FSHS runners get head start on cross country season

When most of their classmates are sleeping, Free State High’s cross country runners are out preparing for next season.

The Firebirds run each weekday, starting at 7 a.m. outside of Munchers Bakery, and more than 25 boys and girls showed up Wednesday morning. That number will fluctuate between 20 and 40 runners throughout the summer.

“It’s really nice to get up and run in the morning because it’s a good way to start off your day and it’s cooler in the morning,” senior Marlee Yost-Wolff said. “So that’s always nice. Then it’s just fun because a lot of my friends do cross country so we always see each other in the morning.”

The goal for the runners is to log as many miles as possible during the summer so their legs become stronger and faster, as well as adjusting to the heat for when the season begins in August and September.

“It really helps,” senior Thomas Becker said. “In the fall, you can tell who has done it and who hasn’t, at the beginning of the season especially. It’s really good to get a baseline.”

The girls cross country team will try to defend its Class 6A state title, led by sophomore Emily Venters, who won an individual state championship last year, junior Claire Sanner and sophomore Kieran Cordes.

After losing four seniors, the girls know they’re capable of achieving plenty of success next fall, but it’s also a new season.

“I know Emily and Claire both have some big goals individually,” FSHS cross country coach Steve Heffernan said. “As long as you’ve got that combination on your team, that’s going to help you be competitive throughout the season and have some chance to do something special at the end of the year at the state meet.

“But we’ll need to have some other girls come in and get excited about it. We have a great group of girls returning who have been with us for a few years. Now it’ll just be how do they progress?”