As the fall sports begin their seasons, the cross country team is hopeful for another record setting year. With two meets already under their belts and a near school record set by one of the freshmen runners, Coach Tyson Murphy is already planning big goals for the runners. The team is proud to welcome a large group of freshman this year, with 5 new men and 3 new women.
“I was definitely surprised with the immediate results our freshmen have had,” Murphy said. “I did not expect 7 out of the 8 freshmen to be scorers in the first race.”
The team’s first race this season was the Mountaintop Invitational hosted by Covenant College on Lookout Mountain, Ga. This 2 mile race for the women and 5k for the men is traditionally the season opener for the team.
The humid trail run was familiar for the returners, but the steep mountainous terrain was still a challenge.
“Even after running this race for a third time, it’s still as hard as the first time,” said junior Erin Dupes. “But because the race wasn’t too far from Maryville, it was really positive having so much parental support from the sidelines.”
Ryan Lay, a freshman runner from Maryville, agreed with the difficulty of the course calling it “a fighting effort despite the heat and hills.” Lay commented on how the he felt prepared for the mileage he ran, but the gradual and long rolling hills of the trails were different than what he was expecting.
Two of the team’s freshman, Daniel Beckett from Alcoa, Tn. and Susanna Cook from Tellico Plains, Tn. placed among top 5 of the finishers. Along with his placement, Beckett received the Rookie of the Week award and Runner of the Week award from the USA South Conference.
“I was surprised about the award because I hadn’t heard that the conference did those awards for cross country,” Beckett said. “I also did not think I had a good enough race to be able to qualify for it.”
Last Saturday, the team traveled to Berea, Ky. for their second race. The women’s team ran a 5k and the men’s team ran an 8k. The weather was cool and breezy, and the gorgeous day provided windy, but quality racing conditions.
Beckett, running his first 8k, ran just shy of 17 seconds from the school record and won the USA South’s awards for Rookie of the Week and Runner of the Week again. His 8k time of 27:31 was his best distance in racing.
“We want to establish a culture that is more competitive, and that is already happening. Our biggest barrier is confidence, and we want our runners to have the confidence to fail and never run a conservative race,” Murphy said.
Overall, the cross country team’s season is off to a great start, and with the enthusiasm of the new freshmen and leadership of the returners, this is sure to be one of the team’s most memorable seasons yet.