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Mile after Mile

Varsity Cross Country heads for State meet in Waco following solid season.

Senior Evan Reyna races the course at the District Cross Country meet near Joe Pool Lake.

photo by Todd O'Neal

Senior Evan Reyna races the course at the District Cross Country meet near Joe Pool Lake.

Melanie Scott, Staff Writer

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The blank gun fires into the air. Over a hundred runners cross the starting line as the 5k run commences. Through a mud pit, traversing bumpy and rocky grounds, jumping over hay bales, the athletes race each other to the finish.

The Varsity Cross Country team leaves Sunday for the State meet in Waco. Seven boys and seven girls will compete against TAPPS runners from across Texas. The team recently travelled to The Woodlands, TX, to compete in the nationally acclaimed Nike Invitational. The school has never had anyone place in the top 50, but with talent and determination, this year’s team was able to change that statistic. Senior Emily Chastain finished third in the 5k race completing the 3.2 miles in a stunning 20 minutes and 28 seconds, less than eight minutes shy of the world record.

“With this being my first year running Cross Country, I am looking forward to representing PCA in this meet,” said Emily. “I am trying to prepare for State by running lots of miles each week and integrating speed workouts.”

photo by Todd O’Neal
The girls on the Varsity Cross Country team gather to encourage one another and pray before the District race.

Coach Todd O’Neal has coached the Varsity Cross Country team for the past decade, utilizing his strategic tactics and practice techniques to yield the most success. This year’s team of 17 students is the largest in Coach O’Neal’s coaching career. He enjoys pushing each athlete to reach their best potential through disciplined training and proper recovery.

The team practiced five days a week in order to maintain a strong physique and endurance. Early morning and after school runs each day included running several laps around the track, bleachers, and, of course, the infamous campus runs.

A campus run encompasses the four corners of the entire Prestonwood campus. Beginning at the Marsh-Plano Parkway intersection, the students ran from Marsh to Midway, down Midway to Park, Park down to Marsh, and end at the original Plano Parkway intersection.

Junior Sabeen Toranian said, “While the campus run is a lot, especially after a day full of school, I do feel as though it greatly helped keep us all in shape and build up our stamina as a team.”

Senior Kelsey Spoonemore has competed on the team for the past three years. She said, “I run because I love the feeling of accomplishing a really hard work out or finishing a really long race. Cross Country also teaches me to work hard and never give up.” Cross Country helped students build stamina, both physically and mentally, while simultaneously providing a sense of accomplishment and endurance.

The team is looking forward to the State trip because they are able to grow closer as a team while enjoying fun activities together. The night before the Nike meet, the team went bowling and enjoyed a dinner at BJ’s restaurant.

Coach O’Neal said, “My favorite part of coaching the Cross Country team is going on trips with the team and getting to know all the athletes from the different grades, whether I have taught them or not.”

This year marked the first for a Middle School Cross Country team. Seventh and Eighth grade students developed their love for running under the leadership of Coach Steve Murray. He was excited to see this come to reality as he has wanted a Middle School Cross Country team for a couple of years. He saw it as an alternative for young athletes who do not play other sports.

The team just completed its successful season. At the Trinity Invitational, the girls team had individuals place First, Second and 13th out of 69 runners. Invitational champion Alexis Lee, a Seventh grade student, said, “I really enjoyed running with my friends each day. I love all the people on the team and the coach.”

Middle School practiced during the conditioning period on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday afternoons. They had distance days and interval days, as they focused on differing competitions. Occasionally, Coach Murray would bring in “celebrity runners” to run with the team including Eighth grade History teacher Mrs. Leslie Luce and Seventh grade Bible teacher Mr. Eric Leininger.

Nine boys and five girls ran during the first season. Coach Murray said, “My favorite part of coaching the team was watching the comradery of the runners. All members of the team rooted each other on, and there was no division between gender or grades.”

Seventh grade student and Team Captain Brooklyn Brothers said, “We did a lot together as a team, and I loved getting to know everybody.”

Coach Murray hopes the Middle School Cross Country team will expand to grow Christ-like, persevering athletes each year.

As a result of strategic coaching and eager athletes, both the Varsity and Middle School Cross Country teams advanced and raised the bar for future teams.

 

 

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