With 3 freshmen leading way, Maranatha girls cross country has makings of a dynasty
Additional talent coming in next year could bolster already close-knit squad
The Maranatha Academy girls cross country team is fresh off a 2011 Class 2A state championship. The gleam on the trophy and the Eagles’ collective smiles are still bright enough to make you shade your eyes.
The team’s title is still a fresh topic of conversation in the hallways.
Yet, it’s easy for supporters — and casual observers — to look past the accomplishment and onto the seasons ahead, because this team has plenty of one commodity: youth.
The top three Eagle runners this season were freshmen, and the fourth was a sophomore. Freshmen Lauren Farrell and Hope Manning battled each other weekly for the top spots in races with Farrell saving her best for the state meet at Wamego Country Club where she finished second overall.
Manning finished 13th overall at state, and freshman Taylor Morrow nabbed a 15th-place medal.
So, with all that youth and speed, do we have the makings of a Maranatha girls cross country dynasty?
“That’s kind of yet to be seen,” said Bianca Williams, Maranatha cross country coach, when asked if her young team can build on the success of a championship season. “For the most part, they’re strong runners, which would bode well for them in the future. We do have some strong girls who will be coming in as freshmen next year. I just really see the younger girls continuing to do well. With their work ethic and the tightness — the close-knit feeling of the team — they should stay strong.”
Farrell and Manning led the Eagles all season with top performances brought out by a willingness to push each other while they were out ahead. Morrow was consistently the Eagles’ third option while sophomore Christa Johnson — who placed 32nd at state — almost always rounded out the top four. With all of those athletes returning in 2012, some may consider Maranatha to be the odds-on favorite to repeat as the Class 2A state champion. However, Williams has seen this before.
In cross country, especially at some of the smaller divisions such as Kansas 1A, 2A and 3A, state titles and top times are often run by younger female runners who often don’t reach the top 10 as upperclassmen. The physical changes some female runners undergo in high school sometimes change the nature of their body movements and — at times — make long, pounding races tricky.
Williams believes, however, that this group might be able to train well enough to make those body changes a non-issue.
“With these girls, they’re active throughout the year and, mainly, that’s what they need to do, stay active,” Williams said. “If you have a girl that runs throughout the year and keeps running, their bodies adapt.”
Still, Williams is a realist, and realizes that just about anything could happen in the next few years, and some of those things might block the construction of a cross country dynasty.
“In a perfect world we could have all our girls getting faster that way,” Williams stated. “These girls have some natural talent and natural ability, but the reality is that sometimes things don’t pan out that way. You have injuries. You have people move away. You have no way of knowing.”
That doesn’t mean that they aren’t going to try.