They only have had a few weeks to practice but members of the Muskie cross-country team are more than ready to kick off their season today at the SSSAA Time Trials in Thunder Bay.
The Muskies put in some good work over the weekend, competing at the 5K Pi Fun Run in Stratton on Saturday.
Head coach John Dutton said it was a good opportunity for his runners to get a base time down and gear up for the season ahead.
“It was a great day," he enthused. ”We had 23 runners out and were missing about eight.
“And their times were really good for this early in the season,” he added.
“I was especially pleased with my Grade 7/8 runners [as] for many it was their first 5K.”
Being that all NorWOSSA sports were pushed back a week due to school starting after Labour Day this year, Dutton said his athletes faced difficulties in having less time to prepare for the new season.
Still, he's hopeful and expectant that the black-and-gold will fare well this year.
“This week's time trial will be challenging for our runners," he conceded. ”Going back after Labour Day this year means that we are heading into Thunder Bay after only two weeks of training.
“As well, our Grade 7/8 runners will be competing against high school runners as this is a SSSAA time trial,” he added.
“But as always, our focus is on technique and pacing, and if we can keep those things under control, the personal best times and finishing places will be there for us,” Dutton assured.
“All of the athletes are running well and training hard, and we have a really good team spirit going into [today], so I am hopeful that we will do well.”
Dutton lauded the fact the Muskies have strong runners at all age levels and he's expecting they will represent Fort High well in competitions.
“The Grade 7/8 group has some exceptional athletes who already showed great promise with their Pi Run results, and my high school runners are hoping for the kind of success they enjoyed last season,” he noted.
“My junior girls team of Ashlyn Beck, Greta Fedoruk, Grace Kowal, and Jaida Norris are favoured to take top spot at NWOSSAA but anything can happen on race day,” he conceded.
Dutton added some names to watch for among the Grade 7 girls are Maddie Bliss and Kiera Fairnington, Aiden Jean for Grade 7 boys, and Lexi Gate, Leah Seguin, Chloe Dolyny, and Monica Ruppenstein for Grade 8 girls.
He also highlighted Montana Plasky and Emma Toriseva for Midget girls, Tori Toriseva and Alacea Yerxa for senior girls, and Stephan Dueck, James Furlong, Romeo Deafy, and Ben Olson for the junior and senior boys.
“Honestly, I could list the whole team when I am talking about strong competitors,” he remarked.
“Everyone works really hard in practice, attitudes are good, team spirit is high, and I think we are all going to have a great season.”
As for team goals this season, Dutton cited consistency in the runners' pacing as one of the main things to work on.
“Our team goals are the same as always," he stressed. ”We are working on consistency in their pacing, improving and maintaining proper running form, and building a strength and cardio base that will allow them to push themselves to the next level.
"We track times and pacing throughout the season, and compare results week-to-week and, for many, year-to-year.
“Our hope is to see steady and consistent improvement in their race and pace times," Dutton said. ”And hopefully that will also result in some podium finishes for us along the way.
“But mostly, our goal is just to get together four practices a week, have fun running fast, and in the end feel good about what we have accomplished.”