HOUTZDALE — The inaugural Moshannon Valley cross country season began on Sept. 10. Head coach Abby Houston said she has 20 runners from grades 9-12 ready to go on a brand new course that circles around the school property, cutting through the woods and a farm.
This year’s roster includes seniors Nathan Murarik, Aubrey Dotts, Landon Dipko, Nathan Reams, Austin Beirlair, Rachel Howard and Journee Varner, juniors Joseph Spewock, Abby Leskovansky and Trenton Berg, sophomores Alex Leskovansky, Skylar Kephart, Austin Shoff, Arionna Houser, Zane Hensal and Eleanor Faulds, and freshmen Roman Faulds, Paige Frailey, Gavyn Varner and Samuel Howard.
Houston said practices started officially last month and have gone well, but they had open run practices prior to preseason.
“We have offered open run practices prior to preseason,” Houston said. “Throughout preseason, we have been working on techniques such as pacing practice, speed racing, negative split running, hill intervals, weight room circuits and more. The students who have come out are motivated and eager to be a part of Moshannon Valley’s first ever cross country team.”
Being a new team, Houston said they’re going to have to learn to have patience in all aspects, while understanding a runner won’t finish first in every single race. She’s stressed to the athletes to be the very best that you can be, follow a structured schedule to in order to succeed, learn that mental toughness will get you through the hardest times and to self-discipline results in success.
“My main goal is to pass these lessons and more on to the students I coach and watch our students succeed in all aspects,” Houston said. “Cross country is a sport that not only strengthens you physically, but mentally. The sport is all about pushing through each race and giving it your all, even on your days that aren’t your strongest.”
The goals for this season are simple — improve throughout the year.
“Each team member has specific individual goals to strive towards throughout the season, looking at their specific personal best times, abilities, and strengths,” Houston said. “I hope that each member can continue to cut back on times from race to race.”
Houston feels that the runners will continually push each other to be the very best that they can be.
“Even in the short time we have had together, I have seen all my runners push themselves to new successes and personal bests,” Houston said. “In addition, the students have been very encouraging to one another, and have even been meeting up on non-practice days to run together. Our team already feels like a family, which makes it even more unique. This positive environment encourages the athletes to strive to be their bests for themselves and for their team.”
Another goal throughout the season is for the team to remain healthy, with Houston stating injuries are part of the sport.
“We are hoping that we can take care of injuries before they become bigger problems and keep all of our runners healthy,” Houston said. “We are meeting with the trainer frequently to stay on top of any potential problems.”
As far as big contributors for this season, Houston feels that everyone will play a role in one way or another.
“I truly believe that all athletes will contribute heavily to our teams success — some in their race times, others in their encouragement and kindness,” Houston said. “We have some members who have been consistently cutting back on their 5K times and those are the members who I expect to contribute the most heavily in score.”
The kids already competed at their first meet on Wednesday against Clearfield and Bald Eagle Area, picking up wins for the boys and girls against Bald Eagle. During that meet, Reams led the Black Knights with a fifth-place finish with a time of 21:54. Roman Faulds (22:21), Alex Leskovansky (24:37), Samuel Howard (25:00) and Shoff (25:56) rounded out the Top 10 at seventh through tenth.
Abby Leskovansky was the first Damsel across the line on Wednesday, finishing fifth with a 29:13. Dotts and Rachel Howard placed ninth and tenth, respectively.
Mo Valley’s next meet is on Tuesday as they travel to Bellwood-Antis. Houston, who has Mike Simone as an assistant coach this year, said she’s really enjoyed the environment and energy that’s been brought to the practices.
“The students look forward to practice and have formed a strong bond,” Houston said. “We have been planning fun team experiences too like an ice cream run, team dinners before meets, and team bonding practices which include games such as ultimate Frisbee. Prior to the first day of school, we had a practice filled with games followed by a team dinner hosted by the parents. It was a great way to commence our preseason and kick off the school year and racing season.”
Nathan Murarik, Aubrey Dotts, Landon Dipko, Nathan Reams, Austin Beirlair, Rachel Howard and Journee Varner.
Joseph Spewock, Abby Leskovansky and Trenton Berg.
Alex Leskovansky, Skylar Kephart, Austin Shoff, Arionna Houser, Zane Hensal and Eleanor Faulds.
Roman Faulds, Paige Frailey, Gavyn Varner and Samuel Howard.
10—at Clearfield. 17—at Bellwood-Antis. 21—Invitational at Altoona, 10 a.m. 26—West Branch.
1—at Northern Bedford, 4:30 p.m. 3—Tyrone. 5—Invitational at Ridgway, 10 a.m. 8—at St. Joseph’s. 10—at Hollidaysburg, 4:30 p.m.
Meets begin at 4 p.m. unless noted.