Preparing for Championship Season
“It’s October,” cross country running Head Coach Jim Eakin reminds the team before leading them on their warm-up. October is the beginning of the championship season, with the top fourteen JV boy and girl runners’ season culminating in racing the JV state meet at Coe-Brown on October 18th. Varsity, the top seven runners on the team, continues on for nearly another month after that. Consequently, cross country has the longest of any Hanover High School fall sports season. It begins with pre-season mid August and ends with the New England Championships on November 10th, adding up to nearly three months of solid training.
Mr. Eakin prepares the team for races using several strategies. First, he adds “surprises” to the ends of workouts. These consist of an additional set of laps or “Indian drills” around various fields (where everyone runs in a line and the person at the end has to run to the front by overtaking everyone) or hill repeats. He never posts workouts, often disclosing them one section at a time, so no one will save their energy in anticipation of subsequent “surprises.” The runners carry this mentality over to racing, running hard throughout the race, instead of saving all their energy for the finish.
Anything can happen on race day, and the varsity learned this first-hand at the Kennett Invitational. The trek to North Conway is over three hours of long, winding roads. After hitting traffic in the center of town half an hour before the girls’ race was scheduled to start, the team was forced to warm up by running to their race. Hopping off the bus with their racing flats in hand, the girls ran past coffee shops to the start of the race. Only having seen the 5K’s start and finish, the Hanover girls’ team proceeded to win the meet, with their top five runners finishing in the top ten overall. The boys’ team also did well, with three runners in the top ten finishers and a second place finish overall. The teams’ stellar performances under the circumstances show their strength and Mr. Eakin’s leadership.
The season may be winding down, but Mr. Eakin’s mental conditioning is only ramping up. His over thirty years of coaching experience has taught him when the team needs encouragement and when they need a reprimanding to remain focused. In the end, as he says about what he earns as a coach, “the check’s the same,” whether the athletes push themselves or not. He is there to remind his runners that the amount of effort they put in is solely up to each individual.
Caption: The Hanover High Cross Country JV girls team at the JV State Meet. Left to right: Anna Merrens, Sarah Fall, Bevin McDevitt, Madeline Keep, Delia Nahabedian, Erica Hinck, Katrina Wheelan, Kaiya Adam, Kalin McGowan, Aidan Bardos, Safiya Walker, Sarah Siegel, Alexis Williams, Eileen Daley, Kelsey Smith, and Isabelle Tuggle.
Photo Credit: Photo by Kay Torrey