Friday, August 12, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Titans cross country buys in

Leader sportswriter

Jacksonville High School cross country coach Hank Hawk hasn’t had very much time to work with his runners that’ll be competing this fall, but one thing that Hawk said has been a big positive in the time he’s had with them is that the Titan runners have bought in to what the program’s hoping to accomplish this year.

A lot of soccer players have joined the cross country team this year, which has helped boost the numbers up some.

“I’ve got four or five boys and I will probably have a girls’ team for the very first time this year,” said Hawk, “thanks to coach (Donny) Lantrip; the soccer coach. We are teaming up and kind of using this as an offseason soccer/cross country team, and for right now it’s working out pretty good.

“It’s nice to have girls out there running. There are some volleyball girls – they’re so busy with volleyball, but I know they’re distance runners for track, and I know that if I can get them to run on their own and then compete with us on the weekends in the meets, that’ll just help us even more.”

As for the boys, Hawk said he thinks the soccer players he’s had running this summer have even surprised themselves with how well they’re handling the distances and workouts, and added that they’re starting to look at the program as more than just an offseason for soccer.

“Right now the soccer guys that are coming out running, I think they’ve surprised themselves as far as how well they’re handling the distances and the workouts,” Hawk said. “They’re buying into it. They’re asking questions about how a meet runs, and they’ve gone out and talked to friends that have done it in the past.

“I can see their interests are not just getting in better shape for soccer, but wanting to compete as a team and personally in a cross country meet.”

Hawk added, though, that the success his runners have will be based on the work they put in prior to races, meaning they need to continue to work at it on their own time in addition to their routine team workouts.

“You’ve got to run,” Hawk said. “On the weekend, get up and go run. You get out of it what you put in. Unfortunately, the words cross country scare a lot of people off. When you say cross country people think, ‘Oh my gosh, I don’t want to run across the world,’ when it’s only a 3.1 mile race. It’s a 5K.

“If I can ever get them to a cross country meet – they’re just a neat atmosphere; all the teams around there, the comradery between the teams, the competition between you and the guy next to you, the competition between you and yourself, trying to get a better time – the parents and fans lining the course to cheer everybody on.

“As a coach, it’s neat to see the lightbulb go on when they get there, and you’re riding in the back of the bus (after) and they’re talking about passing this one guy and I wasn’t going to let him pass me, you know, going on and on about what happened during the race. They’re worn out, but they’re not thinking about that. They’re thinking about the next race.”

Another reason Hawk would like to see more runners in the cross country program is the fact that college scholarships are available for cross country runners, and many girls’ cross country scholarships are going unused because of the lack of participation.

“I tell these girls, there are actual scholarships that universities are not using for girls’ cross country,” Hawk said. “There’s money out there for these girls if they’ll come out and run this sport.” The first cross country meet of the season for Jacksonville will be early next month.