Cross country adjusts to coaching methods this season

The team says goodbye to long time coach

Alex Montes Staff Reporter
Originally published October 25th, 2019

The girls get ready their first league meet on Sept. 18 at Lower Woodland. (Courtesy of Sherry Jacqua)

The girls get ready their first league meet on Sept. 18 at Lower Woodland. (Courtesy of Sherry Jacqua)

The cross country team has played a big role in the athletics program for the last 15 years, giving students from all grades a safe and inclusive space to grow as individuals and meet new friends along the way.

For the majority of the time that the team has been up and running, Bob Mirenzi has been the main coach—getting the team all the way to state. Mirenzi gained quite the positive reputation for himself around the school.

Senior Ruby Siehl and fourth-year cross country athlete and captain this year describes his coaching style and her personal outlook on him.

“I found he cared a lot about how each athlete did and I really liked how he spoke directly to me about how I was performing,” Siehl said. “Even if people thought he was tough, it was all out of caring for the team and he was actually a very soft guy.”

As of the 2019-2020 school year, new coach, Neal Howard, has stepped in for Mirenzi, becoming the head coach for the team. Many are sad to have seen Mirenzi go, but have been optimistic about a new beginning.

“Neal is actually pretty similar to Bob in a lot of ways. Especially in the things he advises us to do like drinking enough water, getting lots of sleep,” Siehl said. “I think that he brings a new scientific perspective that was not as prominent with Bob.”

Howard has also been an assistant coach to Bob for the last five or six years, working with sprinters.

In the past, the team had been built on foundations such as community and compassion which had been very effective in bringing the team together. This season, keeping the team similar to years past is important to Howard.

“We haven’t made too many changes; we’ve had a very successful program for the last 15 years or so,” Howard said. “We’re trying to maintain a lot of similar aspects to it. We’re trying to increase a little bit of the team bonding that we try to do, so inter-gender, inter-grade work; so try to work on reaching out to the younger athletes with older athletes. A little bit more trying to work on that inclusion atmosphere as a team.”

The team has many goals this year prompted by Howard’s ideals.

“We want to be inclusive within each other, so we want to make sure that people feel involved with the team, they feel like they’re a part of the team—a part of something that’s a little bit more than them, that kind of feeling of adding to a program,” Howard said.

Senior Alexis Johnson who has been on the team for two years, said although the team is pretty similar this year there are still some discrepancies.

“We still have to put in the same amount of effort and have the same expectations,” Johnson said.“The coaching staff is more understanding without Bob. Also, there’s less of a scolding tone during our meetings.”

With high expectations and great outcomes from Howard, this cross country season has been great for the team, bringing new members closer with the old ones and creating new connections.