Saturday, July 12, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> JHS XC wanting athletes

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville High School has added cross country to the sports available through its athletic department. It has a coach and now only needs students to fill up the roster.

Head softball coach Hank Hawk will lead the program whose season that begins the first week of September and ends in the middle of November. Because of the dates and a strong background in distance running, Hawk stepped down from his football assistant position to head up the fledgling cross country program.

“My dad (Henry Hawk) is a huge marathon runner on the senior circuit,” said Hawk. “He’s in about every hall of fame for running there is. I have my own track background and it’s in my blood. I wanted to head this up and see if we can’t get this thing off and running.”

Four other schools in the Pulaski County Special School District have started cross country programs, two of which, North Pulaski and Sylvan Hills, are in the 5A Central Conference with Jacksonville. With Beebe coming into the conference at the start of the 2014-15 school year, there will be four 5A-Central cross country teams.

The final decision to begin the program wasn’t made until after school was out, so making students aware of the program and getting them out has been difficult so far. Hawk plans asocial media blitz to spread the word and let students know about the many benefits of running cross country.

“The thing about cross country is that everybody on the team is going to participate,” Hawk said. “It’s not like you’re going to bust your butt in practice and then not get to play. Everyone on every team lines up and runs. They only count the top five on the team as scores, but everyone participates.”

Hawk wants JHS students to know that distance running doesn’t require dazzling athletic ability, and that it’s enjoyable even if one is not the winner.

“In running, especially distance running, you’re not just competing against the other runners,” Hawk said. “You’re competing with yourself and your times. There are a lot of victories in cross-country besides being the first to cross the finish line. Just seeing your own personal best times get better and better is really a feeling of accomplishment.

“And you don’t have to the most obviously great athlete. I guarantee you there are kids walking the halls at JHS that don’t even know they can just run forever. You never know what you can do until you give it a try. That’s all we’re wanting is for some young people to come out and give it a try.”

A typical cross country meet includes a 5K for varsity, which is 3.1 miles, and a two-mile race for junior varsity. Hawk plans no tryouts. If you want to be a part of the team, all are welcome. There will be a team meeting when enough people have committed, and after that, practice begins.

“If you think you can run and you hang in there, you’re going to build up,” Hawk said. “You’re going to get better and you’re going to have some fun.”

Anyone interested in joining the program can contact coach Hank Hawk at