Olympus Cross Country Strides for StateNov 05, 2015 03:36PM ● By Bryan Scott
By Sarah Almond
When Minnesota native Todd Mitchell accepted the head coaching position for the Olympus High School cross country team in 2011, he had no idea of the uphill battle that lay before him. With only nine runners making up the team, Mitchell knew immediately he needed to grow his team.
“We’ve been growing the every year, bit by bit,” Mitchell said. “This is a great group of kids who really enjoy running.”
By encouraging his runners to bring friends and fellow classmates to practice, slowly students have realized the joy behind running cross country.
“We have fun,” Mitchell said. “Our team is getting better and people want to be a part of it.”
Getting better is an understatement. The team of 28 girls and 29 boys has seen success this year like never before. Both teams snagged a first-place win at the Westlake Invitational and the Park City Invitational in early October. The boys recently won the Region Six Championship and the girls placed second.
“This was the first Region Six Championship that the Olympus boys have won since 1990,” Mitchell said. “So that was a big deal for us. The boys went one, two, three, five and six – so almost a perfect score.”
Unfortunately, the Titans are graduating nearly a third their team in the spring. Out of the 57 runners, 20 of them are seniors.
“It’s definitely an experienced group,” Mitchell said. “In years past, we’ve always had a lot of underclassmen, but not this year. Even many of our seniors are new on the team this year, which have helped us develop.”
Having a large group of upperclassmen has been a blessing for a single coach with 57 runners to look after. Even though Mitchell’s wife occasionally helps coach the team, he’s able to rely heavily on his seniors and delegate a lot of responsibility to them. Varsity team captain Thomas Odell is one of these seniors.
“Honestly, I’m here as a leader but as a team, we all know what to do most of the time,” Odell said. “They can lead themselves most of the time. Sometimes it’s hard to keep people on track, but other than that it’s easy.”
Though the team is a scattering of different aged, skilled and experienced runners, they’ve worked hard to becoming a solid, unified team.
“Our number one core value is that cross country is a team sport,” Mitchell said. “So we emphasize that and really try to come together as a team.”
Becoming a unified team didn’t happen by accident. The team has been running together since June, putting in between 300 and 500 miles in just the summer months. They spent three days at Bear Lake on a team camp getaway where, aside from training, they spent their days bonding over boating, tubing, wake surfing, paddle boarding and kayaking.
“Getting to know everyone on the team this year has been so fun,” said senior captain Paige Anderson. “That team camp at Bear Lake was really awesome.”
Along with team breakfasts, campfires and cookouts, the Titans practice together six days a week. The group spends nearly two hours a day stretching, weight lifting, core strengthening and, of course, running between three and 12 miles per practice.
While the team has only postseason competitions left this year, they’ve still got their eyes set on challenging group goals.
“The boys would really like to be a top-three team at state, and I think the girls would really like to make top five,” Mitchell said. “They are realistic goals – big goals – but that’s what we’re shooting for.”
As the Titans begin tapering down for the state championships, Mitchell feels hopeful that his team will end the season on a high note, setting the tone for yet another successful season next year. State championships will be held on Oct. 21 at Sugar House Park.