Cross country team looks forward after strong start

How early success has brought a culture shift among the Lions XC program


Fin Tholen

Junior Cyrenity Hardy-Billy competes at Regionals

By Jackson Green

Lawrence High’s Cross Country team starts its season every year with a meet in Manhattan. Most years, the team struggles to find success, but that wasn’t the case this year. 

This year, the girls team took first.

“Oh my gosh, that was so surreal,” said senior Natalie Kennedy. “Usually we always get 4th at every Manhattan meet, I just remember the moment, it felt like so long, they kept calling team names and we weren’t there, and then we got first, it was so surreal.” 

The teams haven’t just seen progress in Manhattan, either. Every member of the boys team either matched their personal record or achieved a new one at a meet in Emporia. 

You don’t have to look far to see where the improvement is coming from, though. 

This year’s success stems from a few areas. Coaching, hard-working captains, and a team that is seemingly closer and more connected than they’ve been in a while. 

With the program welcoming a new coach, Kyle Morganson, as well as new members, the team has gained new insight on how to further their skills. New workouts, practice styles, and overall coaching has shown to be extremely beneficial to this year’s squad. 

“Our coaches have us on different workouts, and in meets you can really tell that they’re working, and I hope they continue them in the future.” said senior captain Lucy Hardy.

As Morganson has brought in a professional, more precise way of conducting practice, practices this year have moved away from the “free reign” style many players were used to in previous years. Practices include day-to-day plans, with some exercises reminiscent of older workouts that Morganson and assistant coach Jacob Kucza both experienced in their high school days. 

In addition to strong coaching, the team is led this year by Senior captains Jack Pfeifer and Jonathan Spoula for the boys, with seniors Natalie Kennedy and Lucy Hardy heading the girls squad.

These captains have each worked with the team individually, benefiting the team in different ways, but collectively there is one thing they want to instill in their respective squads. 

“I want to establish a culture,” said Spoula. “A good environment within the team because in the future, we’re gonna be getting a lot of new fast runners, I want to establish a baseline for them.”

While establishing a baseline for future team members is important, captains also want the team dynamic to continually improve.

“Really making sure everyone knows each other,” said Hardy. “And making sure that everyone is fine with one another, to help everything go well.”

Coming off a year that at times saw the two teams not always getting along, a culture shift was desperately needed. But this year looks nothing like last, with a program that has bonded not only within each team but also as a combined unit. 

“The team is a very tight-knit group of people,” said Jack Pfeifer. “This is a good building block for us in meets, it’s really helped with success.”

 Similar to most sports, success isn’t guaranteed, but when it comes to struggles, whether it’s in meets or practices, the team has shown no sign of letting it get them down. 

“Bad meets aren’t anything to worry about,” added Pfeifer. “Setbacks are a part of running.”

With a team of talented runners, and a positive group mentality, the Lions are looking at good outcomes, not only this year but for years to come. 

“We’ve all established our roles,” Spoula said. “Now it’s a matter of putting in the work at practice, and coming out on meet day.”

The Lions will wrap up this year’s season with sophomore Xavier Klish, freshman Edward Roman Nose, and senior Natalie Kennedy competing at the State meet this Saturday. The meet will take place at RimRock Farms. Good luck Lions!