Team: Loudoun Valley (VA)
Analysis: The returning NXN champions look to be the favorites this year again. They lost three seniors from last year's' squad but they return four of the top seven from that team in; Sam Affolder, Jacob Hunter, Connor Wells, and Kevin Carlson. They have also reloaded with guys like Jacob Windle and Kellen Hasle stepping up but also with some new talent in Mateo Barretto, Carlos Shultz, Taylor Ney and Christian Arellano. Overall with the depth of this team as they will be looking to repeat their State, Region and National Championships.
25 - 24 - 23 - 22 - 21 - 20 - 19 - 18 - 17 - 16 - 15
14 - 13 - 12 - 11 - 10 - 9 - 8 - 7 - 6 - 5 - 4 - 3 - 2 - 1
*These are the meets the Top 7 Boys will be entered;
8/25 - Great Meadow Inv.
*9/8 - PTXC in PA
*9/15 - Oatlands Inv.
*9/22 - Loudoun County Championships
9/29 - Oktoberfest Inv.
*10/6 - Great American
10/6 - Glory Days Inv.
10/13 - 3rd Battle Inv.
10/24 - District Championships
10/31 - Regional Championships
*11/9 or 10 - State Championships
* 11/24 - NXR SE
Training is going well. We are trying to mimic what we did last year with a slight increase in quality and quantity for our returning group. The focus shift is on the girls: we have spent a lot of mental energy trying to bring the girls program up a notch. The boys are on "auto-pilot" right now and many are getting their college visits out of the way, as well as ACT and SAT tests.
Affolder, Hunter, Wells, Carlson would be obvious choices for top 5 just because they were on the Natty Champ team last year. They better be looking over their shoulder for hard luck guys Jacob Windle and Kellen Hasle. Jacob had some upper respiratory issues last year and was never really able to show what he is capable of. Kellen was on our NXR Team, but caught a cramp and was not one of our top 7 so he and Jacob are extremely hungry this year.
Who are this years team captains or leaders? How does this years group best exemplify one of your 10 criteria to select a captain?
1) Dedicated to the sport; year-round commitment to Track and Cross Country
2) High character individual and respected by the coaches
3) Respected and liked by teammates
4) Leads by example
5) Good student
6) Not afraid to challenge teammates to get better
7) Not afraid to approach coaches about issues
8) Takes on responsibility; takes a lead role in organizing events
9) Recommends ways for the team to get better
10) Attends >95% of practices
Not sure it has grown but maybe matured. We absolutely love the fact that he wants to be a leader. Sam is a natural leader and is by far our most vocal leader. He has a tendency to get so hyped before a race that it affects the other guys. Marc is always saying, "Control your emotions" around Sam and the team, because they get so excited to race. We think Sam will take that to heart this year and try to get to the line with more stored up adrenaline. He knows that we have a chance to do something that has never been done before, repeat as Natty Champs, and will do everything in his power to ensure this happens.
Is there any pressure to repeat as the state, NXN Regional and NXN National Champions? If there is pressure is it more external or internal?
The pressure for us is down a notch this year because last year we went from also-rans to BOOM!, being ranked #1 in the pre-season. Everyone wanted a piece of us...we were quite popular, but with popularity comes exposure, and with exposure comes pressure and a loss of personal time. At one point last year, Marc had to put a moratorium on interviews, photo shoots, etc. because it became a bit overwhelming. This year, besides the National Rankings, we are not getting much press which is OK with us! So the pressure this year would be more internal, but after the way the boys handled the pressure last year the only worry I have this year is complacency. If that happens with any of the top guys, there are whole slew of guys ready to take their spot!
Ha, ha...trying to get into the mind of a high school kid is a trip! So I don't know what the boy's team mindset is. I know we have a bunch of hungry 2nd-teamers and hard luck guys that want nothing better than to be on that top 7. A quote Marc made on a post-nationals podcast last year may sum up what we hope is the mindset of the team this year: "I have seen this happen in sports where a team loses its identity or rests on its laurels once they become champions. That's our real challenge now. Before we were champions we chopped wood, took out the garbage and refrained from champagne. We lost 43 % of our National Championship squad to graduation so if we want to repeat we need to chop larger pieces of wood, take out heavier and smellier garbage, and we need to refrain from champagne and wine."
The aforementioned Jacob Windle and Kellen Hasle are poised to make an impact. We are really excited for these guys and we are rooting for them to do well. Also knocking on the door are a bunch of guys that had great track seasons for us last year: Alec Venable, Jeremiah Mussmon and Elliott Petersen. We also added top-level transfers Mateo Barretto, Carlos Shultz, Taylor Ney and Christian Arellano. It should be a scrum to make our top 7 and I would not be surprised if our top 7 changed by 2 or 3 guys every week we race. Our team is so deep that I would love to enter two club teams into the NXR SE meet and have already asked about the possibilities.
What are some staple workouts your team does during the season? Which workouts would you say helped you the prepare most for the competition, course conditions and overall NXN racing experience?
Our Tuesday combo workouts (CV 1000's , hill repeats, striders) on rainy days at Franklin Park prepare us the most for NXN. Marc always tells the boys that we are blessed when it is wet and muddy at the Park because it simulates what the conditions will be like at NXN. We have never raced well at the NXR course in Cary, NC for some reason, and it might be because we are always training on grass and the Cary course is such a firm surface...we really have nothing that simulates the NXR course. We also do a hilly long run each week, about 90 minutes, and we keep our long run in our training pretty much to the end of the season. Lots of strides, short hill reps, and short pickups are in the rotation as well. And very easy running on recovery days.
Most coaches would say that staying healthy would be the biggest reason to ensure team success, and we would normally say the same. However, because of the depth of our team, we could overcome illness or injury and still perform well. We think last year our boys demonstrated the ability to enjoy themselves and keep it fun despite a lot of hype and expectations, and honestly, that was a huge key to their success and will be this year as well.
What will be the biggest obstacle or challenge facing your team this season?
Lack of sleep. These kids are all good students, and many of them are very social, so the hope is that they are disciplined enough to put down the electronics, avoid late nights with friends, hit the books early, so they can get to bed early.
We are very happy with the team culture and would say it is very comparable to the culture of the team last year. The boys are good at policing themselves and nip any culture issues in the bud. We do have a few boys who have not bought into the culture (not in our top 20 kids) but they will eventually figure it out or not want to be part of the team anymore.
What are your top three goals for the team this fall?
From a competition perspective; we want to keep our streaks alive (1. State Individual Champion, 2. State Team Champions), and then, of course, 3. Repeat as National Champions. From a personal perspective; 1. Become men of high character 2. "Win the Day" - our team motto - wake up every morning with the goal of winning that day, 3. Get better at your trade (academically and athletically)