Cross Country Preview: STRENGTH IN NUMBERS
By Brandon Hurley
A large stable of runners is ingredient number one for any successful cross country program.
Add in a new wave of youthful athletes and the excitement ramps up even more.
The final piece to the puzzle is a blistering quick start. Those characteristics bode well for a blossoming Greene County program. It’s a mighty fine recipe for successes the 2019 season gets underway.
The Ram co-ed cross country program has its sights set on glory as they make the leap into 3A.
The uptick in competition doesn’t worry third year head coach Jeff Lamoureux. He knows he has the depth and talent at his disposal to remain competitive in any meet. A roster of 30 kids has made the transition into the 5K realm, navigating hills and meandering terrain.
The Rams were in action Monday night at Jester Park, kick-starting the new year. The boys placed second overall thanks to a pair of medalists while the girls finished fourth.
An increase of intra-squad competition thanks to the deep stable of athletes has pushed Greene County to improve. It’s a place where Lamoureux feels his runners have progressed most.
“We’ll have more runners, it helps all around,” the coach said. “We are now in a situation where we have runners competing for those varsity spots.”
A meaty crop of returning runners has also helped set the pace, especially in the weeks leading up to Greene County’s late August competitions. Practices were intense through most of the summer. It kept the newcomers and veterans alike, in shape.
“We also had a pretty good summer workout,” Lamoureux said. “We met three days a week Monday, Wednesday and Friday all summer long and (we) would have between 10 and 15 runners every day. We have put in the extra time and come into the season more prepared than past seasons.”
Experience will be key to Greene County’s success. Just two boys graduated from last year’s unit while a single girl chose not to run this fall. A nearly complete return from a year ago has Lamoureux jazzed for the upcoming season. The girls side is senior dominated for the first time in several years. Which is why their coach is expecting significant strides, especially from a pair of athletes in particular.
“We are looking for Ashlee Harmeyer and Kassie Lamoureux to have breakout years and provide some senior leadership,” the coach said. “Both have had solid careers and have been working hard during practices. As seniors, I think they both see this as their final go-around and last chance to reach some personal and team goals.”
Young talent will be the boys’ calling card this fall. A trio of underclassmen (Connor Brus, Logan Woodruff and Luis Velazco) spearhead a speedy unit, one that has taken aim at the upper echelon. The three underclassmen have put in their time. They are ready for the big stage. Lamoureux expects their labor to be rewarded in the coming weeks.
“Connor has worked extremely hard over the summer reaching the 150 mile club for the second time. He has a winning attitude and the desire to compete every day,” the coach said. “Logan and Luis have both been putting up some good times at practice and are poised to improve on their times from last season.”
Even Greene County’s rookies should have a good shot at having an impact this autumn. The raw talent could potentially set the table for years to come.
“We are also looking to get contributions from some incoming freshmen,” Lamoureux said. “Jose Velazco, Dakota Mobley and Ethan Frederick on the boys side and Olivia Shannon and Autumn Stevens for the girls.”
Greene County’s concern areas of concern lie in physical strength. Lamoureux worries some of his athletes aren’t quite to speed, still in need of a fine tuning before the high school competition really heats up. The grueling terrain of a cross country race is unlike any other running competition. That alone creates a bevy of unique physical challenges, the coach said.
“I think leg strength and incline speed need to improve. We will be working with the new strength and conditioning coach, Caden Duncan, twice a week this year along with our regular running workouts,” Lamoureux said. “Our times and places tailed off on some of the more hilly courses, such as Panorama. This tells me we need to work on our overall leg strength and endurance up hills. So we will work on that this year.”
The jump from 2A a year ago to 3A this fall presents a roadblock in itself. A larger base of runners, more talented ones at that, pose an interesting challenge for the Rams. Regardless, Greene County has its sights set on the state meet.
“It looks as though we will be bumped up to 3A this year so that goal becomes a bit more challenging. We also look for individual times to improve throughout the season,” Lamoureux said. “Each runner has set individual and team goals. As coaches, we’ll do our best to help them reach those goals. And finally, our expectations have always been that each athlete has fun and leaves with some good memories.”
The annual Greene County cross country meet at Spring Lake State Park will be held Thursday, Sept. 12 starting at 4:45 p.m. The Rams are next in action this afternoon (Aug. 29) at the Gilbert Invite at the Iowa State cross country course.
The Heart of Iowa Conference meet is scheduled for Oct. 14 hosted by North Polk while the co-ed 3A state qualifying meet is pegged for Oct. 24. Gilbert’s boys’ team is ranked second in the Class 3A preseason rankings thanks to a pair of runners in the top five while North Polk’s girls’ team is ranked 11th.
The 3A state meet is the following week, Saturday, Nov. 2 at Lakeside Municipal Golf Course in Fort Dodge.