POULSBO — Vikings cross country head coach Lee Hodin expects the boys and girls cross country teams to be among the elite in the Narrows League this year. By the time November rolls around, he hopes both of North’s squads are competing in the Class 4A cross country state competition.
“Our goal for both teams is to make it to state,” Hodin said. “Last year, the girls just missed out on going to state as a team and the boys captured eleventh place at state.”
He said the Vikings are placing an emphasis on the fundamentals during the first few weeks of practice.
“The beginning of the season is all about cohesiveness,” he said. “You don’t want to blow them out during the first week. The coaching staff is focusing on improving every runners core strength. A lot of these runners have put in the miles but they aren’t doing the little things right yet. Early in the year we emphasize the little things.”
Currently, 56 runners between the boys and girls teams have turned out for practice this month. Hodin expects that number to steadily climb well into September.
“By the time the season starts, we will probably have 60-65 runners on the entire team,” he said.
Hodin said both squads bring a lunch pale kind of work ethic to each practice.
“These kids never complain. The second day of practice we had them do 200 pushups. They’re willing to put in the work,” he said. “The teams are very much like factory workers. They do the job, get it done and go home and eat their meat and potatoes.”
Hodin said sophomore Hilary Leonard and Kelly Cates are the strongest returning runners on the girls team this year.
“Hilary brings a toughness to our team that we need,” he said. “She’s put in a lot of summer miles. In our first inter-squad run she earned a personal record by two minutes on a 1.5-mile course.”
Leonard said she doesn’t want the team to miss out on state in 2007.
“I made varsity last year so I have a little bit of experience,” she said. “I am hoping I can help our team make it to state this year.”
Team camaraderie will be a key to making the dream of state berth for the girls squad a reality.
“We have to keep our team morale high and bond as a team,” she said. “It will be important to keep our energy up at practice and make sure everyone is doing their best.”
On the boys’ side, the Vikings return the trio of Ray Reedy, Nick Cameron and Paul Coulter to the varsity lineup.
“They’re going to be expected to carry us this year. It is their job to push forward and be leaders,” Hodin said. “They’re going to have the hold the team together early on while we search out our identity. They’re going to take the pressure off of the fourth and fifth runners.”
Reedy will be one of those runners who will provide the senior leadership the Vikings need.
“I think I am good at helping people run as fast as they can,” he said. “I am always out in the front when we are running in practice. I think it encourages my teammates to step it up so we can all run together.”
In 2006, the boys squad cruised to an 11th place finish at the 4A state meet.
“The team has been improving the past few years and now that I am a senior I want us to do even better,” he said. “The program is going to continue to improve. There’s a lot of young kids who will be good later on and thats really important for the team in future years. The freshman and sophomores are working hard and are pretty involved.”