CAPTION: Marble Falls freshman Connor Yaklin (standing, left) and junior Tyler Hamblin help senior Nick Dahl with post-running stretching after a recent practice. Staff photo by Jennifer Fierro
Even as the sun shined, bringing hotter temperatures during the practice, the Marble Falls High School cross country team refused to quit.
That’s an important part of running — pushing through when the body and the elements challenge a runner’s mentality as well as their physical fitness.
These Mustangs, however, are a motivated bunch. They enter the 2023 season as the defending District 24-4A champions and will again host the district meet in October.
Their top runners — senior Nick Dahl, juniors Blake Cockrill and Tyler Hamblin and sophomore Hunter Holder — are logging the miles to prepare. Add in freshmen Owen Martin, Colton Rutland and Connor Yaklin, and head coach Chris Schrader said the team has valuable depth.
“Owen is a fireball,” Schrader said. “He’s the littlest guy of the three, but he’s tougher than the rusty nails getting spots. I’m holding him back. I told him I don’t want you to run to where you get injured.”
Schrader added that Yaklin struggled to finish one mile in 6 minutes and 30 seconds. But as he’s worked, he’s gotten in better shape and is transforming his body. And now that he’s seeing the physical changes, his mentality also is changing.
“He’s meeting the challenges,” the coach said.
It also helps having upperclassmen who set the pace by the way they work, the way they talk, and how they encourage and help their teammates, Schrader said. Dahl spread out eight miles into 4 two-mile runs. The first one, he clocked 7:30 and asked Schrader how quickly he should finish the next two miles. At the end of each two-mile run, he dropped more time.
“Tyler and Nick are good motivators,” the coach said. “I need the young ones to stay with them when Tyler and Nick are running slower. When they see the young ones are starting to struggle, they slow down. I don’t want to discourage the young ones. Tyler is understanding what I’m doing.”
Holder has caught the attention of coaches and his teammates, Schrader said. His best time in the mile was 6:09. He is now under 5:19 at 85-90 percent effort.
“That’s impressive,” Schrader said. “Last year he could not run out with a flashlight and two Energizer batteries. He didn’t quit. He grew vertically. As soon as the temperatures change, he’ll get better.”
Junior Chloe Ellis is the lone Lady Mustang.
Schrader pointed out that coaches and trainers are emphasizing the need for hydration and preparation for practices hours before they step on the course. The commitment to being kind to their bodies shows they understand being successful starts long before race day.
Marble Falls travels to the Johnson City meet Aug. 18 to begin the 2023 season.
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