OKEECHOBEE — The Okeechobee High School Cross Country boys and girls teams are in a self-described rebuilding phase this year.
Last year both teams lost some key runners to graduation. Overall nine boys and three girls graduated in 2019.
The captains leading the teams this year are returning runners sophomore Wyatt Friend and junior Lauren Sills. The two have led the boys and girls teams, respectively, this season, using their experience to help out the younger Okeechobee runners.
Early in the season Mother Nature threw a wrench in the plan to bring the new runners up to speed. Daily thunderstorms in the afternoon forced the cross country teams to look for creative ways to get their reps in.
Head coach Allen Mayernik, who teaches at Yearling Middle School, had his runners get a few reps in the long, winding Yearling hallways.
“It was tough to get adequate training in at the beginning of the season when we had so much rain,” said assistant coach Tracy Sills. “We can run in the rain, but most afternoons we also had lightning and that required us to run indoors at Yearling Middle School. Running in the hallways is just not the same as training outside with distance runs and speed workouts. But, we managed the best we could. We are thankful the weather has been more cooperative lately, other than being extremely hot. But the kids have gotten used to the heat in the afternoons.”
Okeechobee seniors Kaleb Thomas and Aiden Adamo, freshmen Jace Brown and Conner Rucks and junior Alexis Garcia have consistently performed well for the Brahmans, usually grabbing the top six places for the boys. Currently the boys team is focusing on getting their times down overall. New runners sophomore Jackie Jaimes and freshman Lindsey Saucedo continue to show improvement and look to be top contributors for the girls team. The focus for the girls teams is to work to close the gaps in their top five scoring runners. The Brahmans are looking to develop a stronger pack of at least five runners in order to be more competitive as a team.
Last year Lauren Sills and Wyatt Friend both qualified for regionals as individuals, but the girls team fell short by two points and the boys team by four points.
“We don’t want that to happen again this year,” said Sills of both teams just barely missing regionals. “The goal this season is for both teams to qualify for regionals. Although both teams are much smaller this year, we can definitely see a great deal of talent from the group. We have several new, young runners who are having to learn the routines and understand the commitment required for a sport such as cross country. We have the talent to do it, we just need to get the kids to believe in themselves and push a little harder. We keep reminding them that nothing great comes from comfort zones.”