Top 2016 Team Finish: 3rd NXN Southeast, 4A Boys 1st VHSL State Cross Country Champions
Analysis: This squad was already a strong contender for the top ranking in the country with their full top seven from 2016 returning for 2017. But the addition of Sam Affolder solidified their preseason No. 1 spot. The guys are two-time defending Virginia class 4A state champions, led by the 2016 individual state champion Peter Morris. Adding Flo50 No. 15 ranked Sam Affolder, who finished 40th last year at Foot Locker as a sophomore, elevates them to the next level.
It's not just these two runners that put the Loudoun Valley squad first in our rankings, but also their talent in the third through seventh positions and beyond. The team has already competed at the Great Meadow Invitational this season where they showed off their depth: sitting their top eight, they still finished third overall in the boys Varsity A race.
Loudoun head coaches Marc and Joan Hunter answered a few questions about their teams upcoming season. See their answers below.
1. How long have you been a Coach? How many of those years have been at your current school?
Joan and I started coaching in the fall of 1988. I was at South Lakes High School in Reston, Virginia, and Joan coached at James Madison High School in Vienna, Virginia. In the fall of 1994 we joined forces at South Lakes and coached there until 1998. We quit coaching to raise our family (nine children) and became coaches again at Loudoun Valley High School in Purcellville, Virginia, in the fall of 2014. Between the South Lakes gig and the Loudoun Valley gig, we started a youth track program called NOVA AC (Northern Virginia Athletic Club) which we are still doing.
2. What is your meet schedule this fall?
The Varsity athletes will run this schedule:
9/9 PTXC Inv -- Kutztown, PA
9/16 Oatlands Inv. -- Leesburg, VA
9/23 Loudoun County Championships -- Purcellville, VA
10/7 Great American Classic - Cary, NC
10/25 District Championships
11/1 Regional Championships
11/11 State Championships
11/25 NXR Southeast & Footlocker South
3. How has summer training gone for your team? What do you focus on during the summer months?
It has gone very well. We have a handful of kids and parents who do not yet understand that cross country is a summer sport so those kids are a bit behind as we start official practice, but all in all we have accomplished everything we set out to do from a training perspective. The varsity boys team is aware of the hype and maybe is a bit more focused than they normally would be. Because of the potential length of the season, we have yet to do much timed quality work with this group, as well as our varsity girls group. The rest of the team has started the combo workouts we mention below. Summer months, as with any solid high school program, are for getting in the routine, increasing mileage, running hilly routes, a little bit of fartlek, lots of strides, building that long run. Keep the ball rolling forward and being consistent . . . nothing too earth-shattering!
4. Which athletes do you see as the probable top five this season?
We have our top six returning from last year in this order: Peter Morris, Colton Bogucki, Jacob Hunter, Jacob Windle, Chase Dawson, and Kevin Carlson. We added transfers Sam Affolder and Connor Wells. From these eight guys we will, most likely, get our top seven for this year.
5. Who are your team captains or leaders and what stands out about them as examples for the rest of their teammates?
This is the first year we have installed team captains. I have a list of 10 criteria that I use to select a captain; you have to meet at least eight of the criteria to become a Loudoun Valley cross country captain. Four boys have reached that level: Colton Bogucki, Peter Morris, Adam Broshkevitch, Chase Dawson. On the girls side, it is Natalie Morris and Noelle Saine. All happen to be seniors and all have been with me for four years or more (for those who were with our youth team before high school). First off, they are all excellent students. Second they are good athletes. Third, they are good leaders, especially by example and work ethic. Fourth, they are good role models. I will stop there. These six kids are why we are who we are, at this point in the program. Without these six kids and the support of their parents, we are a middle-of- the-road program at best.
6. Who are some new faces who will make an impact on your team this year (i.e. freshmen, transfers, runners who have improved a lot)?
Obviously, the addition of Sam Affolder was a big catch for us. Sam was arguably the top 10th-grade distance runner in the country last year and pushes us from a top five team to a team in the discussion to win a national championship. Not to be overlooked, Connor Wells has also moved to Loudoun Valley this year. Connor ran 9:40 and 4:28 as a freshman and was a very good Cross Country runner last fall. He was injured in gym class last year and missed the entire track season so we are working to get him healthy. He has the potential to make our top seven and would be an added bonus if he is able to race for us this year. Every year I think we cannot possibly have a freshman make the Varsity but every year since we took over the program at least one freshman has made our top seven. Sam O'Brien, Luke Affolder, and Connor Mock are possible candidates to keep that trend going. We have a scrum of boys, mostly sophomores, that are all grinding to maybe steal a top seven spot away from one of the current members of that group. In fact, I am hoping that our second group of seven can win an invitational or two this year! On the girls side, freshman Ricky Fetterolf is the real deal. She is extremely humble and has a great attitude, and has some training background since she came from our youth team. We are trying hard to bring the girls program -- three consecutive runner-up spots in the Virginia State meet -- in-line with the boys program and getting a kid like her helps.
7. What are some staple workouts your team does during the season?
Our staple workout is a combination workout that includes critical velocity reps (reps run at about 8K pace, usually 800's to 1200's) followed by some faster hills (sometimes short and very fast, sometimes longer and slower) and often we finish with something fast on the flat. The workout we did yesterday was pretty standard for us. The 200 hill reps actually have a little downhill section followed by a flat stretch at the finish.
Other elements that appear regularly in our training are a weekly long run, lots of strides, hills in various forms, and lots of easy paced running, and one other stamina focused workout, either a tempo run, a progression, or some threshold reps. We also do a lot of supplemental work like weights, circuits, hurdle mobility, wickets.
8. What will be the biggest reason why your team is successful this season?
For the boys -- staying healthy. The talent is there, the motivation is there so doing the little things to stay healthy will dictate our ultimate success. On the girls side, I would say staying motivated and confident. I really want them to strive for bigger goals and have the confidence that they can move up the team results list at NXR if they begin to believe in themselves.
9. What will be the biggest obstacle or challenge facing your team this season?
I think being ranked preseason No. 1 may lend itself to overlooking the regional qualifier. There are some really good teams in the Southeast that could supplant us if our minds are set on NXN and not NXR. Another obstacle is the amount of rest we get, or don't get. Our kids are such highly motivated students who, from an athletic recovery standpoint, don't always get the needed rest/recovery. If we were blessed enough to qualify for NXN, I would say the muddy race conditions and cross-country travel will pose concerns. As mentioned above, the girls, I think, may feel overlooked because of the success of the boys, so we have a bit of a confidence issue facing the team. They are a good team and need to believe that.
10. How would you describe your team's culture?
When we first took over the program our No. 1 goal, by far, was to change the culture as far as practice attendance. In fact, in that first year, we had 8-10 veteran runners who were not willing to either give up their jobs, give up their summers, sacrifice, commit, etc. So they either quit, were cut from the team, or chose not to come out. Practice attendance is still a focus for us and we continue to harp on it. Parents would never think of allowing their kids to miss a football practice or a basketball practice but for some reason a cross country practice is fair game. We are trying to instill a culture of commitment -- a commitment to get better every day (we call it "win the day") and it all starts with attending practice. The reason we have steadily improved is because our kids/parents are buying into the culture and importance of the daily grind. Our top 30 boys attend more practice than our next 30 boys; that is why they are better. Our boys team attends more practice than our girls team, that is why they are more successful.
11. What are your top three goals for the team this fall?
Boys - Stay Healthy/Get Sleep, Qualify for NXN, win at NXN!
Girls -- Be confident, Podium at States, Shock Themselves at NXR.