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XC Wildcats rev up for region meet

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POSTED: October 19, 2011 4:30 a.m.
Jeff Whitten/

Richmond Hill High School sophomore Amanda Elliott (303) ran away with the girls race in last week's Fishy XC Invitational at the Richmond Hill Fish Hatchery.

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Now in his ninth season as cross country coach at Richmond Hill High School, Levi Sybert sounds like he's having a ball
"You can definitely say that of all the teams I've coached, this is definitely the funnest group I've had," he said. "Working with a team like this is a good example of why you get into coaching,"
Of course, success doesn't hurt, and both the RHHS boys and girls teams have had good showings this season - including at last week's Fishy XC Invitational at the Richmond Hill Fish Hatchery. There, the boys took first out of 16 teams while the girls placed second out of 15 teams, and in that race 26 runners turned in personal record times. In all, nearly 300 runners competed on a 3-mile course that looped through the Fish Hatchery.
"If you're a runner you like to race a course like that," Sybert said. "I've definitely got to thank the Fish Hatchery crew and Chris Harper for their help. They definitely bent over backwards to help us."
Now, both RHHS teams also are threats to earn a trip to the state cross country meet -- though it won't be easy, Sybert said, because Augusta-area schools will have an advantage when the Region 2-AAAA cross country meet is held Oct. 29 at Evans High School.
For one thing, Augusta is not only a cross country hotbed where Lakeside-Evans had three runners finish in the girls' top 10 at state last year, it also has hills.
"We don't have the hills," Sybert said. "We're used to training to run good times. When you're running over hills you can't maintain a constant pace. up and down hills and then onto flat land, so you have to know your body. Know when to push it, when to open your stride, when to shorten up your stride and how to recover ... That's our challenge."
Sybert has workouts designed to help his runners overcome their unfamiliarity with hills -- and both the boys and girls top seven runners are expected to help Richmond Hill earn a spot to the state meet.
Leading the boys are Donovan Gerber, Nathan Scroggins, Michael Kelly, Tanner Hicks, Jameson Cunningham, Clint Martin and Andy Balas.
Up front for the girls are sophomore Amanda Elliott, who has won all but three races this season, Shanee McKee, Moe Stubblefield, Chloe Giorgianni, Arisa Spill and Taylor Carpenter. The seventh spot was up for grabs between Bailee Croy, Jordan Shonka and Marin Coleman heading into the final regular season meet today at Savannah Country Day.
Elliott has attracted the most individual attention this year and her time of 21 minutes, six seconds Thursday was nearly two minutes faster than the second place finisher. But it's still a minute and some change behind the state winning time in AAAA girls last season.
"Amanda's coming along," Sybert said. "She's getting stronger every week and she's definitely dependable."
And so are the runners who make up this year's team, he said.
"This is a good group of kids and I trust them," Sybert said. "They make wise decisions and get along well."
Sybert said those who think cross country is merely "going out there and running" don't understand just how challenging the sport is.
"There is definitely a science to it," he said, noting runners also have to have guts. "To have your best performance, you have to push your body to the point you're about to pass out. It takes a lot of heart and courage to do that."

 

 

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