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FC has the talent but needs more numbers

By John Estridge, Sports Editor

Franklin County’s girls cross country team had an interesting end of the season last year.

After a good regular season that did not bode what was to come, the Lady Wildcats finished third at the sectional to advance to the regional.

One week later the Wildcats were fifth at the regional, advancing to the semistate. It was a news accomplishment for a cross country team from FC.

However, there was controversy. A sick runner at the chute caused confusion. While the Wildcats were named the fifth-place team at the regional, later through video, Greenfield-Central was awarded fifth.

Then, the Indiana High School Athletic Association decided to let the teams from both schools advance to the semistate.

At the semistate, all the Lady Wildcats did

Almost every Lady Wildcat participating set personal bests with then-freshman Lauren Kelley breaking her own school record with a 19:11 in the 5K.

Cross country coach Stacey Nobbe is excited several of her runners from last year are returning, but she wishes she had more runners available.

At present, she has five girls runners and seven boys.

It takes five runners to receive a team score. Thus, if any injuries occur to any of the girls, the Lady Wildcats may not be able to receive a team score.

“I need more girls,” Nobbe said.

On the girls side, the Lady Cats lost two runners to graduation. They are Kat Putnick and Novalynne Beck.

Returning is the school record holder Kelley. She is joined by Taylor Stewart, Katelyn Meyer, Kairee Hodapp and Josie Selm.

According to Nobbe, the thought of having to run 3.1 miles is daunting to some high school students.

“It’s not that far,” Nobbe said.

Nobbe knows what is far in running. She is a marathoner who has participated in the Boston Marathon among many others.

“One of the things we work on is mental toughness, which I think is a life skill, too,” Nobbe said. “Let’s say it takes you 21 minutes to run a 5K. Your first mile’s great: your adrenalin is going, usually it’s pretty fast.

“Second mile you kind of settle in, and you’re still feeling great,” she continued. “So, it’s the third mile where it starts to get hard. So, you’ve had 14 minutes where it hasn’t been bad. Really, your whole last mile isn’t awful.

“That means four to five minutes is the mental struggle,” Nobbe said. “It’s not that bad. We can get through that.”

Kelley, a sophomore, also plays soccer. She is doing well during the cross country practices.

“She’s doing very well, and she’s still very fast,” Nobbe said.

Other returning girl runners include Taylor Stewart.

“She’s looking really strong,” Nobbe said. “We did some speed work, and her form looked really good.”

Kairee Hodapp is another returning runner.

“She’s a natural, strong runner,” Nobbe said.

Josie Selm is a returner also.

“She was pivotal in getting us to semistate because she improved by 12 minutes last year,” Nobbe said.

Katelyn Meyer, a junior, is also running on the girls team.

Nobbe said the summer workouts have been about finding good, safe areas for the young people to run.

“In the summer, we don’t do as much speed work,” Nobbe said. “We’re just trying to get base mileage. What we concentrate on where can we run that’s maybe a safe place to run. Where’s a different place to run that’s really pretty or maybe fun.

“That’s so they don’t get bored,” she continued. “And to see what places are out there and push beyond practice and go out with a friend or maybe on their own if it’s safe.”

Nobbe talked some about the surprising end of the 2017 girls cross country season.

“They just kept improving and improving,” Nobbe said. “They started to really see what it took. We stopped focusing on time.

“You’re going to set a record by your time, but, as a team, we want fewer points,” she continued. “So, you get a better score by passing people and placing higher.

“I think what happened in the past is you would have one phenomenal runner,” Nobbe said. “And the others were not as competitive.

“Now everybody is moving up,” she continued. “Everybody sees how important they are to the team. And what you do matters whether you are the top runner or the slowest runner. What you do still matters to the team.”

Nobbe believes that excitement the team felt at the end of the season is still there. And it has carried over to the boys team.

“The boys when they saw what the girls did, my boys are putting in so much mileage this summer because they want it too,” Nobbe said. “They want to go to regional as a team. And they want to get to semistate. They are on their own running hundreds of miles, literally running hundreds of miles this summer to get there.”

Lost to graduation were Evan Apsley and Cody Moore.

Kyle Seibert, Drew Grant, Adam Grant, Jackson Brumback, Ben Maze, Tanner Lainhart and Cole Klusman. There are no seniors on the boys team.

According to Nobbe, she has been trying to show both the girls and the boys, they live in almost the perfect spot to practice long-distance running.

“What I’m trying to show them is where we live, we have the perfect training ground. We just have the possibility of just being phenomenal because of the training ground we have with our trails and with the hills.

“So, we go out and run five or six miles, and it’s hills,” she continued. “That’s so they can see when they’re running 3.1 miles, and it’s not as hilly as we do it’s going to be so much easier than they thought it could be. It’s still going to be hard because they’re working on being fast, but mentally when they’re at that line they can tell themselves ‘it’s only 3.1.”

According to Nobbe, the runners are beginning to understand how the practices lead to success in the races.

“If they want to focus on running 3.1 fast, they have to be able to run six, seven, some are running 10 miles at a time because it just builds the stamina to run the 3.1 fast.

Nobbe really enjoys long-distance running. She is trying to impart that joy to her athletes.

“I want everyone to understand the value they add to the team no matter how fast they are,” Nobbe said. “And that I want communication. I want to build that love of running. As they continue to run beyond high school, then that’s when I’m going to feel successful because they carried on that love of running.”

She said the older runners on the team are sharing that love with the younger runners.

Her goals include improving their times and wanting to run meets and practices. She wants all of her runners to be competitive.

In order to build a team bond, the cross country runners went to a running camp this year at Whitewater Memorial State Park. They spent two nights camping. They ran on road and trails and they even ran in the water. They ran stairs. They also used paddle boards and played.

“These kids understand we work hard and then we play,” Nobbe said. “We try to balance working hard and having fun.”