IR Cross Country to host Henlopen Conference championships
The Indian River High School cross-country team has been putting in the work for the upcoming season, with added motivation after the news that the Henlopen Conference championships will be held at the school this year.
“The Henlopen Conference, ever since I’ve been coaching, has been held at Killian’s Pond,” said head coach Frank Ryman, noting the significance of hosting the event.
To prepare for the Nov. 1 meet, and for the rest of the season, Ryman’s squad has been not only running the school’s “Green” and “Gold” courses, but on the beach and up and down the bleachers, as well.
“We have to do something to compensate for the lack of hills,” Ryman explained after mentioning Killian’s Pond and Brandywine as some of the northern courses with more hilly terrain for which he intends on preparing the team. “We do our beach runs on Saturday.”
While practicing on the beach does include some fun activities, such as throwing flying discs to warm up, bodyboarding and cooling off in the ocean, the practices are actually designed as one of the team’s more intense workout days because of the soft sand runs.
After graduating several seniors, this squad has a dedicated freshman class of new runners this year, looking to leadership from some of the team’s key returners.
“The underclassmen are really stepping up to fill their spots,” said senior Taite Daisey of the new runners and setting an example for them. “When I was a freshman, I had a senior who was a captain and she really helped me and pushed me. I think it’s really important, especially with this sport.”
One new runner expected to lead the team both on and off the course, however, isn’t an underclassmen, as the Indians will add senior Marshall Saunders to the team in his first year at IRHS.
“Personally, I’d like to beat everybody,” said Saunders of his season goals. “I feel like I can help the rest of the runners and try to bring the rest of the team to a higher level. We’re all in this together.”
“This is his first year with us; unfortunately, he’s a senior,” said Ryman of Saunders, asserting that the senior could have a chance at breaking the school’s course record.
While Saunders will lead the pack for the boys’ squad, sophomore Maddie Mercer returns to set the pace for the girls this year. However, in her second year with the team, she’s also challenging some of the guys, as well.
“I try and run with the guys; they push me. I try to catch up and then they try to speed up,” she said of the team motivation. “I expect a good season.”
Helping with the coaching is assistant coach Katie Holloway, who also expects a strong season from the second-year coaching tandem.
“Usually, I’ll spot what he doesn’t, he spots what I don’t, and it’s just a mutual, complementary sort of a thing,” she explained.
Holloway also went on to note that the synergy is the same with the rest of the squad.
“The kids have wonderful personalities that really complement the running and makes our jobs as coaches really easy,” she said.
“That’s one of the things that make this sport unique,” Ryman added. “They’re working hard, pushing each other. They’re just a great bunch of kids.”
The team will put their hard work to the test on Wednesday, Sept. 10, when they host a quad-meet against Sussex Tech, Delmarva Christian and Sussex Academy at 4 p.m.