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The last time anyone saw the Grant County High School boys' cross-country team, they were at the Kentucky Horsepark taking part in the KHSAA state meet.
Coach Marlon Kinsey is confident fans will find his team in a similar setting this fall after opening practice at midnight on July 15.
"I have been looking forward to the start of the 2008 season since our last guy crossed the finish line at last year's state meet. I can remember meeting the boys back at the tent following the race," Kinsey said.
After sharing results with his team, the attention and conversations quickly turned to this season.
"My guys had just come off their finest performance of the season as all seven ran their best times and six ran all-time personal bests, and they were already thinking about the future," Kinsey recalled.
It is that dedication that Kinsey hopes translates not only into wins, but a serious contention for the state championship. Last year, the Braves finished 20th at the state meet.
"They were not satisfied with our 20th place finish, but wanted more. I heard several runners already predicting how much they could shave off their 5K at next year's state meet. They were identifying teams they felt they could catch,' Kinsey said.
Then came two words that excited Kinsey, regional championship.'
"This is the mindset I had hoped I would be able to instill into this group of young men. I want them to constantly seek ways to improve. I also want them to believe they are capable of challenging teams they once thought were out of their reach," Kinsey said.
When his team hit the track on July 15, Kinsey put them through a two-mile time trial, which he says not only stirs up "healthy competition, but helps see which athletes put in the offseason work necessary to get ready for the cross-country season."
"It is especially important for those who did not run track. I can get a feel for those in track by following their performances in the spring, but an athlete who hasn't trained or raced since November can be a mystery," Kinsey said of the time trial. Once I know where my guys are at, then I can begin mapping out our training plan.
The majority of July practices center around easy mileage, according to Kinsey.
"I want to build a solid foundation for the harder/faster training to come without risking injury from overtraining," Kinsey said.
This season, the Braves bring back a wealth of talent, as all five of the team's scoring runners return from last year's state-qualifying team. Headlining the team will be Jeffrey Covington, Brandon McIntosh, Jordan Cummins, Shannon Fabela, Michael Schultz, Dustin Sullivan and Devin Smith.
"It is always exciting to have athletes returning, especially with state meet experience. We are extremely fortunate to be returning six of our seven runners," Kinsey said.
Other key runners Kinsey will lean on include: Aaron Jump, Dustin Mills, Dylan Jackson, Chris Ellis, Kaleb Thornton and Tyler Edmondson.