POULSBO — More smiles. More wins.
Coaches and members of the North Kitsap cross-country team hope the first factor will lead to the second.
While last year’s team was anchored by several solid runners — most of whom return for the 2002 campaign — the team lacked depth. But this year’s addition of several speedy ninth-graders should change both the team scores and the attitude.
They’re already working on the latter.
“The kids are motivated, having fun, making friends, and enjoy what they’re doing,” said head coach Helen Smith.
That assessment is shared by Jim Robson, who was one of the team’s two state representatives last year.
Robson was pleased to see better attendance at this year’s summer workouts (each of which ended with a grueling Ultimate Frisbee showdown), and the results are already apparent, he said.
“This year, we have guys that can keep pace,” he said. “Last year you’d run, and go out ahead, and it was like we were running on our own. This year we run as a team.”
That spirit has been noticed even by some of the team’s newcomers.
Will Cameron, a Poulsbo Junior High student who is expected to be among the team’s top boys, said, “When you’re running, everyone claps for you and tells you to keep going. You get better that way.”
The boys’ team returns both of its state representatives from last year, Robson and Michael Chuol. They will likely be the team’s best, but coaches believe they will pushed by a pack of talented younger runners, including Cameron, Wes Power, and Jeff Allen, along with transfer Alex Hughes, who has arrived in North Kitsap via Chicago, Ill.
Smith gives much of the credit for the team’s youth to assistant coach Lee Hodin, who has recruited among the junior-high ranks to find an infusion of young talent for the Vikings.
The girls’ team should be strong as well, Smith said, and like the boys they will include some strong returning runners, including Robyn Embrey and Chelsea Forkner, who sat out last year’s cross-country and track season with shin splints.
“I just want to run,” said Forkner, who in anxious for the beginning of the season. “I couldn’t run all last year.”
Forkner, too, has noticed the team’s new spirit.
“It’s one of the best groups of people we’ve had,” she said. “Everyone’s really serious about running. Everyone works hard during practice.”
The Vikings will first take to the field next week, when they host Bremerton and Shelton at 3:45 p.m. on Sept. 18.
They will visit the Salt Creek Invite at 9 a.m. on Sept. 21 before hosting another meet on Sept. 25.