The Westminster Christian School girls only brought six athletes to Cross Country Finals and still managed to come away with a third place finish. Five of those six girls return for the upcoming season and our 1A girls preseason rankings has the Warriors in a tight race with Oak Hall and Maclay for the team title. We caught up with coach Jose Garcia to get a scouting report on this year's squad.
Last years team finished a school best, 3rd place in Cross. The team had 2 new rookies who from day 1 took the reigns due to the injuries we were dealing with. Although we believed we were in position to win the state title, I believe there were doubts because of the injuries to the returning 1 and 2; as well as the injury our new #1, Claire Kennedy suffered at the district meet which took her from 19 minutes to out of our scoring top 5. But these girls fought everyday to get better and that's what got us 3rd place despite the adversity. I believe what they learned is to take nothing for granted as you do not know what the season, let alone the following day has in store. So we are taking this season with a get better everyday approach, with a focus on a healthy lifestyle.
How is the team looking this year?
This year we are looking strong. Natasha Strump, our current 1 and team captain, is fully recovered from her junior year injuries and is leading this team in the right direction. She was limited to just biking and swimming a year after running 2:23,5:15, and 19:39. She has put in the summer to be in the top 5 individually come November 5. After that we have a great group of hardworking girls who truly are great teammates. When you have that mix, I believe good things will happen. Hailey Mira, Kyra Wells and Megan Brais have turned in their best summers of their careers and we hope the pack mentality lifts the three of them to personal bests. We expect a breakthrough season after a fantastic track season and summer from Megan. She is entering high school and has taken a more vocal and leadership role on the team. Our retruning 5, Malena Pochat has been limited this summer, but we are hopeful that she will be healthy as that's all she needs because of her great competitive side. The goal is to compete and give our best. If we take care of our business we believe we can be state champions
Our biggest strength is the level of cohesion, support and care these girls have for one another. They are friends on and off the course and that goes a long way. We have a veteran leader and at the moment have 5 of last years top 7 returning which gives us the experience to understand and appreciate the moment, when the time comes.
Training has been the same as in the past, just with much more participation this year. Years past we may have had 4 or 5 girls at a practice during the summer. This year we have had anywhere from 7 to 10. The girls have fully bought into what we are aiming for and that makes mine and coach David chandlers life a little easier. We have done some running (25 to 35 miles per week) in the Miami Heat, some swimming and some strength training. Over the last 6 weeks we have incorporated some fartlek and tempo runs to tighten up our speed. We are concluding a 9 day trip in the mountains of North Georgia/North Carolina. It's our second year in a row coming up here. It's great for training and bonding. Its a valuable life experience that I had when I was at Belen Jesuit, so it's something I have worked years to finally get to do here at Westminster Christian and its paying dividends.
We have a few first timers who could crack the top 7. Kat Gomez is someone I have worked on for a few years to get out and run and she has had a good summer. We also have Kayla Hardwick who is a triple jumper, come out and give it a go. She has done exceptionally well throughout the transition. We are excited to see what they can do this year along with Kara Matthews who has also put in a lot of work. We can't wait to see it pay off for these ladies.
The goal is to give it our best every day and hope that, that results in a state championship on November 5. Most importantly though, is that each of those days we learn something about ourselves, eachother and have fun doing it. We have the Youth fair meet where we will try and win the schools first Miami Dade County championship then travel north for the Florida horse park invite to see our competition from up north. We then will compete at UF, host our Inaugural invite on September 29 at Coral Reef Park in Miami, and then travel to PreState before our district, regional and state meets.
We look forward to seeing everyone across the state have a great season. I am a believer that competition fuels greatness and we know that our divisions is as competitive as any and we are excited about it. Wishing everyone a healthy and successful season.