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Zoe Kelly

Zoe Kelly '25 gives a detailed recap of the cross country season, which proved itself to be successful under the leadership of Coach Jacob Wells. Photos by Tim Miller. 

Cross Country has been a strong sport at Perkiomen for years, and ending the season with a league championship is an accomplishment for runners and coaches alike. The 2021 cross country season has taken a turn from those in years past, with new and returning runners, new coaches, and a modified practice layout.

The new head coach of the cross country program this year, Jacob Wells, is an experienced runner bringing new ideas to the program. In addition to teaching history and psychology, Coach Wells is an avid runner who has coached the sport for years. Assistant Coach Matthew Willig, also an experienced runner, has joined the cross country coaching staff. Coach Wells and Coach Willig have worked to improve the Cross Country program, in addition to providing an enjoyable running experience to all athletes.

 

 

Coach Wells says, “A good cross country runner is someone who comes to practice with the intention to work hard and have fun. Working hard does not necessarily mean dropping times, it also means focusing on running mechanics, core strength, and pacing. A “good” cross country runner is someone who has fun with their teammates, is capable of stepping up and being a team leader, and takes the entirety of the training program seriously. Athletes like Logan Brassington, Alyssa Iacobacci, Laurel Reese, and Ocean Mayer are great role models for the rest of the cross country team, because while they have different running times, they all encapsulate what being a strong cross country runner means."

 

 

The general cross country season was planned from day one. Coaches introduced a structured layout, with each day’s practice planned in advance. This method allowed athletes to focus on their efforts, spending time on each aspect of training in a controlled practice environment. Of course, flexibility was key in a strong season, since athletes had to balance stress, school work, and other extracurriculars. Each practice followed a similar schedule, with the main workout being adjusted each day. To begin, athletes would complete stretches, led by team captains, followed by a half mile warmup run. This was followed by a round of dynamic stretching and plyometrics. The main workout varied each day. Sometimes it consisted of a 4-5 mile run, hill training, track intervals (everyone’s favorite), or a tempo run. Other days, runners would complete a “long run” at a recovery pace. Lastly, the team would do a 15-minute core workout, and one member would “break down” the practice.

After a series of cancelled meets due to weather, the first cross country meet took place at home. All Perkiomen runners placed well, and seasoned track and cross country runner Ocean Mayer took the number 1 spot. Ocean also placed first at all of the Penn-Jersey league meets that followed, impressing us all. The girls team swept places 1-5 in nearly all league meets, and the three varsity boys all achieved personal records throughout the season. Cross country also competed in two, very competitive invitationals this season. Every girl, varsity and JV, received a medal in the Neshaminy Open. The final meet of the season, the PAISAA Championship, was a difficult one with hundreds of runners in total, but all runners exceeded expectations, and Perkiomen placed in the top 10 schools.

Participating in cross country is no small task, but having strong coaches who share their Iove of the sport makes all the difference. 

“Coaching cross country is one of my favorite things about being a teacher," shared Coach Wells. "Good coaches try to make their athletes better, more confident, and more comfortable in their sport. But coaches are also meant to help an athlete love their sport more and more each season, which is something I try and implement in my running seasons. I love the training, but I also love joking and laughing with the kids and building a positive team culture and training environment. Beyond practice, cross country meets are lively and entertaining, which I also love. Lastly, Coach Willig and I get to run with the kids basically every day!”

The 2021 cross country season was one that prospered, with strong runners and good coaches. All expectations for the what the team would accomplish this season were exceeded. A Penn Jersey league championship was won, numerous athletes achieved personal records, and all in all, the team achieved success. Coach Wells and Coach Willig will continue on to coach winter and spring track this year, and we can hope for strong, similar seasons to that of cross country.