(Sept. 2, 2022) There are 11 girls and 18 boys competing for the Stephen Decatur cross country program this season, which includes a mix of veterans and newcomers.
Most have experience, whether it be running cross country, indoor or outdoor track.
“I generated a lot of interest from indoor and outdoor track. We have a lot of track kids,” said Decatur Coach Brenda Hommel. “We have a good amount of running experience, just maybe not competitive.”
The girls and boys run together so they are constantly encouraging and pushing each other to run faster.
“I think just in general the strength of us as a team is we work together. We’re very unified,” Hommel said. “The girls’ team is pushed by some of the boy runners, so that helps a lot. We always work well together. During practices we will break up into a fast and slow group and if the fast group finishes their practice earlier they’ll jump in and help the slower group.”
Hommel will look to junior Ethan Justice to lead the boys’ squad.
“As an upperclassman, I think he’s gained some maturity and is going to be very competitive this year,” she said. “He’s just a really strong runner. I think he definitely motivates the other boys to kind of step up and push themselves, which is great.”
“I hope to lead by experience and show everyone the ropes and get them set up for success during the season,” Justice, a two-year member of the team, said. “We’ve got a good group this year. I think we’re strong all around. I’m excited for the season. We’re hoping for high placement at Baysides and just to do well and improve overall, making goals you set for yourself.”
Hommel will also rely on sophomore Aaron August and freshman Todd Haley to help lead the pack.
“Todd is a freshman who’s showing potential. He’s new to the area and I’m looking forward to coaching him and seeing what he’s got in him,” she said. “Aaron August is just consistently committed and has great sportsmanship, he pushes himself and works hard. He’s shown growth over the last year.”
Hommel will count on junior Macy Woroniecki to help lead the girls’ squad.
“She’s just so dedicated to running. I think she’s on day 390, maybe into 400 straight days running,” Hommel said on Monday. “She just has that mindset. She’s one that will push and even if she’s in pain she going to continue pushing herself. She is probably one of our strongest runners.”
“I’m hoping that the juniors and seniors together can really help encourage all the new people that we have,” Woroniecki, a two-year member of the team, said. “I think people have really improved in the short amount of time we’ve been practicing, not only in skill but also in dedication and their attitude toward the sport.
“This is my favorite season,” she continued. “We have a lot of newcomers this year which is really exciting because we get to see the team grow throughout the season … Girls would love to win Baysides for the first time in like 10 years, but we need to make sure we have a couple more stronger runners that we can actually pull through this year.”
Hommel will also look to sophomore Amber Marshall to lead the girls’ team. She added that freshman newcomer Sage Hall has shown potential.
“Amber and Macy will be our lead runners,” Hommel said. “[Amber] really loves those hills. She loves competing on the cross country courses. She has more of an edge when she’s on those hills in open courses. I’m excited to see what she can do this year.”
Hommel said the boys and girls have improved since preseason began a few weeks ago.
“They’re definitely growing, definitely getting stronger. One thing that I try and instill in the runners is regardless of what your level is coming out, regardless of what your goals are for the team – because not everyone is out here to compete – everyone will see improvements,” she said. “Running gives them a bit of an identity. It’s something to be focused on something to be proud of, something to guide kind their choices and their decisions in terms of everything they do. Running is just such a great sport for kids that need that goal orientation in their life.”
Hommel said after the first meet she will be able to gauge where the Decatur runs matchup with their competition.
“I think we have some very committed girls, girls that are interested in running and they run all three seasons,” Hommel said. “The boys’ team is pretty big and we’ve got some strong runners that are really working hard.”
The first cross country meet is the annual Rumble in the Jungle invitational on Thursday at 4 p.m. in Cambridge.
“We’ll be able see what the other schools have. It’s a perfect situation to get a feel for where are we going to stand with the other teams,” Hommel said. “Running I think everyone can be competitive on their own level. Kids can walk away from a meet and feel amazing about themselves because they [got a personal record], even if we may have gotten last as a team. So it’s not necessarily about competing against the other teams it’s about improving individually.
“One thing that I just really love about running and cross country is kids can see that marked growth throughout the season and they don’t have to be winning races to feel like they improved and that they’re doing something good for themselves and proud of themselves,” she added.
Hommel said she is looking forward to the season and seeing the runners’ growth.
“I couldn’t do any of this without Coach [Josh] August,” she said. “He’s an amazing co-coach. He’s great and we balance each other out.”
Don Parana will also help coach the program this season.