When its peers are enjoying time off during the summer, the Weddington boys’ cross country team is working hard.
Six days a week, the Warriors and Coach Rick Spencer meet at 8 a.m. to run 6-7 miles on a “short run,” and up to 13 miles on their “long run.”
The team runs most often at Weddington High or Beatty Park and Greenway.
By the end of the summer, the Weddington cross country team will have logged about 600 miles per person. Each runner averages about 50 miles per week for most of summer, peaking at about 70 miles per week.
“It’s not easy to get teenagers to want to wake up at 7 a.m. every morning of their summer and then go out and run,” said Spencer, in his ninth year as the Warriors’ head coach. “But we all know that we are doing this because we have bigger goals in mind. This team is very self-motivated. I went on vacation to Spain and Morocco earlier this month and they still met every day and worked just as hard.”
But the runners find their own inspiration.
“We are motivated to be out there working hard every day, because we know how important it is to get ready for the cross country season,” said senior Mitchell Resor. “When you get to go work out with your best friends every day, it makes it a lot easier to get up and it’s something we look forward to. I love our team.”
The core of the 2015 team is five rising seniors: Jackson Bivens, Matthew Conner, Alex Hazan, Colton Jordan and Resor. All five finished in the top 50 at the 3A state cross country meet last season.
Spencer said each of his top five seniors will improve their personal best times this season – Resor (15:37), Conner (16:04.10), Jordan (16:08), Hazan (16:10) and Bivens (16:42).
“When you run on our team, every practice is a competition, and you can’t slack off or you might lose your spot,” Conner said. “Constantly having to bring your ‘A’ game is what makes all of us better individually, and as a team.”
The teamwill look to add to its championship-winning tradition again this season.
The Warriors’ senior class has helped the team win the Southern Carolinas’ conference and 3A Midwest Regional cross country titles in each of itspast three seasons. The same group consistently has been among the top teams in the state, finishing third as freshmen, winning it all as sophomores and finishing as the 3A state runner-up last year.
“We all know the ultimate goal is to win a state championship,” said Spencer. “It’s funny because their first two years, we didn’t think a lot about winning it all, we always wanted to finish second. But after winning it all as sophomores, second place didn’t feel very good last year.”
“Our sophomore year, we weren’t as focused on winning it all, as just trying to run our best races,” he said. “But after we won it all, we realized it was the best feeling in the world. We would love nothing more than to finish our high school careers with that feeling one more time.”
Conner and Resor also are near the top of the list of the returning runners with the best chance to contend for an individual 3A state title. Conner won the 3A, 3,200-meter state title last year, while Resor has won nearly everything but an individual state crown. He most recently finished third in 1,600-meter run outdoors, after finishing as 3A indoor state runner-up in the 1,000- and 1,600-meters.
“One of my goals is also to win an individual state championship,” Resor said. “…But it’s going to take everything I’ve got, because there are a lot of great runners fighting for the same thing.”
The Weddington seniors hope to celebrate a state championship in October and qualify for the Nike Cross National championships in December. To reach that goal, the Warriors will have to finish in the top two at the Nike Cross Southeast Regional in Cary on Nov. 28.
The seniors also hope their success this year will translate into opportunities to run in college. To reach all its goals, the Weddington cross country team understands that its early morning runs are a good foundation.
“There’s no secret to our success, what we do is all pretty much textbook stuff and hard work,” Spencer said. “Our guys feed off each other, everybody wants to be No.1. In the end, that competition is what drives us...”
Jay Edwards is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.