The Circle Christian girls finished as the 1A state champions and return five of their top seven from last year. We caught up with head coach Mark Caulfield to preview the 2016 team. Check out the scouting report.
How did your team fare last season and what did you take away from 2015?
Coming into 2015 the highest our girls team had ever finished at the State Meet was 9th place. So winning the title last year was a sweet accomplishment. It was a pretty lengthy and joyous celebration that went on for a number of months. I think what they took from 2015 was that belief, consistent mileage, smart training, confidence in your abilities, and trust in your coaches and teammates can overcome a lot of things and put you in a position to do something amazing. .
How is the team looking this year and what are the tentative top five and top seven?
We return 5 of the Top 7 from last year's team. We lost 2 valuable senior leaders to graduation but the remaining 5 returners are young, talented, hard-working and fun. Sinkenesh Parker (pictured left) who finished 10th at State in Cross and 3rd in the 3200m in Track is a pretty talented 8th grader who simply loves to run. Brooke McEwen (9th grade) and Jaden Ault (10th grade) are similarly talented and are coming off of excellent track seasons. Mulunesh Parker (9th grade) and Archike Parker (8th grade) also return from last year's State Championship Team and could be a big key for us this year.
What are the strengths of this team?
The girls strength is their faith, talent, a consistent work effort, their love for one another, and strong family support. They are a very encouraging group and really enjoy being together and working hard for each other. As a team, we should be strong up front from 1-3, which always helps in the big meets. Most likely though, how well we do will depend upon how healthy we remain and how 4-6 develops. We have had 5 girls work hard this summer looking to contribute for those important team spots so it should be fun to see how that develops through the season.
What has the training been like and have you gone to any camps?
We had a good summer. As a team we put in more miles than any Circle team has ever completed over the summer. Generally, we are fairly disciplined in gradually increasing the kids mileage each season based on their grade and experience, but most of the varsity team averaged in the 25-40 mile per week range for 11 weeks. For camp, we put together a great Team / Family week in the mountains of western North Carolina in late July. We took 40 kids and parents for a week of running, hiking, team building and general fun. We ran on the trails of the Biltmore Estates and Warren Wilson College, ran and hiked up Lookout Mountain, climbed Chimney Rock, and took part in a team building High Ropes Course at Montreat College. The college was very gracious to us in helping coordinate our camp with accommodations and awesome runs in the area.
Do you have any new additions who may contribute or any surprise non-returners?
We have had 2-3 kids make big efforts this summer with commitment to the program and consistent training efforts over the whole summer. It will be fun to see what kind of strides they make as the season progresses. In many ways, they are in a similar position as most of our kids were in last year who put in a big summer and then saw huge improvements over the season. They are excited to hopefully contribute to the team this year.
What are the team goals and meets you're keying for this year?
The kids obviously want to continue to progress and be in a position at the end of the season to compete and try to defend their title. But we try to keep it real with them and they know that it will be tough and that they need to stay healthy and continue to work to be there. Typically, our training and meet schedule is a progressive build-up. The first 3 early season meets we run are generally a gauge for where we are at in our training. Our mid-season key favorites of FLrunners and FSU Pre-State are used to see where we are competitively and help us set up our late season goals. But our kids know, like most, that all of our training and preparations are geared toward running our best when it counts the most. Everything we do is a progression where hopefully we are prepared to compete at our best at the Regional and State Meets.
Is there anything else you'd like to add?
We are grateful and humbled by the opportunity to share a little bit about our team, who we are, and what we do. We know that there are a lot of great teams and stories out there each year. We are excited for this season and the challenge ahead. I think that this year's state meet is potentially going to be one of the most competitive team battles in girls Class 1A history. There are at least 6 teams who could contend for a title with Westminster Christian, Maclay, Oak Hall, and Providence being great programs that are well coached and are returning the majority of their squads. We are looking forward to hopefully joining in, competing well and then celebrating together the accomplishments of many who have worked so hard to be their best. We can't wait for the season to begin! Cross Country rocks!