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The long path to the finish

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By Ryan Naus

When runners stand at the starting line, they know that they have to make the most of their opportunity.

They can rely on their teammates, but at the same time they compete as individuals, pushing themselves to their limits.

There aren’t any timeouts or breaks for the runners to rest.

For varsity runners, they run 3.1 miles and in each mile, they have a strategy as they try to finish as fast as possible.

During the first mile, Marlon Kinsey, Grant County’s coach, and Michelle Whaley, Williamstown’s coach, want to see their runners start strong, but not use all of their energy as their adrenaline pumps after the starting gun goes off.

“The start is important because if you get out well, you don’t get boxed in,” Whaley said. “If you get boxed in, you have to spend more energy and more time in the first mile to get to your pace. The first mile is usually fast, but you have to be able to save a little bit for the second and third miles. It’s the tone setter for the entire race.”

“It’s important to get good position in the start,” Kinsey said. “But it’s also important to stay within yourself. It’s a fine line between a successful start and one that can get you too far back or out too fast.”

Of the three miles, Whaley believes the second mile is the most important because it gives runners the opportunity to make up for any mistakes from the first mile as they also prepare for their finish.

“I believe the second mile is the core of the race,” Whaley said. “It’s where you fix anything you need to. If you didn’t have a good start, you have time to fix it. It’s also about getting caught up so the third mile is concentrated more on the finish. The middle mile sets up the final mile.”

The final mile gives runners the opportunity to pick off the runners in front of them and Kinsey likes to tell his runners to “Be Brave.”

“The difference between winning a race is handling the start and the finish,” Kinsey said. “I don’t want anyone moving backwards. We’re picking off runners and understand that every runner we pass is a two-point swing. If I had to pick a mile, I’d pick the last mile as being critical because if you’ve done everything right, the third mile is about toughness.

“It’s about who wants it more,” he said. “You can change the outcome of a race in the final mile. The start and the middle of the race are important too, but if you can get to the final mile, they should be able to pull it together and give their best.”

The cross country teams will compete at the regional meet at Scott High School on Nov. 7.

Runners’ perspective

Before the race: “At the beginning of the race, I’m nervous, but I try to concentrate and focus on the race and what I have to do,” WHS sophomore Katie Butler said. “I know it’s on me and no one else. I know I have to stay focused. I’m always waiting for the gun to go off.”

The first mile: “The first mile is the hardest for me because I’m trying to keep up with everybody,” GCHS senior Emily Thomes said. “You want to go out well, but you don’t want to go out too hard because you’ve got two miles left. The goal is to go hard, but not to hard. It’s important to save some energy and keep a good pace.”

The middle mile: “The most important part is to not drop back and stay at a good pace,” WHS junior Steven Bradford said. “I try to keep my position and conserve some energy for the third mile. It’s hard to find the balance between saving some energy and saving too much. It’s about learning from your mistakes.”

The final mile: “I’m trying to slowly move up and get ready for the last 400 to 800 meters,” GCHS junior Jordan Cummins said. “You’re at a low energy, but you know you’re almost done. The adrenaline kicks in. Once you can see the finish line, your mind takes over and you push towards the finish.”