AHS cross country teams see State ahead

AHS Sarah Rayner -
AHS Sarah Rayner
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Coach Mike Shierk tried hard not to get ahead of himself when talking about his 2007 cross country team, but his enthusiasm could barely be contained.
A strong core of returning runners on the boys side and two impact freshman for the girls have Shierk giddy with expectation for the upcoming year.
Leading the way will be senior boys captains Paul Simbeck and Luke Passalacqua. Both Simbeck and Passalacqua are returning lettermen who ran track in the spring.
They put up some great times already, said Shierk. I wanted them to have a successful, competitive track season to build on.
The effort paid off because both Simbeck and Passalacqua came into the fall season in tremendous shape. Both participated in camps over the summer as well as the Eagles own team bonding retreat.
They wont be alone out front either as a sophomore is making his own mark on the team. Jimmy Dix has quietly put himself right in the mix with the top runners in the Wesco North.
Jimmy is a sophomore extraordinaire, said Shierk. He trained hard all off-season, we can credit his success to that.
The team met with Shierk three days a week during the summer to run. Many members also did an additional two days of training every week with assistant coach Miles Mason.
The guys put in their base mileage. Luke ran over 400 miles and it shows, continued Shierk. We did some core training as a group along with some circuit training. I expect that it will pay off.
For the girls, senior captain Sarah Rayner leads the pack.
I cant say enough about her, said Shierk. She was at every single workout over the summer, she did the camps and the retreat. She knows what it takes to be successful.
Two impact freshmen will join Rayner in the top three. Bryna Prause and Kylie Granado each made an instant impression on Shierk.
That was totally surprising to have them run so well, said Shierk. Normally the upperclassmen are our key runners but having these two around for four years will only make them that much better.
Both Prause and Granado have run times approximately one minute behind Rayner, impressive for their age and experience level.
This team is goal driven, said Shierk. They all have high expectations coming into the season. With our 3A classification we are in good position to be a state team. Its ours for the taking, we just need to continue to work hard and put in the time.
Meanwhile in neighboring Lakewood, the Cougars are amassing a team that has serious promise.
The kind of progress senior Sarah Dunn and her teammates have shown over the years is part of the reason Lakewood begin their season ranked seventh in the state.
While many athletic programs talk about building character in their players, Lakewood has been successful as well. Their secret?
We ask the athletes to train harder and smarter than anyone else in the state. We ask for commitment, not involvement, Sowards said. We want the athletes to leave our program with a joy for running.

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