New cross country coach changes environment, training

Emily Mabbitt, Sports Editor

After recruiting a new coach and gaining 19 freshmen, the Bellevue West cross country team has had a lot of growth this season.

Spanish teacher Larissa Knudson stepped up to the position as head coach after previous coach Leigh Officer left West last year.

“I was thinking about just volunteering before Coach Officer had a change in her career,” Knudson said. “Then it just kind of ended up being that Mr. Mauro came and asked if I was interested in getting back into coaching.”

Knudson has had experience as an assistant coach, but didn’t have experience as a head coach before this season.

“In my previous coaching positions I was first an assistant before moving up to head coach so I had a better idea of who the kids were and where they’re at fitness-wise,” Knudson said. “Coming in here I knew nothing so my goal was to become acquainted with the kids, the program, and just really get a feel for it.”

With about a third of the team being made up of freshmen, Knudson was happy to see the team stick together throughout the entire season. 

“Sometimes when you’re making that jump from ‘I ran cross country in middle school it was only 1.5 or 1.9 miles and now I have to run 3.1’ that can be a really intimidating change,” Knudson said. “The fact that everybody persevered through the very hot weeks at the beginning of the year and kept going through the whole season was really positive.”

Freshman Natalie McNamara said her middle school training lacked variety compared to her high school training.

Last year when I was on the middle school team, our workouts were limited and there wasn’t a lot of variations,” McNamara said. “This year, I like how Coach K mixes it up and we run several different routes.”

Sophomore Alyssa Fjelstad said that Knudson has helped her strive to work harder and help make herself a better runner.

“One thing I like about Coach Knudson’s coaching style is that she has a lot of passion,” Fjelstad said. “She is always coming up with new ways to help us get better and she shows that she really cares about our success through the work she puts into the program.”

Sophomore Grace Schaefer said that Knudson gives the runners set times to hit every practice which has helped her improve as a runner.

“This season Coach Knudson tries to have me focus on specific things which helps with my pacing throughout the race,” Schaefer said.

Schaefer also said that Knudson gives the runners meet sheets before every meet so they can write down their goals.

“My goal for the season was to improve from last season and hopefully make it to state,” Schaefer said.

Fjelstad, who was four places away from qualifying for state last year, said she has been staying motivated to reach her goal of qualifying for state this year.

“Something that keeps me motivated is the fact that someone might be working harder than me,” Fjelstad said. “I find it very important to always have a good work ethic, so knowing that someone could possibly be working harder than me gives me the motivation to keep going and never give up.”

Senior Kyle Davidson said he has one quote that keeps him motivated, “Pain is temporary but quitting lasts forever.”

If it’s the middle of my race and I’m hurting and feel like quitting, I know that if I quit I will regret it for the rest of the season,” Davidson said. “The worst feeling is that knowing that I could have gone faster in the race and I didn’t.

Being the coach of the cross country team involves Knudson interacting with the students in a different environment which she enjoys.

“I think coaching is always a good experience because you get to interact with the students in a different way then you do in the classroom,” Knudson said. “You can really develop some relationships that you can’t have in your typical classroom.”

Fjelstad said her favorite thing about being on the cross country team is the great energy they have as a whole.

“Everyone is super supportive of each other and it’s like another family to me,” Fjelstad said. “It’s definitely a great atmosphere to be around.”