By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– On the track at McKay High School, the Royal Scot Cross Country team starts practice as they always have:
Doing something fun.
For Wednesday’s third practice, it was a raffle for some team swag as they prep for the 40 minute run ahead.
It’s all to have fun and grow together as a team. Weither it’s playing music during practices, the coaches buying inflatable pools for ice baths, team dinners and trips to Sliver Falls a week before Fall Practice; it’s all in the name of fun in a grueling sport.
“We have to have fun,” said Head Coach Arch Zellick. “Cross Country is grueling. If all I did was come out here and yell at them and make them run and not do anything fun then I won’t have half these kids out here.
“So we try to have as much fun as possible, so they can keep working hard.”
Floating around were some of the 13 graduated seniors from the 2015 team like Andrea Fennimore, who was finishing up her own work out as practice was starting.
“It’s definitely different,” said Fennimore. “But you’re kind of on the outs now and kind of get this different perspective. It’s a cool perspective to see, like it’s a coach’s perspective. It’s just cool to see it in a different way and be a part of it, be a part of the team, but not actually on the team.
“These kids are definitely lucky to be here. I mean I’m happy to be going to college, but will definitely miss Cross Country and other teams.”
With a young team this year, the three or four seniors on the 2016 team know they need to step up to be the leaders that they need to be for the future of the McKay Cross Country team.
Victoria Orduno points to making everyone feel welcome and support everyone in the race as the seniors before them did last year.
“You know, it’s going to be tough at first, but it’ll get a lot better,” said Orduno. “We’ve all been there and we try to be good co-captains and try to help everyone.”
Marquita Ritchey adds that with one of their coaches expecting a child late in the season, it is important for her, Orduno and the other seniors to pick up the pace for the absence of their coach.
“Our coach Megan is going to be expecting a baby and her due date might be on the day of Districts,” said Ritchey. “So we’re going to have Coach Taylor, he’s going to be the only one out there, so we have to have our seniors step up and take over and maybe be the guiding hand for the juniors who are going to be seniors next year.”
On the guys side, senior Diego Paniagua knows that support will be crucial for the success for the young team.
“I learned that,” started Paniagua. “Support through everything and make them know that your there, supporting them.”
For Zellick, the fifth-year head coach of the Scots team has high expectations for the young team.
Yeah, he believes that he has a few athlete’s that can push for State Berths, but the biggest thing, the expectation for his team, is to get the young runners accustomed to the tasks that him and the other McKay coaches require of them.
“Biggest expectation really is getting the young kids to see what it is to take apart of the team, what it takes to work and what it takes to stay out here,” said Zellick. “Our expectations are high on how hard we work them. We expect a lot out of them and we expect a lot out of them every day they are here and we really want to make sure that the new kids know what it takes to be a part of the team and get them to a point in where they do everything they can to stay apart of the team.”
As the weather continue to heats up to the triple-digits the next few days, the team is excited for the season to start here with their first meet in Wilsonville on August 26.
“I’m so pumped, it’s senior year so I’m going out with a bang,” said an excited Ritchey. “I’m so excited.”
Zellick knows that this season gives him an opportunity to crop the next core group of runners and athletes within his program.
“I’m excited, I’m super excited. So this is my fifth year, and the class that I started with was the core of this team graduated last year,” Zellick said. “So this is the first year that I’ve had without that group that just graduated. I’m really excited to see who steps up in the leadership position and help maintains what this team has been over the past few years.
“So I’m super excited to see where it goes and just excited to create a new wave of McKay kids that are proud to be on the team.”
Follow Jeremy McDonald on Twitter at @J_McDonald81 or like jmcdonaldmedia on Facebook!