Lady Wolves cross country

Haider Malik, Sports Editor

   After the girls’ cross-country team was the state runner-up last year, how does the team look to compete this year? The team has faced a plethora of changes to the varsity lineup, but one thing remains the same, the will to win.

   Last year’s team consisted of the state’s top female mid-distance runners including former seniors Megan Wells, Kendall Hughes, and Anika Shah. Wells and Hughes both placed in the top 15 last year at FHSAA Cross Country State Finals, with Wells placing ninth and Hughes placing fourteenth. Shah placed twentieth overall respectfully. 

   With the trio gone, how has the team filled the big shoes left behind? Well, it all started with summer training and the regimen developed by Coach Orlando Greene. His knowledge of the sport has allowed the program to claim numerous district championships, regional championships, and even a state championship in 2019. 

   “Going into this summer, I had the same outlook on the sport as I always had. This is a team sport, not an individual sport. My focus was on building the strength of the team, not one individual. In cross country, you can have a fast one, two, and three. However, without a strong four or five, you are doomed. Running as one pack, as one unit is what will bring success,” said Greene. 

   The scoring of cross-country meets is different from most sports. The objective at a cross-country meet is to get the lowest score possible, like golf. Races are scored by assigning a point value for the place a runner finishes in. A score is determined by the points accumulated by the first five runners to finish.

   Greene’s training plan over the season reflected his philosophy of running as a pack. “All throughout the summer we had groups that would run workouts together,” said Greene.

   The summer mileage has looked to have paid off with the girls dominating in the first few meets of the season. The first meet of the season was the Eastern Hillsborough Invitational at Newsome. This meet had eight teams including Spoto, Durant, East Bay, Lennard, Strawberry Crest, Bloomingdale, and Riverview. 

   The lady wolves came out on top with the team winning with 27 points. The pack mentality was reflected with sophomore Rachel Harrar placing first, junior Mimi Walters placing fifth, junior Jessica Brickhaus placing sixth, senior Skyler Knott placing seventh, and Junior Kyleigh Secor placing eighth. 

   A few weeks later came the George Whitmire Invitational at Lake Region High. This was a tougher meet with competition from Lakeland, George Jenkins, Mckeel Academy, Lakeland Christian, Auburndale, Bartow, and All Saints’ Academy. With schools like George Jenkins and Lakeland Christian having multiple runners in the top eight, that didn’t stop Newsome and their pack mentality.

   While schools like George Jekins had their top two runners placing in the top five, their other three runners struggled to finish in the top 25. However, the lady wolves crushed it with the top five all finishing together. Brickhaus led the girls at eighth, with Walters, Secor, freshman Morgan Walters, and Knott all following. 

   “I’m really proud of the girls for running together. We didn’t have the fastest girls, but we had the most consistent,” said Greene. 

   The lady wolves have been consistently winning and performing to a high expectation. It is going to be exciting to see what the postseason has in store for them.