Cross country looks for repeat
The Eudora cross country team has it made, and the team members know it.
Star Brittney Graff is returning for her final year on the team and is ready to take names. Graff has won the last seven cross country races she competed in, which is no easy feat. She said she would keep expanding her impressive record at all costs, but was somewhat nervous about new competition.
"I always feel there will be somebody I haven't raced against before, and that concerns me," Graff said. "I just always want to improve upon my times."
Graff's not the only star returning. Senior Cody Burns is back also. Burns placed third at regionals with a time of 17 minutes, 14 seconds., allowing him a state meet appearance.
Coach Paul Boone said these two athletes returning for another season really gave the teams an edge.
"They set the pace and the mood for the whole team," Boone said. "We set workouts and they are off doing it. They aren't sitting around debating it. That positive mentality rubs off on everyone else."
But Burns and Graff's return is not the only thing the runners have going for them.
Boone said this summer had been dedicated to logging in lots of miles in varying conditions. He said most of his runners have excelled and pushed themselves to new times and distances.
That has to help, considering the once two-mile cross country race has been upped to two-and-a-half miles.
Graff said she and the team are excited about the change in distance, as most certainly they will have the edge.
"Our team has better endurance than other teams," Graff said. "We put in lots of miles and we have been running all summer banking miles. We have a strong base."
With the exit of no. 2 runner Megan Ballock, it seems the team would be shaking in its New Balances, but that's just not true, Boone said. He said Emily Ballock -- Megan's sister -- has stepped up and was filling the hole left by Megan nicely.
But having several advantages going into the season is no replacement for a healthy team morale to keep everyone excited about running. Boone said his team is not lacking in that department.
"We went to two local lakes and did some time trials," Boone said. "They did well because our kids like each other and enjoy being around each other."
Intra-team strength will be a key with an uncertain season consisting of unknown Missouri teams in a Joplin, Mo., race sandwiched in between familiar rivals like De Soto.
But Boone said he just wanted to focus on one race at a time and develop a tough team reputation. He said that would not be a problem at the first race at Anderson County, although he did have apprehensions about facing Class 4A state champs Baldwin there.
"We'll face a series of smaller schools like Central Heights," Boone said. "Baldwin will be the best team we face there, but we should be able to put ourselves in a spot where people target us just like we target Baldwin."
But once again, Boone said the team could have an edge early in the season as the runners are heavily conditioned to run in the heat -- likely a distinct advantage when the teams kick off its seasons at 4 p.m. Aug. 31 at Anderson County.
Of course Boone said in the short-term he hopes to win every meet in the season. But as for long-term goals, he said he would like to get his entire boys and girls teams to state. Boone said this could be achieved through developing the younger runners at their own pace, but at the same time pushing them.
"We'll bend them, but not break them," Boone said.
And they'll be doing a lot of bending with several new runners and veterans alike. Boone said although it would be her first season, people should keep an eye out for Bre Miller. He said she should advance and develop into a quick and confident runner by the end of the season.
In all, Boone said although the varsity and junior varsity teams will be comprised of a rotating membership, both could be very strong this year, as the members possessed more experience than in previous years.
"We have kids with more experience, but we are constantly growing and evolving," Boone said. "We workout hard and enjoy being with each other."
"We're not just wanting to get through the first workouts to get to state, we are just enjoying what we're doing now."