There’s no secret to the Weddington boys’ cross-country team’s success, according to Warriors coach Rick Spencer and his runners.
Instead, the defending 3A state champions, who also have won the last three 3A Midwest Regional and Southern Carolinas Conference championships, credit their accomplishments to good old-fashioned hard work.
It has helped to have a wealth of talented runners who challenge each other on a daily basis in practice. Four of the current top-10 times in the Observer area come from the Warriors’ roster.
Those include: junior Mitchell Resor (16:12.46, Observer No. 5), senior Ryan Hobbs (16:08.08, No. 6), junior Matthew Conner (16:20.13, No. 7) and junior Alex Hazan (16:28.39, No. 8).
Junior Colton Jordan (season-best 16:44.92), junior Jackson Bivens (17:21.53) and senior Brandon Dalla Rosa (17:29.99) help make up one of the deepest teams in the state, according to Spencer.
“There’s really no secret out there for us, we just work very hard and train hard all year,” said Spencer, in his eighth year as Weddington’s head cross country coach. “There’s tons of different training methods, and we don’t really pick just one. We are constantly tweaking what we do and coming up with what works for us. It’s a very demanding workout that not everyone can do.”
Hobbs says the daily competition to hang with his teammates also is a big reason for Weddington’s success.
“We all want to be the top guy, but we also want to win as a team,” Hobbs said. “To have five, six or seven guys who could be the No. 1 guy on a given day really makes it fun to go to practice and push each other. If you come to practice and slack off, you’re going to hear about it. Knowing you have to bring your best every day really helps everyone on our team.”
Spencer, 41, also helps push the team. The former Charlotte Latin cross-country standout still runs with his team three to four days per week. Spencer runs about 35 miles per week year round but gets up to 100 miles per week “at his peak.”
The Weddington boys won their first 3A state title last year after finishing third at states in 2011 and 2012.
Staying on top has the Warriors even more motivated.
“I like to have the bar set as high as possible for this team,” said Spencer. “Now that we’ve won a state championship and were No. 1, we want to replicate that success again. Finishing third is great, but we want to stay on top.”
“All we have been thinking about since last Nov. 2 (when they won the state title) is how can we be even better this year,” Resor said. “We want to win it all again this year, and be the best team in the state regardless of classification.”
Hobbs said the team would like to qualify for the Nike Cross Southeast Regionals on Nov. 29 at WakeMed Park in Cary, then for Nike Cross Nationals on Dec. 6 in Portland, Ore.
Weddington already has earned national and regional recognition this year, ranked No. 10 in the Southeast Region by Nike Cross Nationals while also being nominated for the national performance of the week by ncrunners.com after the team won the Jungle Bell Run at Southview High.
“We don’t really worry about rankings and all that stuff a lot,” Hobbs said. “But it’s nice to be recognized for your hard work. It shows we are contenders, even at a regional and national level.”
After a grueling summer of training, with the team compiling 550 miles, the Warriors are eager to prove they can be the best again.
Spencer said most of his top seven runners have the potential to break the 16-minute mark. So far only Hobbs has broken it, running a 15:54 last year.
“We are not as fast as we want to be right now,” Spencer said. “But we all have goals in mind and we had a great summer, putting in a base mileage that gives us a great chance to get to where we want to go. In a way, I’m glad we aren’t at our best yet. I don’t mind starting a little slower and building up and maybe not having that huge target on our back all year. Maybe we can put that target on some other teams.”
The Weddington team hopes daily competition in practice will lead to more success.
“We love to compete with each other, and sometimes it’s just Weddington guys up front,” Resor said. “I think that daily competition is what brings out the best in all of us. It makes us all want to go even faster every day.”