By BLAKE FAITH
The Mt. Zion cross country program has sent both a boys and girls complete team to the IHSA State Track and Field Championships the last two years. This year, the Braves hope to get both complete teams back once again and improve on their performance from last year.
“I always enjoy the start of the season,” Head coach Kelly Fox said. “We’ve had a really good summer, so that makes a huge difference. This is just an extenuation. The only bad part is we’ve been enjoying practicing in the cool mornings and we’re having to go to the warmer afternoons. But, I enjoy this time of year.”
On the girls side, the Braves return five of their top-six. Coach Fox said that her runners set up a hard working summer program where her team ran a lot of miles.
“They set those goals and they wanted to do a little bit more,” Coach Fox said. “We’ve incremented it about 15% each week and this is the most I’ve ever had any summer team run and we’re gonna see if we reap the benefits of it this season.”
Ella Fritzche, Camille Mavis, Renee Ballard, Brooklyn Doyle and Avery Sommer are runners that Coach Fox expects to have a big impact on this season.
“I expect big things,” Coach Fox said. “The girls are coming to me with, coach, we want to be pushed more. This group wants to be the best in school history, so they’re looking to break the top-10 at state. And, in my opinion, as long as our speed improves and I can keep everybody healthy, as long as that all goes well, my top five, which you mentioned, are those four seniors and Avery Sommer, who’s a sophomore. They’re ready to roll.”
Fritzche has taken on her senior leadership role as being an extension of Coach Fox whether that’s organizing practices, scheduling their own practices and connecting the underclassmen and making them feel involved in the program. Fritzche’s team goal is to be four-time Apollo Conference champions and her individual goal is to place as a team the highest a Braves’ team has ever faced at the State Championship.
“That result is what I want as my lasting mark as well as, I hope the underclassmen still like, talk about me at practice in a good way. Not in a bad way,” Fritzche said. “I hope during workouts and stuff they remember and like talk about how I was as a hard worker or having fun or just making sure that they remember me as like a friend too, not just a teammate.”
Doyle has taken on her senior leadership role as making sure she runs with the underclassmen in practice. Doyle’s team goal is to place top-10 at state and individually wants to break 19 minutes in her time. Doyle wants her lasting mark to be as a hard worker who also wants to have fun.
Mavis has taken on her senior leadership role as leading by example and showing up and showing that everyday in practice. Mavis’ team goal is for the team to get to state and individually wants to break the 18-minute mark and place as high as she can at state.
“I think for me a big thing is work ethic and I just really hope that I’m remembered by everyone on the team for always giving it my best,” Mavis said.
Ballard took her senior leadership role as setting the example in practice and in warmups to be serious and work hard and come to practice with the mindset that you’re always ready to work. Ballard’s team goal is to finish as Apollo Conference champs, getting back to state and getting the highest finish and having a good team culture. Ballard wants her lasting mark to be as a good leader and someone who always had a positive attitude.
On the boys side, the boys return Lyncoln Koester, Julian Baker, Carson Davis, Isaac Carpenter and Daniel Grauer that Coach Bill Harbeck beloved will have big impacts on the season.
They all exhibit positive leadership and hard work ethic,” Coach Harbeck said. “I don’t have to say too much to them, but it’s just who they are. They work hard and they push each other.”
Coach Fox said that her senior leaders are excellent leaders that are involved with the National Honors Society, volunteering in the community and serious about their studies.
“This is just a great group,” Coach Fox said. “But yes, I always say, I try to get other girls into our program just because I tell them that they can benefit so much more from being with this group than anything else. It’s not just about the running, it’s about so much more. We have a lot of freshmen this year too, and so that’s my hope is that these seniors will then make such an impression on the freshmen and I think they will, I think they already have.”
Coach Fox said that her expectations for this season are to get back to state and aims to be the best team that Mt. Zion has put together and finish top-10 in the state.
Coach Fox said the overall message she wanted to send to readers and the community is to support the hard work and take pride in the hard work that her runners have put into this off-season to succeed.
“These girls don’t do it, obviously for all the hoopla,” Coach Fox said. We are going to have a red and white scrimmage game here tomorrow. They’re going to be plenty of fans in the stands. These girls’ fans are their parents, but I just want our community to know and I want the students at our school to know, um, how much work and time and effort that these girls do put in. And yes, they get that personal satisfaction, but I’m always going to try to put things in the school announcements and give them a little credit where credit’s due as far as that goes.”