Lake Forest Cross Country hopeful for successful season

GEORGETOWN — Cross country is a sport that requires both physical and mental preparation. High school runners are compelled to run a 3.1-mile course that is punishing at times and demands the utmost effort from beginning to end.

Lake Forest boys’ and girls’ cross country coach Eric Payne is an experienced runner, and due to that experience, relates very well with his teams.

“Cross country is like any other sport that requires dedicated training along with the willingness to persist even though you are fatigued and hurting sometimes,” he said. “A cross country runner also needs to be mentally tough in order to be able to continue to run even though it would be much easier to quit.”

The individual winner of a cross country meet is obviously the runner with the best time.

Unlike most other sports, however, the winning team is the one that posts the lowest score.

A team’s score is determined by adding together the order in which its top-five runners finished.

Lake Forest opened its Henlopen Conference schedule against Sussex Tech with mixed results. Led by meet winner senior Hannah Fox with a time 23:47, the Lady Spartans placed five runners in the top seven to record an easy 20-37 victory over the Lady Ravens.

Following Fox were senior Desiree Amaya (third, 24:23), junior Shumailah Ahmad- Statts (fourth, 25:05), sophomore Haley Scott (fifth, 25:10) and senior Katelyn Coleman (seventh, 25:16).

When she has a big lead like she did against Sussex Tech, Fox has a unique way of a making sure she continues to run strong to the end.

“I watch the guys (who started a minute ahead of the girls) and try and catch as many as I can,” she said. “That’s my goal when I’m running because I know the more guys I beat the better my time is going to be.”

Team goals for the Lady Spartans this season include winning the Henlopen South and both the Kent County and conference championships.

Last year Lake finished second to rival Milford in the South due to a disappointing 27-29 loss to the Lady Bucs.

Fox would like nothing better than to end her high school cross country career with a Southern Division championship and a win over Milford.

“I think Milford is the team we need to beat this year and I know we have a team that can beat them,” she said. “The reason I feel this way is because we are sticking together more and running much better as a team than we did last year.”

The Lake boys’ team had a rough start to the season by placing just three runners in the top 10 which resulted in a 19-42 loss. Leading the Spartans were senior Ryan Harris (second, 18:48), junior Michael Wills (seventh, 19:33) and sophomore Marc Mapp (ninth, 19:38).

“I am a little disappointed but we still have a lot of season remaining,” Harris said following the loss to Sussex Tech. “This is the first time I have run this course so I stayed with everyone else and did my best at the end.”

Harris has no doubt the team will quickly put the loss to the Ravens behind them.

“The guys that came out last year who are on this team got a good taste of what cross country is all about,” he said. “This year we are a lot more focused, a lot more dedicated and more determined to win.”

Harris has found his personal niche when it comes to dealing with the mental rigors of cross country running.

“I do my best to focus out the excuses such as the hot weather we had in this meet,” he said. “I also like to put the clock in my mind because it’s sometimes you against the clock and not against the other runners.”

Coach Payne, who is assisted by coach Linda Brown, is happy with the progress of both teams and wants them to continue to grow into teams that are successful season-after- season.

“I ran for this team back in the ‘80s when it was coached by Jim Blades,” said coach Payne. “What I want is to have these teams as successful as coach Blades had.”

A hands- on technique of coaching is one of the ways coach Payne is developing the cross country program.

“I run with our teams to make sure they are doing their best to hit certain times,” he said. “There are times each of our runners need to have at each mile marker. I also work on the mental part by making sure they push themselves even though they are getting tired.”

In addition to the team goals of winning division, conference and state championships, coach Payne has personal goals for his runners.

“I want our runners’ times to improve from race-to-race,” he said. “I also want them to have the will to win by always giving 110 percent.”

Lake Forest will host a tri-meet Wednesday against Caesar Rodney and Dover.

This season’s meet against Milford will take place on a neutral course when Indian River hosts both the Spartans and Bucs Oct. 19.

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