A new cross country team has big goals.
Tipton opens its first season of varsity cross country Sept. 5 with a meet in Jefferson City. The Cardinals join Kaysinger rivals Cole Camp, Stover and Smithton in offering cross country as well as county rival California.
Of the 18 Cardinals running cross country, 11 have run track but they now have to adjust from a sport where the longest event is 3,200 meters to stretching out their running to 5,000 meters.
The Cardinals are working on several different things to get the pacing down. In practice Monday, coach Brad Homan had them running a series of half-miles, aiming not for the fastest time but to be as close as possible to a target time.
“Most of it is just more long distance and more working on stamina and being able to sustain a run,” said freshman Kodie Dick.
Sophomore Aubrey Schuster ran cross country when she went to Ava and is now a cross country veteran on a team of rookies.
“Coming into cross country, I would say the biggest thing you have to get used to is how much you run and getting your pacing down,” she said.
She said there is an instinct to push yourself to a fast pace early on, which a runner has to learn to fight. To get used to the longer distances, Cardinals runners entered some open runs over the summer.
“I think we had 24 contact days and we soaked up as many of those as we possibly could,” Homan said.
Homan ran track himself and has continued to run recreationally. Some of the runners on the team began running as conditioning for other sports.
“I started running with coach Homan the summer after my seventh grade year and just started for basketball but I kind of got into running,” said freshman Isaac Ashton. “We’ve been pushing for cross country almost all of last year and finally got it this season.”
Ashton said he was excited to see the addition of cross country.
“I was just ready to run and go out and compete,” Ashton said. “I did club stuff last year and it’s going to be a lot different because the club stuff is just local. It’s just going to be a lot bigger and a lot different.”
Ashton and Dick could be major contributors on the boys side with Schuster near the front for the Tipton girls.
“I’m seeing multiple runners coming out and pushing every day and putting in that mental effort as well as the physical effort trying to get better,” Ashton said. “I think we’re going to have a good season as a team.”
The Cardinals have no seniors and most are freshmen and sophomores.
“Which is nice because I know what to expect next year,” Homan said.
Homan hopes that by the first meet his runners understand the rules of the sport but also that they are enjoying being a part of it.
“By the end of the season, I could see our boys team possibly even winning our conference,” Homan said. “We have a small conference in cross country…. Who knows, we might be able to win conference.”
Homan admits that a district title might be out of reach this fall with the Cardinals sharing a district with Fatima who took fourth in the state meet a year ago and won the Class 2 state title in 2013, but with such a young team, a more established Tipton cross country program could be a contender before long.
Eric Ingles can be reached at 660-826-1000, ext. 1483 or on Twitter @Eric_Ingles