Sports

Lakewood fields elite Cross Country team

Sarah Dunn is one of the success stories of the Lakewood cross-country program.
My freshman year, I started at the back of the pack, but my teammates pushed me to improve myself and I improved about 10 minutes my freshman year, she said. Putting that number in perspective, Dunn ran the girls 5k in 20:52 at the Cascade Conference Championships last season.
Most of it was just that I didnt know what I could do before. I had done soccer, but I didnt know that my comfort zone had been kind of slow, she added. Her improvement has been such that Dunn overtook her school record in the 800-meter run and dueled with then-senior Corrine Gogert for the mile during the past track season.
Dunn credited the cross-country programs family atmosphere and the encouragement from her upperclassman teammates for her early improvement. Now as a senior, she hopes to help along younger runners as she was helped.
The kind of progress Dunn and her teammates have shown over the years is part of the reason the girls of the Lakewood cross-country team begin their season ranked seventh in the state.
Despite losing top-two runners Gogert and Danielle Osti to graduation, Dunn said she sees a core of underclassmen poised to step up and fill those gaps in the roster: sophomores Amber Brunell, Chelsea Sowards, Keelie Caldwell and junior Lacey Nation.
But as the girls sat down to articulate their goals for the season the boys sat down separately coaches Jeff Sowards and Jon Murray reminded the girls the only ranking that matters is last one of the season. As for the pre-season number, it is what it is, Sowards said.
When the Lakewood cross-country team was started in 1991 by then-coach Mike Evans, the goal was to get better every year.
That didnt necessarily mean that we got faster every year, but we want to build young men and women, Sowards explained. That same sense of family Dunn described as essential to her athletic development is something Sowards said the staff works at every season.
We talk a language that a lot of coaches dont talk about. We have a strong belief that the person is very important, he added.
But 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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