Loyd Star, West Lincoln compete in practice meet to kickoff Cross Country season

Published 3:01 pm Friday, August 12, 2022

WEST LINOCLN — Runners from West Lincoln and Loyd Star Schools ran a practice meet on the Bear’s home course Tuesday afternoon. The meet is a transition from the summer training into the competitions in the fall with West Lincoln running next week in the Ole Brook Invitational. 

Loyd Star Sophomore Gauge Montgomery turned in the fastest time with 18:40 on the three mile course followed closely by West Lincoln sophomore Hayden Skates at 19:23 and Hornet freshman Cooper Creel at 19:30. West Lincoln junior Alaina Mathis was the fastest girl on the course 

“I was nervous ahead of today but towards the end it felt good. I didn’t expect to get out there in the front,” Montgomery said. “It was the first time I’ve run a 3 mile race.” 

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He started running track last year and after a strong season decided to give Cross Country a try. Over the summer, he has run on his own with football and baseball demanding a lot of his time. He said he preferred cross country over track. 

“I have run since I was little and I have always enjoyed it,” he said. “In a race, I pick a guy and try to beat him. Cooper is a good opponent.” 

Creel was hot on Skate’s heels until the last stretch when the gap between the two opened up. He had missed a lot of the team’s practices over the summer because of football practice and baseball. 

He said has ran since he was a kid and Cross Country is one of the ways he has stayed in shape for other sports. A love for competition is what drives him in his runs. 

Head Coach Russel Craig said his two runners are great role models for the team because of the work they put in at home over the summer. They had been on a mileage plan of 50 miles a week, Creel said. 

“I trust them. It is nice as a coach when you can trust them,” Craig said. “They are really working hard. It is great leadership for this team.” 

Montgomery said his goal this year is to run a sub 18 minute 5k. Creel said his goal is to beat 18:30 but his goal might change depending on how his running goes. Already, he is looking forward to state and the competition. 

“During the race, I just think don’t let that guy beat me and towards the end you are thinking about slowing down,” Creel said. “What gets me through it is the competition. I tell myself you can’t fall short. You work too hard to walk… I’m looking forward to the state meet. I’m looking forward to Choctaw trails. It is just a good course. It isn’t too hard to run on and it is the final race. It is a lot cooler then so it feels great to run.” 

Loyd Star has a squad full of boys but no girl runners at the moment. Craig said he hopes it changes in the future and they get more girls out running cross country. 

West Lincoln Veteran runners

Heat was a challenge during the practice meet as they started running at 4 p.m. in a blazing hot sun. West Lincoln’s course winds through the woods, around the baseball fields, makes a loop around the football practice field and up a hill. 

Skates said the course did not have many shaded spots. He added it was a great way to see the other competition in the county. 

“We wanted to see Loyd Star and their competition. I wanted to see where I was,” Skates said. “I’m content. It has been hot and there is not a lot of shade on this course. I’m content with my run today. The guys from Loyd Star have trained as hard as we have.” 

Mathis said the practice meet was exciting because it gets the season going. They have practiced as a team twice a week over the summer. She said Skates and her have been at the practices most days and they went to a cross country camp at Blue Mountain College. 

Her brother ran cross country at West Lincoln so she has been exposed to the sport and learned what it takes to be a runner. She has then shared it with her younger teammates as West Lincoln has a young squad.

“I started teaching them discipline and attitude change. Cross Country is something you have to do by yourself but we try to show them if you are walking or hurting we are right there beside you trying to help you along,” Mathis said. “At Blue Mountain, We learned leadership and how to work together as a team. We did a workout every day and no one complained. It was a hard workout. We learned running isn’t about how fast your legs are, you have to use your whole body to run. You don’t have to be the fastest or oldest to lead.” 

This year is a rebuilding year for the bears, Skates said. By this time next year, West Lincoln as a team should be competing highly. This is in part due to Mathis and Skates setting the tempo at practices. Skates said they held a devotional at practices during the summer. 

“We are doing this for the Glory of God. I love running but I am trying to inspire these kids and be a good role model,” Skates said. “I love running. You get to meet a lot of new people.”