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Velma-Alma’s youthful nerves will be tested as the Comets travel to Shawnee for the Class 2A cross country championships on Saturday.
For a team that sports only three seniors on a roster littered with freshman, coach Jerry Loveall hopes the players can put those nerves behind them. They did just that in regionals, winning both the girls and boys team races, but that was on their home course. Loveall thinks his athletes’ confidence will see them through those nerves.
“If you’re not nervous, you’re not alive, being in a competition at the state level,” Loveall said. “If they are confident in what they are doing, they’ll perform better. It’s the unknown that makes kids nervous, not knowing some of these other runners that you haven’t seen all year.”
Freshman Russell Butler teetered on the subject. He admitted he is a little bit nervous, but that it’s hard for that to overshadow his enthusiasm to finish high on the leaderboard. Sophomore Ty Hobbs and Butler’s times will play a vital role in where the team ends up as they finished one-two in a team win at the regional last Saturday.
“I’m just really excited,” Butler said. “I want to see how well I can do. My goal is to get top ten.”
Fortunately for Loveall, his runners’ minds won’t be focused entirely on the weight of the state championship quite yet. This week is homecomeing for Velma-Alma against Rush Springs. While Loveall can’t recall the last time the two events were held on the same week, he pointed out the chance to get the athletes’ minds off such a large competition could only be a benefit.
“It may be a good distraction with all the dress up days and stuff like that, which we go through on homecoming week,” Loveall said. “I don’t think it’s going to hurt them not thinking about it all week.”