Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Sedona Red Rock High School’s cross country program has made a comeback.
After nonexistence last season, 2016 Scorpions graduate Wyatt Stevenson took the reins for 2017.
Stevenson was unsure how many athletes would join, but now has 12 on his roster, and they all have potential.
“I can honestly say everyone on this team is a fast runner. It’s really neat to see that,” Stevenson said. “We’ve got lots of talented runners, lots of runners with huge hearts on them.”
There is a diverse array of runners on the team; some who are more of the sprinter or middle distance type, and others who are already more of the long distance mold.
For some it has been difficult readjusting to the greater amount of miles per week.
“It’s a big step from track, obviously, plus we have a new coach, and it’ll just be a better experience and more opportunities to push ourselves,” senior Nathan Hoyer said. “At first we were just easing into everything and now this week is where we really start to pick up what we’re doing in actual meets.”
Training began two weeks later than other teams. Despite the setback, the first-year coach is merely focused on getting his team prepared for each meet in the best way possible.
“I keep telling everyone if they stay focused and do the right things, they’ll get to where they need to be,” Stevenson said.
Daily training sessions vary between long and short distances, as well as in intensity. Sometimes they run trails and other times on flat ground.
A lot of it is pulled from Stevenson’s experience as a runner at Red Rock and the year he spent on Arizona Christian University’s team.
The Scorpions will only participate in six meets all season, something Stevenson wanted. The Desert Twilight, a nighttime race in Casa Grande, is one he looks forward to in particular for his athletes.
“We’re keeping the meets really low this year and the reason why is I really want the kids to take time to focus on themselves and learn about the sport and grow as athletes,” Stevenson said. “If they’re running races every single day with three days in between, they’re not going to be able to improve.”
Improvement is always a goal for any athlete, but Stevenson wants his runners to have fun with it, too.
One newcomer, who had never done cross country before, is already starting to enjoy it.
“I like it. I like the challenge,” freshman Serena Allen said. “It pushes me, it’s something new .... It’s getting easier, it’s actually fun now.”
A goal for this renewed Scorpions squad is to qualify for the state meet, in which the top five fastest runners qualify. Should they not make it as a team, individuals can qualify as well.
Half of the team is comprised of upperclassmen, and the other half is fresh faces. Stevenson expects the experienced ones to help teach their younger counterparts a thing or two, just as he did when he was at the school. But, he said, there is still a vacancy in the leadership department.
The first race of the year is the Payson Multi Meet on Wednesday, Sept. 6, at Payson Golf Course.