Continuity brings expectations for MHS girls cross country

Nearly all of the significant contributors from last season are back for the Marshalltown girls cross country team, and second year head coach Stacy O’Hare said she is excited about what that means for her program.

“Watching the kids last year and knowing that we didn’t lose a lot, we have a big group coming back that ran varsity last year and I’ve already told the kids there’s a lot higher expectations this year,” O’Hare said during practice on Tuesday.

Though many of the top names from 2017 will be back competing for the Bobcats this year, O’Hare said so far in practice it’s been a newcomer that has shown brightest.

“Phoebe Hermanson is a freshman but right now she is sitting as our No. 1 runner,” O’Hare said. “She doesn’t seem to be too afraid of competition, and I like that. She goes out and works extremely hard in practice and I think she is very competitive, so it will be fun to see her run.”

The returners aren’t far behind Hermanson, however, as O’Hare said many of them have picked up right where they left off.

“Odaly Flores and Mia Barajas, those two have been working hard,” O’Hare said. “Jade Tejada and Mary Kate Gruening are right in there too, those four have been mixing it up a little bit. Aida Almanza was varsity last year but she had to have surgery on her jaw, so she is out but I am hoping she will be out next week.”

As a whole the team has shown more of a fight to win, whether it be against other teams or their teammates in practice, and O’Hare said that will only make her team stronger.

“It’s a good group right now, I think they are going to be more competitive with each other and pushing to make varsity, knocking each other off a little bit and pushing to beat each other,” she said.

That’s a mentality O’Hare has been trying to instill in the girls through her first two years with the program, a desire to not only succeed individually on the course but to win as a unit as well.

“There were a lot of meets where we as a team came in last, and I know a lot of people take cross country as more of an individual sport, some take it more as a team sport, but I take it as both,” O’Hare said. “I want to compete not only as individuals but I hope as Bobcats so we can go compete against other teams and not come in last. Hopefully they got that message of a higher expectations. They’ve matured, they’re a year older, now it’s time to put that effort into it and hopefully compete better.”

Unfortunately Mother Nature hasn’t been kind to the runners so far in practice, with hot afternoons and rainy days both rearing their heads and forcing the MHS girls to adjust practice plans.

“As far as building the miles I don’t think we are quite where we were last year,” O’Hare said. “We’ve been trying to practice mainly in the mornings since it’s usually hotter in the afternoons. We try to get them here in the mornings so they have the rest of the day to still enjoy their summer, but we’ve had a lot of rain and have been stuck inside all day, and those aren’t as good of workouts. It’s really hard to get motivated to run around a tiny little track.”

The Bobcats will have plenty of motivation when they get that first taste of competition on Thursday in the Marshalltown Earlybird Invitational, and O’Hare said they are champing at the bit to race against some other teams.

“Obviously we can do time trials and things in practice and the kids know I always put a watch on them to see where they are at, but getting them in a meet and having them compete is a little bit different,” she said. “It’ll be nice to compare where we were last year.”

The Marshalltown Earlybird Invitational will start with junior varsity races at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday at the Marshalltown Community College course, and the varsity girls race will start at 5:30 p.m.