both begin and end on the Football Practice Field. Veteran’s Memorial Park along with trails behind the school will be included for a true Cross Country experience while running on grass, gravel, and dirt, showcasing some challenging climbs and fast descents. Team and individual competition will be fierce as many of the top teams and individuals east of Atlanta will be in Social Circle.