Bulldogs ranked fourth in cross country poll

There are high expectations surrounding Jay M. Robinson's boys' cross country team.

The team, ranked fourth in the state in's NCHSAA 3A preseason poll, has worked hard this summer getting ready for the fall.

Justin Gutierrez takes over as the Bulldogs' head coach. Gutierrez, who ran long-distance at Cedarville University in Ohio and comes to the area after coaching cross country in Michigan, is excited with the talent he has on his Robinson roster.

The Bulldogs' No. 1 runner, Braedon Horowitz, should highlight the group, returning to the team after sitting out last year.

Gutierrez has been impressed by what he has seen from the senior.

"He has a runner's mentality - he's very competitive, naturally gifted and works hard every day," said Gutierrez. "I guess you could say he's the leader on the team."

But Gutierrez said the talent doesn't drop off much after Horowitz.

"We have 11 guys who are competing for the seven varsity spots," said Gutierrez. "They could all be varsity on any give day."

Gutierrez said the team also has talented runners in Chris Ramsay, C.J. Buck, Andrew Fried, Chris Bellis, Will Witt and Jordan Larson.

Gutierrez said Ramsay, the team's No. 2 runner as a senior, is one of the strongest, most physical runners on the squad, while Buck, only a sophomore, has a lot of upside, which he could reach if he keeps working hard.

"He's just realizing the potential he has," said Gutierrez.

The runners worked out on their own during the summer break, running at Frank Liske Park together two or three times a week in addition to running on their own.

Since practice kicked off earlier this month, Gutierrez has had his team running 50 to 60 miles per week.

The only exception has been Horowitz, who has been running 70 to 75 miles per week.

But it hasn't all been about how many miles the Bulldogs can run.

Gutierrez has focused a lot of time on teaching the team about everything from stretching and massaging to proper nutrition and sleeping habits to build an all-around team, which he believes is necessary to turn this team into a squad that could compete for a state title.

Last week, the Bulldogs traveled to Little Switzerland for a weeklong camp. During that time, the team ran twice a day, but just as important, members had time to bond.

The Robinson runners also traveled to the Biltmore House and the Asheville Arboretum to get some runs in while in the mountains.

Gutierrez said getting his runners away from their everyday routine and pressures should help them focus on running.

As school gets under way, the Bulldogs' will continue to train in an effort to be prepared for their first meet, which takes place Saturday at the Providence Invitational in Charlotte.

Gutierrez, who was an assistant for Robinson's track team in the spring, doesn't want to set unreasonable goals for his team.

"The expectation right now is that they stick to the plan - the workouts, stay accountable and healthy," he said. "If they do that, the results will take care of themselves."

But Gutierrez hopes his team goes on to do well at regionals and qualifies for states. If they get that far, he knows his team can impress.

"If we stay healthy, the only thing that could limit us at the state meet is stuff that we can't control."