Young Cobras start cross country season off on right foot
For the Jackson Heights cross country team, it might have felt like the competition had a head start in Thursday’s Holton Invitational.
Most of the teams at the meet, in fact, were running in their second race of the season, while the Cobras were getting set for their first. For a young team like JHHS, that’s a difficult enough task without taking into account the competitive advantage of the field.
Despite that, head coach Brad Alley said he was extremely proud of the Cobras’ performance out at Banner Creek Reservoir. In fact, he felt one group in particular had a sterling debut.
“I thought our girls competed at a high level, especially this being their very first race ever at the 5K,” Alley said. “That’s just a whole new experience for them and I thought they did an excellent job of handling that race.”
Among those four runners, freshman Faith Little took charge and led the way. Little was looking at a change in distance either way after moving on from middle school competition.
The performance was not surprising to Alley, given what he’s seen in practice. Little even led the race for a short time at about the halfway point. Alley said the young runner is still working on her race strategy, but seeing her at the front of the pack will likely be a common sight this fall giving Little’s competitive streak.
“She doesn’t want to lose and you’re probably going to see her towards the front of the race everywhere we go because that’s where she wants to be and that’s where she thinks that she belongs and that’s going to be our expectation for her,” Alley said.
In addition, sophomore Hanna Davault turned in a solid finish to start the season, finishing 15th in the girls race. Alley noted that Davault got off to a slow start, but made a big push in the final mile and a half to earn a medal.
Alley noted slow starts were something that affected a lot of the Cobras, but that is to be expected in the first meet and this early in the season. The coach noted his runners are still building their base and, in some cases, adapting to the distance.
Adapting to the course wasn’t an issue, as Alley noted his team got some practice in at Banner Creek Reservoir early last week, though that didn’t make Thursday’s meet any easier.
“The course is tough. The hills aren’t necessarily steep, but they’re long and it presented a really good challenge for our kids early in the season,” Alley said.
So far, Alley said the Cobras have shown a dedication for not backing away from a challenge. He noted he likes to train his teams to be the best hill runners on the course and this group of runners has not shied away from the work and practice to reach that level.
For the boys, while they may be lacking a front runner like they’ve had the last several seasons, that work can help lessen that burden and Alley said the Cobras should have strength in numbers.
In addition, the Jackson Heights boys are already heeding their coach’s advice as evidenced by their showing at the Holton Invitational.
“For us to be successful as a team going forward, we’re going to have to really run together, pack it in and understand that’s where we’re going to be successful,” Alley said. “I set a goal that I wanted our varsity runners to be within a minute of each other and our top five scoring guys were exactly one minute within each other.”
Dalton Chartier led the JHHS boys, finishing 25th in Thursday’s meet. Meanwhile, Westin Jacobsen took second in the JV race to illustrate the depth that could add to the Cobras’ strength this fall.
Overall, Jackson Heights made a good first impression and will look to keep progressing as the team now gets set to compete at the Onaga Invitational starting at 4 p.m. on Thursday.