San Juan High School cross country looking to build strong team

As Will and Holly Walker enter their eighth season coaching the San Juan High School Cross Country Team, they are excited about the prospect of a full squad.

Many student athletes, specifically from south of Blanding, who were unable to participate last season due to the San Juan School District’s no-busing policy might be returning this year.

Holly Walker reports that the team has been working out during the off season with a running club the coaches created that includes both junior high and high school runners. It’s actually a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization called Love 2 Run San Juan and welcomes athletes from ages 11 to 18.

She says part of the program is a “200/400 mile club kids can run over the summer no matter where life takes them.” Though official high school cross country practice only began this week, she says those who participated in the summer running club consistently are looking strong and determined.

The Walkers are hoping for a large group of runners this fall, but the full makeup of the team won’t be realized until school begins. In addition, there will be a bit of rebuilding due to the loss of seven strong runners from the 2020 season – five senior boys and two senior girls.

Coach Walker responded to a bevy of questions from the San Juan Record via email. Here’s what she had to say as the Bronco harriers get set to begin the 2021 cross country season:

Q: You lost seven seniors from last year’s team. Are there any strong young runners coming up?

A: Edward Lyman and Ryan McCullough (sophomores) will be contenders this year as well as incoming freshman Abe Lyman. For the girls it’s still to be determined, but there is a very strong group of middle school girls who have been working incredibly hard this summer. I’m excited to see them develop with their program.

Q: Have any runners surprised you with their growth and performance since last year?

A: Lyman has grown tremendously since last year in stature and ability. Evan Monsen has a ton of potential, and Spencer Jensen should never be underestimated. For the girls, captain Sofie Hook has really stepped up and her growth as a leader has been felt over the summer. She has worked tirelessly helping the younger girls.

Q: Who do you expect to step up into leadership roles this season?

A: Our boys captains are Spencer Jensen and Daniel Jolley. Girls captains are Sofie Hook, Ella Lyman, and Saylor Perkins. All have great talent as leaders and are excited for the season to begin.

Q: Where do you expect to have strengths this year?

A: Our boys team is determined to place well in the region and qualify for state. Having been in 3A with teams quadruple ours in size, our boys have struggled to compete.

The drop to 2A will benefit them as we’ll be competing with teams similar in size and ability to our team. Our girls team this year has strong leadership and most of the team are experienced runners.

Q: In what areas might you need work?

A: Our girls team is short in numbers this year so far. We’d love to have more girls join us!

Q: What do you hope to accomplish as a team this season?

A: Cross country is unique in that it’s an individual team sport. Each runner is racing themself, trying to drop their times, improve their performances, gain mental and physical strength, and develop endurance.

More than that, cross country teaches you how to push through obstacles and pain and do more than you ever thought possible. And you get to do it with some of your best friends. As a team, we want each individual to discover their individual potential and work together to have their best season ever.

Q: Moving back to 2A, do you know much about your competition?

A: When we were 2A before we never competed against any of the schools in our current region except South Sevier, so all I know is what I’ve learned by looking at last season’s race times.

We don’t plan to compete in our region much due to the extreme distances and travel times. But we will compete enough to assess the strengths and vulnerabilities of the other teams and how ours match up with theirs.

Walker added an appeal to anyone who might be reading:

“We really need more girls on our team and would love more boys too. If you’ve thought about running or wondered whether cross country might be for you, come join us for preseason practices. They’re Mondays through Fridays at 3:30 p.m. at the track.

“It won’t be easy but it will be one of the most fulfilling things you can do for yourself and can be a lot of fun too. As Easton Nielson said, ‘Don’t lose what you could have because of the price it takes to get there.’ Challenge yourself, set aside your fear, and join cross country!

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