A Look Inside the Team - St. Andrew's Cross Country
St. Andrew's, a school with a rich history of tradition and success, looks to maintain its authority as the top 3A team this year. This past week I visited my alma mater to observe in third person what makes the team unique.
The team consists of approximately 40 high-school and middle-school athletes who are not divided into Varsity and JV. Having the team unified elicits a desirable "ripple effect" where team members push and pull each other to succeed, says Head Coach Price Chadwick. That is, the slowest runner pushes the second slowest runner, the second slowest runner pushes the third slowest runner, and so on, until this chain reaction reaches the fastest runner. The significance of this tradition, according to the team's lead runner Luis Flores, is that it "puts middle-schoolers in a difficult, yet constructive environment." This "iron sharpens iron" mentality, says Flores, in turn brings out the best effort from everyone.
Another key principle in St. Andrew's dogma is to build a joy for the sport and responsibility. Coach Chadwick believes that by making running "not burdensome, not work, just therapy," the team's approach can shift from "let's get through this workout" to "what more can we do?" This "spirit of running," according to Coach Chadwick, renews every year as "the seniors impart this onto the younger runners," all which is likely a side effect of the large team structure as mentioned previously.
According to co-captain Jack Archer, the team has managed to maintain a team atmosphere that can be both strict and fun. Striking a healthy balance, the team can be jovial at times, yet they know that during a workout, the attention must be directed at the work at hand.
This coming cross country season, St. Andrew's will be
shooting for it's 7th consecutive state championship. The intriguing consistency of the team comes
from this notion that "success breeds success," explains Coach Chadwick. Minimizing exterior variables, Coach Chadwick looks
at his duty in terms of inspiring runners to do their best while not getting in
the way of their success.
Though their chief competition, Mooreville High School, is
transitioning to 4A, the team has not let this shift their focus. When asked about the news, co-captain John
Spencer Jones noted, "there's not as much pressure, but just as much drive." The runners know that they cannot let down
their guard, as they never know what competition might step up and surprise.
Leading the charge for St. Andrew's will be junior Luis
Flores, who is looking to rebound from what he described as "disappointing"
sophomore cross country and track seasons. After a high-quality summer of training, he has
his eyes set on breaking 17:00 en route to the individual state championship. Flores, who placed 3rd at last
year's state meet while setting his PR of 17:35, is set to head off against
formidable rival Ichukashhelohah Solomon, a senior from Choctaw Central. For Flores to pull off the victory, Coach Chadwick
believes he must attain the confidence to push in races when nobody is around.
Coach Chadwick, as the 2016 USTFCCCA Mississippi Boys High School Cross Country Coach of the Year, works to keep the sport in perspective. Being a physics teacher, he understands the importance of balancing the academic world and athletic world, and he believes that in the end, academics take priority for these talented student-athletes.