Richmond Hill High School cross country coach Levi Sybert sees the numbers improving.
Now in his third year as head coach, Sybert has grown the team from 17 runners to 26 last season to 40 this year — a fact he attributes to a number of factors, from team-building exercises to cookouts to working the phones and recruiting potential runners.
"The biggest thing is that the kids realize we do a lot more than just running," Sybert said. "We take running seriously, we take it real seriously, but we do a lot of things to get in shape and build team camaraderie and have fun. The kids enjoy it so much they’re getting their friends to do it."
Other numbers are starting to add up as well.
Last year’s boys’ team ran "faster than they ever had before," Sybert noted, though that resulted in only a seventh-place finish at the Region 2-AAAA meet. The girls’ team fared even better, placing third in the region meet and qualifying for state.
Both squads hope to better their performance from last season and the girls may be primed to make a run at a region title.
The boys are led by senior Clint Martin and sophomore Tanner Hicks. Martin’s best time over a 3.1-mile course last season was 18 minutes and 31 seconds. Hicks’ was 18:27. Sybert wants to see both lower their time under 18 minutes.
"They’re going to improve," Sybert said. "The earlier in the season they can get in the 17s, the better we are as a group."
The girls have perhaps the Coastal Empire’s top female distance runner in junior Amanda Elliott, who placed seventh last season in Region 2-AAAA and 31st at the state Class AAAA meet.
"She is the one who helps the group a lot," Sybert said. "She elevates the level of training for everybody."
Read full story in Aug. 15 issue of the Bryan County News.