By Rob Kiser
A year ago, Covington was excited to qualify for the Division III state cross country meet.
This year, it is more of a “business” trip.
Covington returns five runners from last year’s team that finished ninth at state and is coming off winning its first regional title in girls cross country.
“I think it will help having been there before,” Anna Dunn, the lone senior and unquestioned leader of the team, said. “We can kind of feed off that experience and run a good race. I think the way we look at it is the first time (as a team) it was great to be there. Now, it is time to get down to business. It is more serious this year.”
Also running at state last year were juniors Kelsey Dysinger and Danielle Alexander and sophomores Paige Boehringer and Ashlyn Plessinger. Joining them are junior Emma Dammeyer and sophomore Chelsea Ford.
“We have trained for this and we know if we run the way way we are capable we can do well at state,” Dysinger said. “It would be great to improve on last year.”
Alexander and Ford echoed those sentiments.
“We want to run a good race,” they said. “We are a close team and when we push each other (to run in a pack) and make it each other better in that way.”
Dunn is running at state for the fourth straight year. her first two years as an individual.
And she said the difference (having the team there) is huge.
“I think you go through all your team rituals and do all the team things you do before a race just like you always do,” she said. “I can tell you, it is a lot more fun having the whole team there.”
Covington coach Josh Long said there is no question who the leader of the team is.
Dunn is coming off a fifth place finish at regionals in 20:00.88.
“You can see Anna (Dunn) is a leader,” Long said. “If I ask them what time we are going to run, they will say that is what we have Anna for. When you ask them a question, you can see they all look to Anna to see what she is going to say.”
And she will be an asset this weekend helping the young runners with the state race).
“She will do that (help the young runners with getting ready for the race and understanding what to expect),” Long said. “There is no question about that.”
Long likes the way his team is trending, headed to state.
“We really didn’t put a lot of pressure on the kids,” he said. “We hadn’t won a meet all year and we have won league, district and regionals, so we are peaking at the right time. We have both individual and team goals for Saturday.”
He knows last year’s experience is an advantage.
“I think it is (a plus),” he said. “We have five girls who ran over there last year and have been through that experience. I think last year it was great for them to be over there for them for the first time, now it is more serious this year.”
The key will be pack running, something Covington has done well all year. The gap at regionals from the first runner to fifth was less than three minutes.
“We need to narrow that gap from the back to the front,” Long said.
The team has already made history with the regional title.
“I told them not to be afraid to toot their own horn,” Long said. “That is something to be proud of and a great accomplishment.”
All that is left now is a “business” trip.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.