The Mount Dora Christian Academy Boys cross country team is the reigning 1A team champion. Coach White gives us the scouting report on this year's squad.
What takeaways did you learn last season that you are looking to apply to the 2018 season?
Last season taught us how to overcome and to not be content. This team faced a good number of psychological and physical obstacles last season. However, they learned how to overcome those obstacles together. They helped each other overcome their own demons, so they could together, pursue greatness. The end of the season taught us to not be content, but to keep reaching.
We won State last year, but we didn't make into the Championship race as a team at Nike South Regional and we finished outside the top 20 at the Chile Pepper Invitational in Arkansas. With everybody returning this year, we want to always dare to reach. Ideally, to reach for another State title, a tough showing at Footlocker, and a top 10 finish at Chile Pepper.
I feel blessed to have such an amazing group of young men. They are a close-knit group and with this being the last season for three of them, they are focused to make this season memorable from start to finish. Last year taught us how to win, but it also showed us that we aren't the best. So, we will keep reaching and reaching and will continue to climb together as high as we can.
What is the best way to describe your coaching philosophy when working with these high school athletes?
Truthfully, it changes from year to year depending on the group. This team that I have right now has been together for three years. With that, comes a different style of coaching. It would be fair to say that it has formed into a much more collaborative process. It also has formed into a much more specific process. I know these guys incredibly well now.
I know what each of their bodies responds well to and what they don't respond well to. I know mental blocks that can form and why they form. Likewise, they know me on a deep level as well. With that said, this season consists way more of talking to each other rather than me directing.
They are reaching a point where they know things and I am learning to sit back, listen, and implement what is appropriate based on the pulse of the team and each individual. This does not mean that I don't direct, advise, or coach still; I do BUT, I also have to recognize this team for what it is. It is a group of best friends that have been together for the last three years and it has three amazing senior leaders as part of that group. So, I'll coach but I will also trust them to lead.
What has summer training been like?
I will keep this short and just say that it was the best summer training that this group has ever had together. We have had a few who have had great summers in the past, but this summer it was a collective win. Everybody locked in and got their mileage.
Which athlete(s) on your team do you think will be the biggest surprise and why?
I am going to say that our 4-6 guys will be the surprise. I think most people have grown familiar with our top three (Gabriel Curtis, Jackson Pruim, and Mitchell Curtis) and I think they have grown to expect certain things from them.
However, I think the most shocking part of our team this year will come from the back of our pack. I look for all three of those guys to shock people this year. I won't throw times onto this article, but come November, make sure to watch for Tom Valente, Sebastian Deleon, and Nikolas Gibson.
What will be the biggest challenge your team will face this year?
Being disciplined and patient. The XC season is long. A challenge for my guys will be to stay disciplined and intentional with each day along the way. Every day over the next three months matters. The small things matter. Stretching matters. Team bonding experiences matter. Our team devotionals matter. It all matters. Sometimes in a long season, that becomes easily forgotten.
It also can be extremely hard to stay patient. Each of my athletes is so excited about the prospect of running that great time or achieving something great together come the end of the season. Sometimes, when you want those things so badly it is easy to get ahead of yourself. So, patience and trust in the process is one of our biggest prayers and focuses this season. To not get ahead of ourselves, but to recognize each point in the season for what it is.
From your perspective, what would define success for your team this season? What do you think it will take for your team to achieve that?
If this team stays focused on Christ and on each other then this season will be a success. Regardless of trophies or accolades, if this team can exalt and represent Christ amidst the victories and the defeats, then I will stand proud as ever.
This is a senior led team and our goals this year go beyond winning. When those seniors leave this team, my desire for them is not they will look back and see a trophy but that they will look back and see a blessing. A success this season looks like each one of us, me included, learning how to be a better man for the people around us and how to be a better disciple for the God who made us.
My prayer is that this team can always make this season about glorifying God and that we never fall to the temptation of glorifying ourselves.
What are some of the meets the team is looking forward to this year?
Chile Pepper Invitational in Fayetteville, Arkansas Pre-State Invitational in Tallahassee, Florida State Meet in Tallahassee, Florida Footlocker Series- Charlotte/San Diego