Athens Drive cross country team starting off strong

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Photos by @athensxc_tf on Instagram

Senior Mason Jaeger of the varsity squad competes in the Friday Night Lights cross-country event. The Athens Drive boys team finished three out of 33, while six girls finished under 22 minutes respectively.

Athens Drive High School has always been a formidable opponent in the cross-country scene and the current 2022-2023 varsity season has been no exception. The runners are feeling energized and ready to carry on their shared goals of bringing home the championship. 

The team is spearheaded by Krister Sjoblad and Noah Valyo for the men’s team, while for the women’s it is the sister duo of Grace and Ella Anderson. The returning head coaches are Lori Lair and Allison Cornelius. Cornelius is a new coach, having under five years under her belt with three as co-head coach and one as an assistant coach. 

I enjoy coaching cross country because we have all different ability levels, yet everyone is a part of the team all the same, and all the athletes always cheer each other on,” said Cornelius. 

Cross country is a competitive sport regardless of the team or school an athlete is a part of. It requires running throughout different types of terrain whether it be sloped or flat surfaces, or dirt or asphalt. The coaches give their athletes different routes and exercises to do every practice. Lap times are also important for each participant in cross country, as every athlete looks to better their times similar to how race car drivers would in a race. 

“Each year we do a time trial, to get a beginning time. After each meet, we announce everyone who has PRed, and they can see how much they improve over the course of the season,” said Cornelius.

This season is off to a solid start for Athens and their latest meetup at the annual Friday Light Nights; the boys finished third place out of 33 total spots and six girls finished with lap times under 22 minutes which was above average. With the way the team is currently performing as of now, at the state championship they seem to be a lock for the top fifth in the rankings. 

“The season is going great so far; we just finished up our second 5k, which has been our fourth race so far. Each time we finished, we ended up placed high,” said Mason Jaeger, senior runner of the Athens Drive Varsity team.

Jaeger has many goals coming into this current season. He wants to make it to the state championship and set a new personal best time under 16 minutes and 30 seconds for his upcoming run. The team goal is to win the state championship,  and the coaches have set a goal for all runners to finish with lap times of under 17 minutes. Jaeger says that cross-country mentality does not differ from any other sport, simply showing up with a positive mindset will go a long way. Track meets are social and competitive, and there are many opportunities to talk with your opponents. 

“Cross-country meets vary greatly on how they go, if you show up thinking you will do bad, then you will do bad. If you are motivated and in a good mood and want to work your tail off to get a better time, then that’s what will probably happen,” said Jaeger.

Another member of the team is senior Jacob Taylor. He is another bright spot on the team and is looking to also get a personal best under 16 minutes and 30 seconds in the upcoming 5K tournament. Taylor says team morale is strong, with teammates being highly supportive of each other which is probably why the team enjoys a high level of success. Notable teammates that he would like to point out are Krister Sjoblad, Noah Valyo, Connor O’Toole, and fellow interviewee Mason Jaeger who push him every day at practice to get better. He had faced adversity the past season before because he had an emergency appendectomy right before the regional race, so Taylor is coming back with something to prove. 

“Practice and training are taken seriously, with our head coaches planning routes and workouts for our runners to follow every day,” said Taylor.

Through rain and shine, asphalt or dirt, the Athens Drive Cross Country teams are looking to win it all this season. 

“Since I’ve been coaching, we have never qualified a team for the State meet. We have always qualified individuals, but never as a team. I think this year we can qualify both boys and girls,” says Cornelius.