Young team meeting challenges
The Eudora cross country team may be ready for their breakout year -- and why not? This is a period of Cardinal athletics where there are more records being broken than hearts at an N'SYNC concert.
The football program had its finest season in recent history. The baseball team eclipsed its record for wins in a season. And school records were falling hard and fast during the track and field season.
As a whole, the Eudora sports scene appears to be heading toward a golden era, and fourth-year cross country coach Paul Boone wants to be a part of it.
"We're excited about Eudora," Boone said. "We want our school to rise to the top of our league in every sport."
It may or may not be fair to expect Eudora cross country to join those ranks just yet. The Cardinals field a very young squad with a lot of inexperienced runners.
Megan Ballock is one of three returning lettermen. Ballock was a state qualifier a year ago as a freshman.
Thus far, the program's youthfulness hasn't slowed its evolution.
Last year, Eudora began the season with just four boys. Five are required to field a team. By the end of the season, Boone had pulled together a team that finished fifth at regionals.
"We had a really great season," Boone said. "I'm really proud of how we did. It was a lot of fun seeing them come together as a team."
The Cardinal team carries tremendous momentum into this season. Each boy and girl on the team concluded the 2002 season with a personal best time.
Eudora's remarkable turnaround is compatible with the coach's philosophy. Boone views the season the same way he viewed an individual race -- it's all about the finish line.
"Everything builds for the league meet and the regionals and then state," Boone said. "We're competing, but we're learning. You can't race great nine times, but we'll race great at the end of the season."
Nine great races might be especially unrealistic for this young team, but this team is growing.
And Boone said that cross country helped the athletes themselves grow.
"Cross country can do a lot for a person," he said. "You find out what you think you can do and realize that you can do even more than you thought you could."
Boone is genuinely excited to be a part of that process -- to infuse into his team critical cross country virtues such as perseverance and patience, and to help prepare his team for the mental intensity of the sport.
In all endurance sports, the athlete is his or her greatest antagonist.
"We talk about competing -- competing against yourself more than anyone else," Boone said. "You're constantly getting messages in your head, and those messages are not always good things. You're pushing your bodies to the limits, and it's fun to see what you can do."
For those who are unfamiliar with cross country, here is a quick account of the scoring system:
There are seven members of a varsity team. The top five runners are responsible for the team's scoring. The other two runners are called pushers.
The higher a runner finishes, the lower the points they earn. The team with the lowest point total wins a meet. pusher passes the top five runners of another team, then that team has points added to its score.
The first meet of the season is Sept. 4 in Garnett against Anderson County.
"We will really emphasize pack running," Boone said. "We want to break up at certain points and become head hunters."
Before Eudora starts hunting Anderson County heads, team members will hunt down monetary support for its program. The key component to the team's fund-raising efforts comes Friday night.
From 4 to 10 p.m., the cross country team will split into two groups. Those two groups will run six hours of continuous one-mile relays. People can sponsor the team per mile or sponsor an individual athlete. Boone anticipates 100 miles will be logged during the night.