SMNW XC has energy level despite low attendance at summer conditioning
Despite the success that the Shawnee Mission Northwest cross country team has had over the years, it has not directly correlated to the attendance at the Cougars' summer conditioning program.
While head coach Van Rose would have liked to see some higher numbers at summer conditioning, he hasn't been disappointed with the efforts put forth by the runners who have consistently shown up.
"We never do get that many kids. We probably operate on about 20 percent of our team that will show up for our morning runs and it kind of varies," Rose said. "It's never been a huge deal. We'd like it to be, but it hasn't. I wish it was. The varsity level kids — they're here."
Several of the runners who have attended conditioning throughout the summer participated in the Lenexa Freedom Run on the Fourth of July. The Freedom Run has traditionally been well-attended by past, present and future SM Northwest runners, but it was not the only 5K that a few of the Cougars ran this summer.
Senior Luke Sabus competed in the Bowerman 5K — which is named after legendary coach and Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman — while he was on vacation in Oregon.
"It was really cool. I expected a lot of people to be there, but there were only about 1,000 people there — a lot less than the Freedom Run," Sabus said. "It was a really nice day and it was around the Nike campus, so it was a really cool experience to run with some college athletes and some Bowerman 5K people."
Sabus joins fellow seniors Michael Scott and Eric Maxon and juniors Noah Gruman, Spencer Kaleko and Ben Harrell as returners from last year's SM Northwest boys team that placed eighth at the state meet. While Sabus acknowledged that it's nice to have a core group of runners back from last year, but he's also excited about the possibility of some underclassmen being added to the mix.
"I feel like we're really pushing each other to be better. We're going to have a really good team because we have a lot of people coming up that could be varsity," Sabus said. "There are a lot of people fighting for those spots. There is going to be a lot of really good competition between the team, so it's going to be really fun."
The SM Northwest girls team will try to build off of a fourth-place finish at the state meet last year, but the Cougars will be starting the season without two-time defending state champion Molly Born, who is still wearing a boot after her junior track season ended early due to a broken foot. Born has been able to do some cross-training to keep her fitness level up.
While Born led the way for the Cougars last season, junior Riley Demo and sophomores Kiara Stamati, Amy Kowalczewski and Gracie Goodpaster will all return from last year's state team.
"We're all praying for Molly and hope she makes a quick recovery and she seems to be doing really good," Goodpaster said. "We're also excited to see what we can do as a team without her, too, because we've always had her from an advantage point. We get to see kind of where we're at without her."
After Goodpaster, Stamati and Kowalczewski were able to contribute immediately as freshmen last year, they're excited to see if the Cougars can have a few more newcomers step up this fall.
"There have been some really hot days, but we're all working as a team," Goodpaster said. "We've been kind of switching things up a bit and making sure that the freshmen are involved this year a lot, too. It's fun."
While Rose has been pleased with mileage that his varsity returners have put in this summer, he can tell that they're eager to get the season rolling.
"I think they're probably looking for a new place to run," Rose said. "We've been here all summer long and they want a new environment. We don't go over to Northwest and run at all, so that will be a new thing for us."