The 2022 cross country season is officially underway.
With one race complete, Adair County High School has already set a high bar for the rest of the year.
The Tribe put on an impressive show last weekend at a relay-style meet in Casey County, with three separate teams finishing top-two in their respective divisions.
The girls’ team — consisting of Mayatu Brown, Brianna Hillock, and Malanna Burton — dominated, and finished in first place, besting three other squads. Burgin, the second-place school, trailed the Lady Indians’ time by almost seven minutes. Brown, Hillock, and Burton finished second, third, and fourth, respectively, as individual competitors.
The boys’ team — Brody Blair, Luke Rich, and Jacob Boutte — came in second among a three-team field. Rich had the second-lowest individual time of any runner, clocking in at just under 10:08 on the 2500-meter course.
The Indians’ middle school squad (Elijah Bennett, Kooper King, and Kolt King) was the second fastest in its race as well, beating two of the three competing teams. Kolt King was the fastest middle schooler there, finishing with a first-place time of 10:31.69.
“We did really well, had some really good times,” says first-year head coach Matt Willis. “I was impressed with them.”
As the results from Casey County indicate, this team (or teams) boasts experience and youth, with talented runners up and down both the boys’ and girls’ rosters.
“So far I’m really impressed all the way around, girls and boys, high school and middle school,” Willis says. “Our varsity and upperclassmen are doing awesome and really setting a good example.”
Willis is quick to share the praise with his younger runners.
“You’d think that the middle school kids wouldn’t be as capable as the high school kids on varsity, but that’s not been the case,” the coach says. “We’ve got a couple of the middle school kids running really good times.”
The success is even sweeter for Adair considering the program’s perilous state just a couple years ago: There was no program. Sheila Willis resurrected cross country at ACHS in 2021 after several years without a team. Willis, who retired at the end of last school year, handed the reins to her brother-in-law.
“The school needed a coach, and I guess I’m the only person that is halfway interested in running,” Willis jokes.
The coach says that the transition into coaching has been relatively smooth. He managed to get plenty of work in with his group over the summer, and he is excited about the improvements and faster times.
“Sheila started early in the summer doing some runs with the kids, and I kind of jumped in in the middle of it,” Willis explains. “Once the dead period ended, I got them started back doing some summer runs.”
Typically, the team would run two or three times during the week, and then do a longer, “town run,” according to Willis, on Saturdays.
“I just wanted to get them back into a routine and build their endurance up,” Willis says. “Once we started school, more of the kids who ran last year joined back up again, so now we’re running full strength. We’re doing full practices Monday through Thursday and then still do the town runs on Saturdays.”
Willis’ current goal for his team is to build up endurance to the point where his runners can compete at 5K (3.1 miles).
“I’m new to this, but I think at the beginning they kind of shorten the races a bit to get everyone kind of used to it,” Willis says. “We’ll see how this goes.”
So far, so good.
Adair County’s roster is shown below. The team’s schedule is available here.
This post is brought to you as part of Adair Drug Tuesday.