It’s been a more than solid season for Van Wert High School’s boys’ and girls’ cross country teams.
The Cougars finished 17th out of 31 teams at last weekend’s pretigious Valkyrie Invitational in Louisville, Kentucky, and before that finished 15th at the highly competitive Elite Race at the Marion, Indiana Invitational. In addition, Van Wert won the Wayne Trace Invitational.
Meanwile, Caylee Phillips has led the ever improving Lady Cougars with two individual titles and a runner-up finish, and Van Wert head coach Ryan Holliday said this season’s success between the two teams is due to the his athletes buying into the program.
“My biggest goal for this season was to work hard on our program’s culture and hope we could collectively take a big step forward,” Holliday explained. “Our guys and girls bought in to that vision in a huge way, made it their own, and have run with it (no pun intended).”
“They are striving to be the cross country program in Ohio that has the most fun and is the best at becoming better versions of themselves each day.” Holliday added. “Granted, like any other team, we have faced setbacks and adversity. We know that’s part of the process, but on the whole, my expectations have not only been met but been exceeded by the way our guys and girls have pushed their program’s culture forward this year.”
Holliday went on to stress that success so far has also being the by-product of an extremely strong work ethic.
“We have definitely been growing in our work ethic,” Holliday explained. “Our girls have taken a big step forward this year in that way, particularly in their commitment to summer running. Our guys, likewise, put in a fantastic summer. That solid summer and the work ethic they established has carried over into our season.”
“We are always working on getting better at being mentally tough when our running gets tough – whether that’s in workouts or races. We definitely have room to grow in that area, but the athletes have pushed our culture forward in that way.”
While enjoying the results he’s seen so far this season, Holliday noted there have been some pleasant surprises.
“Hannah Kraner, a senior who hadn’t run high school cross country, made the last minute decision in late July to join the team. She has been an incredibly positive addition to our team with her attitude, her work ethic, and simply who she is – she’s a great kid,” Holliday stated. “We’re so glad she decided to join and it’s been fun to watch her improve this season. It has been very rewarding to watch Caylee Phillips continue her development as a person and as a runner. She has always had the tools to be a front runner, but she has taken her work ethic, her consistency, and her confidence to new levels this season – and she’s seeing the results.”
“On the guys’ side we have four fantastic freshmen (Jacob Sealscott, Hunter Sherer, Bobby Spath and Gage Wannemacher) that have been great contributors to our team and our culture. They are high character guys and come from great families. They bring positive attitudes and work extremely hard. Also, they are fortunate to have incredible senior captain leadership to look up to this year (Gage Chiles & Noah Carter), so they are learning the ropes and seeing examples of what it means to be a member of our program from some of the best.”
Holliday went to further praise team leaders, noting that they’ve raised the bar and pushed things in a positive way for the younger kids and the program as a whole.
“Senior captain Caton Williamson has provided that solid, steady senior leadership that any team needs,” Holliday said. “I’m so proud of her for seeing it through over the last few years and embracing her new leadership role this year.”
“Junior captain Caylee Phillips has given incredible leadership, both by example on the course and through vocal leadership off the course. Junior Bri Bebout and sophomore Rachel Spath have also both stepped up big and thrived in their leadership roles.”
“For our guys, seniors Gage Chiles and Noah Carter have been about two of the best senior captains a coach could ask for. They lead well both through their words and through their actions. Junior captain Holden Reichert is the heart of our team. He has grown as a leader through words, actions, and through the passion and energy he brings to our team every day.”
Van Wert will compete in the 40th annual Van Health Health Invitational this Saturday.