by Becky Kimbrell-Norris
WAKEFIELD — The Wakefield girls and boys cross country teams have been hitting the pavement hard since July getting ready for the upcoming season.
The Wolverines are poised to build on last year’s successes, relying on both strong returning athletes and new runners.
With both the girls and boys team having a combination of veteran runners and talented newcomers, Wakefield coach Melissa Schug is excited about the possibilities for the season.
“I expect many of the returning runners to shave significant time off their personal records this season,” Schug said. “The summer workouts have put them ahead physically and mentally of where they were last year at this time.
“We have a strong, competitive group of freshmen joining our team this year,” Schug added, “all of whom bring experience and enthusiasm.”
Although the team lost nine runners to graduations, six of the eight seniors on this year’s team have run all four years at Wakefield.
“They will bring a great deal of experience and leadership to the team,” Schug said.
The girls return seniors Ashley Blawas, Ricole Jenkins and Stacy Ransom and also Allison Mallory, a junior.
“Ashley just kept getting stronger and faster throughout the season last year, and I expect she will continue to improve this year,” Schug said.
“Ricole, Stacy and Allison had a great season last year, and they have been working hard this summer. I expect to see some positive results from their hard work.”
Seniors Jesse Kerzner, Collin Russell, Jared Nichols, Hayden Schug and James Kim return for the Wolverine boys.
“Many of our senior boys have regularly attended summer workouts and continue to show improvements in strength and endurance,” Schug said. “They will really lead the younger members of the team on and off the course.”
Some of the returning underclassmen who Schug said will show great strides this season are Tyler Goldberger, Carter Owens and Gabby Morris.
Several newcomers to the team include senior Emma Evans, juniors Chance Venable and Maddy Trainor and sophomores Zach Nolan and Andrew Leinfelder.
“These runners are showing notable improvements,” Schug said.
Approximately 16 boys and 18 girls will make up Wakefield’s team this season. More than half participated in summer workouts.
“I know summer is busy with work and vacations but many of the kids made a commitment to running this summer,” Schug said. “Some of my runners were not able to attend workouts with the team, but did a great job running on their own.”
Schug said getting her runners to believe in what they are really capable of and gaining confidence to help them overcome a bad run will be the area that needs the most improvement.
“Although running is a team sport, it is such an individual challenge,” Schug said. “It is my job as a coach to prepare the runners physically, making sure they have the muscle strength, lung capacity and endurance for the competition or race.”
Schug added that it is also her responsibility to make sure her runners develop a mental stamina, a focus and belief they can do it.
“I need to help them achieve their goals, find motivation and focus that will allow them to work through the moments they feel like walking away from the run.
“I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to work with the Wakefield runners and am very much looking forward to a season of many little firsts and milestones for these kids,” Schug said.