Mustangs Trample The Course

Ola Cross Country competes at Nash Farms for the Henry County Championship.

The Ola cross country team poses for a picture before getting hot and sweaty from their 5000 meter run. The team began training for this season back in May.

The Ola cross country team poses for a picture before getting hot and sweaty from their 5000 meter run. The team began training for this season back in May.

Mary Mangual, Student Life editor

XC 2 resized XC 1 resizedOn Thursday the Cross Country team met at Nash Farms for the Henry County Championship. At the meet, Ola competed against schools from across Henry County, specifically, Woodland, Strong Rock, Stockbridge, Luella, Dutchtown, Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy, Eagle’s Landing, Hampton, Locust Grove, Union Grove, and Henry County. “This is for bragging rights in Henry County to the best school.” Said Coach Torrance McGee.

Before the race, Coach Torrance McGee and Assistant Coach Terri Keitt called the seniors before the group to recognize them in an unscheduled version of “Senior Night” with a gift. The real Senior Night was to be held the next night with other teams from the athletics department, but because three of the athletes were unable to attend, McGee decided to have Senior Night a day early to celebrate with the whole group. Lastly, after the seniors had received their gift in shiny gold and green bags, the coaches asked them to give words of advice to the underclassmen. “Have fun.” Said Caleb Blanton. “Study hard.” Offered Nick Farley. “Have determination.” Advised Westley Meadows. Finally, the seniors rejoined the group and the team separated to begin the pre-game rituals.

As the team members walked down the sloping field to walk a portion of the trail before running it, the temperature was sixty seven degrees with a few innocent clouds scattered across the sky. On the best type of weather for a race, Derek Gooch, junior, said “This is probably it. Great weather for running.”

The girls finished previewing the path before the boys and went to a red dirt track to begin their warm ups. They began by preforming the hip flexer and as they did so, discussed how this race differed from other races this season. Unlike previous races, in this race, varsity and junior varsity runners ran together. McGee explained, “The reason they’re running together is because it’s going to get dark soon, there’s no lighting out here and so they’re just running everybody together and the way all the coaches agreed the top seven runners who come in for your team, if they’re not middle schoolers, score for your team.” Because Ola Middle School does not have a cross country team, there are two middle school students on the Ola High School Cross Country Team, Beau Brennan and Peter Nelson.

As the girls went through their stretches, they talked about why they run and admitted that, at times, they even regret their decision. “I’m quitting cross country.” Said, Kendall Micks, junior, “That’s what I say to myself every time.” Yet Micks continues to attend meets, despite the challenge. Alyssa Ontiveros explained why she chooses to run cross country, “I like the people on the team.” Ian Bramble, sophomore, runs for the same reason, “It really brings people together.” He said, “Because really it’s a sport that you don’t have require a lot of skill you just have to be able to go.”

The girls began their race first at five forty five. All of the female runners lined up in a long row across a stretch of the historic battlefield and, at the starting signal, descended upon the course. The spectators cheered and watched until the runners made their first turn. Then the onlookers began to trudge back through the tall weeds to where the tents were erected to support the runners as they ran past. The Ola boy’s team carried the O L A flags and met the girls with encouraging words. As the first girls neared the finish line, the spectators surrounded the home stretch and rooted for their teams as the girls powered through the last few yards. The first girl to cross the finish line represented Eagle’s Landing. Cassidy Wright, junior, led the Ola girls. Natalie Mangual, freshman, who had been leading the girls for the past few meets had an exercise induced asthma attack and struggled to catch her breath after she crossed the finish line. She soon recovered, however, and joined the other girls when they went to cheer on the boys.

In the interest of finishing the meet before the sky got too dark, the boy’s race began right after the girl’s race ended. Just as the boys had done for them, the girls supported the boys along the way and lined the path to the finish line when they began to get within the home stretch. Again, the first boy to cross the finish line was from Eagle’s Landing. The first boy from Ola to finish the 5k race was Deonte Lee, sophomore. When asked for his time he replied that he did not even look at the timer as he crossed the finish line. “Awful, that was terrible.” He said, reacting to his performance in the race. He said that heading up the Ola boys was not a goal of his and stated that his true aim for the race was to get a time “Somewhere in the seventeens.” “I did it before. I’ll try to get back there again.” He stated. Thus far this season Lee’s best time has been seventeen minutes and forty three seconds, the best time out of any of the boys. The best time for the girls was earned by Natalie Mangual at the AT&T Panther Invitational, and stands at twenty five minutes and thirty two seconds.

After this meet the teams will be preparing for regional championships on October 25. The top four teams at the regional championships go to state. McGee said the team would have gone to state last year but was held back by a difference of only thirty seconds.

This is McGee’s first year as head cross country coach. McGee says, “Our model for this year has been ‘work together’. We had some adversity within the team and everything and everybody stayed together and that’s what a family is all being about.” Yet even though the team has had to adjust to a new coach and his different techniques, McGee said that the team is “gelling”. Asked to name the most exciting moment of the season McGee said, “Today. Because the team is still together. Despite everything that went on the teams has stuck together, so today is the most exciting day.”