The cross country teams were at their home course at Belmont Plateau on Saturday, but they weren’t there to race or practice. Instead, they were helping younger athletes prepare for the 2013 USATF Mid-Atlantic Association Junior Olympic Cross Country Championships.
“I think it’s great,” distance coach James Snyder said. “Hopefully we’ll have a chance to host a conference meet in the new conference pretty soon. Our kids know the course like the back of their hand, and we like showing it off. It’s an exciting place.”
Assistant coach Aaron Watson said it’s great to give a little back to the sport.
“This is something we’ve done for a long time and it kind of brings you back to when we were younger and back to your roots,” Watson said. “A lot of people, this is how it starts, it starts in middle school. It’s just enjoyable to give back to the community and help out a good cause.”
Both coaches said they hope the Owls’ volunteering keeps the young runners involved in the sport for years to come.
“The satisfaction of helping out these kids is great,” Snyder said. “Helping them get to know the course, get to know where they’re going to be, and hopefully show them more about a sport that they’re going to be able to do for the rest of their lives.”
“We can hopefully show kids how fun this sport can be and keep them involved moving forward for the next eight, 10, 12 years,” Watson said.
Giving back to cross country means something to some of the Owl runners as well.
“You never know what these kids are going to accomplish because they’re young and have a lot of potential,” senior Will Kellar said. “It’s kind of cool acting as a role model and seeing them look up to you. They could be a cross country prospect. That’s pretty cool.”
Kellar said he was brought back to his younger days as a cross country runner while taking the kids through his home course.
“I kind of look back on my past of running and see these kids coming up,” Kellar said. “They’re starting around the same age I did. It kind of brings me to back when I was in the same position, not really liking it that much but doing it just because my parents wanted me to do it.”
“It’s kind of a sense of accomplishment because you’re like, ‘I started where they are now and now I’m running [Division I],’” Kellar added.
“It feels good being a leader for them,” senior Anna Pavone said. “Being a leader as a team and for these kids is just good all around. We know this course and we know running, so just getting these little kids into it as well, it’s a good feeling.”
Steve Bohnel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SteveSportsGuy1.