CLINTON – There wasn’t much buzz around the Clinton cross country teams last season, but that’s going to change.
They want people outside of the runners and coaches to see the culture they’ve instilled in the program.
“Our goal is to surprise people,” head cross country coach Kellen Schneeberger said. “To make them take notice of what we’ve been doing up here, and how we want to compete.”
They’re returning large parts of their top runners, including seven boys who ran varsity and six girls.
Noah Smith, Parker Sirna, Conner Sattler and Kyle Gassman were all boys that were in the top four for the Kings last season and back for more. Schneeberger is especially impressed with the work the quartet put in over the summer. Both Smith and Sattler logged 400 miles throughout the summer months with other athlete close behind.
“Our senior class has really helped cultivate the values and work ethic we need in this program and we’ve added some strong support pieces the last two years,” Schneeberger said. “They’ve built a nice base and had a great summer in the weight room as well. I think the athletes really care about working hard in all areas and get along well”
On the girls’ side, Abby Struble, Kaylie DeSwart, Emma Milder and Vivian Ramirez are all back for another year. The young core of runners got some of their first varsity experiences last year and improved every outing.
Schneeberger has now had the reigns to the program to be bringing along his first class. The seniors started under Schneeberger as freshman and have grown in that coaching culture.
“When we took over, we had to bring the runners along slower as we didn’t have many athletes that would identify them as runners, but maybe just a baseball player, tennis athlete, basketball player or whatever,” Schneeberger said. “Now, we’ve got some kids that have been with us for four years, have been in the weight room, have logged the miles, and identify themselves as a Clinton Cross Country runner.
“It means something to them. The banners in the gym are part of their sport and they are proud of the culture they have created as cross country runners here at Clinton. It gives us that extra juice. We’ve had some kids push themselves harder than ever and probably harder than they thought they could.”
As far as surprises, he thinks the entire team is gearing up to turn the corner.
“I think collectively we believe we’re going to have a breakout year,” Schneeberger said. “Our staff constantly stresses it will take everyone on the team to improve. It doesn’t matter if you’re the number 1 girl runner or the 28th boy runner, we need everyone to be accountable for themselves and hold others accountable.”
With consistently strong workouts to begin the year and a group with work ethic instilled in them, Schneeberger is thrilled about the place the program is in. The strength of the River Kings and Queens’ schedule has been ramped up a little bit, and coaches are hoping that pushed the kids a little more still.
They open up the season at home on Tuesday afternoon, taking in some local competition.
“The kids are focused on surprising people, so there is a little bit of a motivator there for them,” Schneeberger said. “The biggest thing I’m looking forward to is to see how this team develops and works. If they really commit what it takes and view it as working for their teammates and not each other, we should have a really fun season.”