Season Recap: Cross country sees individual achievement

AJ Forbes, Sports Editor

After the 2015 season where a substantial amount of the runners were seniors, 2016 looked like a rebuilding year for Bellevue West’s cross country team. Like any other sport, though, a “rebuilding year” is no excuse for not improving.

“We lost a lot of kids last year, so we were going to be kind of inexperienced,” head cross country coach Craig Christians said. “We just wanted to improve from last year. Of course we try to get a state qualifier and we managed to do that.”

Sophomore Caleb Williams is the only runner on the team that qualified for state. Accomplishing this at any point in a high school career is a feat in itself, but accomplishing it as a sophomore provides an additional bonus.

It means a lot [to qualify for state],” Williams said. “It was my goal at the beginning of the year and when I heard I had a chance at qualifying I was training harder than ever.”

Besides having a state qualifier, the Thunderbirds’ ultimate goal of individual improvement was met by several runners.

We had some surprises,” Christians said. “I thought Kyla Lowenstein ran very well after coming back for her second year. Chris Higgins cut minutes from meet to meet and continued to do that throughout the season.”

The mindset of constant improvement was established by Christians through his unorthodox coaching style.

I try to lead by example,” Christians said. “I am strong believer in that. I was an assistant for 12 years before I got the head job. I’ve always ran with the kids. Not all the coaches do that. I hope they see me out there working hard and so that inspires them to do the same.”

Assistant coach Alexa Hoffman helped reinforce Christians’ idea of how runners should carry themselves and try to strive to better themselves throughout the season.

“Our expectation was to do well and to cut time,” Hoffman said. “I believe our best time cut of the year was 8 minutes.”

Like any other coaching staff, Christians and Hoffman do everything they can to ensure that each runner betters themselves.

Coach Christians and Coach Hoffman help us perform to the best of our abilities by giving us lists of all our times from our current season and previous years,” Caleb Williams said. “They turn those times into split times that are personalized for everyone in every workout we do. This helps everyone adjust to their own pace that will help when it comes to race day.”

As the Bellevue West cross country team continues to aim for improvement and continue to produce state qualifiers, one thing remains constant in the ever-changing sport of cross-country: the satisfaction of doing better.

This is a sport where you can clearly see improvement,” Christians said. “It’s not a subjective thing. You just look at the time and see how much they’re improving and that’s probably the most satisfying thing is to see a kid improve and see that little spark in their eye.”