Women's cross-country looks to repeat state, qualify for Nike Cross Nationals

A+member+of+the+Freshman+Class+examines+a+campaign+poster+for+the+class+officer+elections%2C+scheduled+to+begin+Aug.+18+and+end+Aug.+25.+CHRIS+LI+%2F+PHOTO
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Women's cross-country looks to repeat state, qualify for Nike Cross Nationals

A member of the Freshman Class examines a campaign poster for the class officer elections, scheduled to begin Aug. 18 and end Aug. 25. CHRIS LI / PHOTO

A member of the Freshman Class examines a campaign poster for the class officer elections, scheduled to begin Aug. 18 and end Aug. 25. CHRIS LI / PHOTO

A member of the Freshman Class examines a campaign poster for the class officer elections, scheduled to begin Aug. 18 and end Aug. 25. CHRIS LI / PHOTO

A member of the Freshman Class examines a campaign poster for the class officer elections, scheduled to begin Aug. 18 and end Aug. 25. CHRIS LI / PHOTO

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SPEEDING BY: Senior Renee Wellman runs an event during track season last spring. Wellman runs both track and cross-country, and said the cross-country team has high aspirations for the upcoming season. MARY BROOKE JOHNSON/ PHOTO

Senior Renee Wellman has accomplished a multitude of impressive feats throughout her career as a cross-country runner. She has run in the state championship in all of her first three years of high school, helping the team capture the state title in 2008 and 2010, and has also had the opportunity to participate with her team in the Nike Cross Nationals in Portland, Oregon against some of the best teams in the nation. Nothing about her past success is satisfying for her, though. She said she wants this upcoming season to be her best ever.

“I expect the team to have another undefeated season,” Wellman said. “There is always more pressure on the defending state champions to repeat, but a lot of our top girls are seniors this year and we want to leave the school on a high note. I know we will all work harder than ever this season because our goals are so high.”

As many past teams have found out the hard way, coming off an undefeated season and state championship is no easy ordeal, especially because of the target that is place on the team’s back.

Head Coach Mark Ellington said he doesn’t expect the team to experience any sort of letdown because of the senior leadership that the team has.

“We have girls that have run a lot of cross country races and know what it is like to be targeted as the favorites,” Ellington said. “I don’t think we will have to deal with any sort of letdown because all of our girls are determined to do as well as they can this year. They are doing everything they can to get better and I think that will pay off for us throughout the season.”

Wellman said she agrees that the team will not have to worry about a letdown of any sort because the team is still very motivated and focused on their goals this season. Although the failure was redeemed in 2010 when the team won the state title, the disappointment of failing to defend their title in 2009 is still something that Wellman thinks about, and she is determined not to let the same thing happen this year.

“I don’t think there will be a letdown because this team is the most motivated team I have ever seen,” Wellman said. “Many of us remember the disappointment of 2009 when we failed to defend our 2008 title, and we are determined not to let that happen again.”

A state championship is not the only thing that is motivating the team, as they are also looking forward to potentially qualifying to run in the Nike Cross Nationals in Portland for the second year in a row.

Senior Lauren Kahre, who ran in the national race last year for the Greyhounds along with Wellman, said getting back to that race adds some extra motivation for this year.

“(The race) was an unbelievable experience and I feel blessed to have been a part of it last year,” Kahre said. “Starting from the beginning of the trip and all the way throughout it, Nike treated us like professionals. We learned a lot as a team there last year, whether it was racing tactics or just preparation stuff, and getting back there this year gives us a little extra motivation.”

Wellman and Kahre both said the team has aspirations to finish in the top three at the national race this year, after placing seventh in the race last year, but winning a state championship comes first.

“We are not only trying to repeat from last year, but we also want to leave behind a legacy for future Greyhounds to talk about,” Kahre said.

Ellington said he believes that if the team continues to work hard on a daily basis and each individual strives to reach her potential, then the team will meet all of its goals.

“To be successful in any sport, the athlete must find and meet his or her potential,” Ellington said. “Our girls have to meet their individual potentials in order for us to be a great team. The team that is able to maximize their talent the most and run the smartest races will be the most successful. Hopefully that is our team this year.

Although the team has had its fair share of success over the past few years, Wellman and Ellington both said that they team is focused on this year only.

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