By Kyle Roberts
Ruston’s prestigious cross country program will begin the 2023 season Saturday, Sept. 2, at the Mississippi College Opener in Clinton, Miss., to assess where both the boys’ and girls’ teams are after summer prep.
“We did things a more differently this summer than we ever have,” Ruston cross country head coach Dustin Cochran said. “So while I’m not 100 percent sure where everybody is at, anytime that we’ve gone out and done a few specific things, they’ve passed the tests with flying colors.
“We’re really looking forward to see everybody go out and compete.”
When Cochran spoke about doing things differently, he means the settings and environments on where the team has trained during the break.
“In previous summers, we ran the same types of workouts at the same places we ran for years,” Cochran said. “This summer, we picked random roads and trails with up and down hills. Before, we would run on a flat track, which is super measurable. And that type of terrain we ran this summer affects times.
“It’s also been really hot this summer, so we’ve slowed down the pace on a lot of the continuous stuff.”
Saturday’s meet will be the first chance to see the girls without Tennessee Lady Vol runner and Ruston High graduate Lily Garrett, along with a boys’ roster with that has a whopping 22 young men signed up.
“Anytime you lose really good kids, you obviously have to replace them,” Cochran said. “The girls will be way different because you just don’t have Lily going, who was a state champion. So on the girls’ side you have to be really diligent on running together and being close to each other and feel the pace out.
“And we have so many boys out there, that you have a little more room for error, because if one of them falters, then there’s another on that can step in. The boys are having a really happy time. Everybody does things together; I give them the plan, tell them what to do, and the seniors lead it.”
Ruston High will have a three-week hiatus between races before returning to action at the Southlake #2 Cross Country Invite in Southlake, Texas, on Saturday, Sept. 23. Cochran said that with the new summer training protocol, he was intentional about taking the break between the first two races.
“This weekend for us is really a day for us to go out and not put pressure to run in a certain time,” Cochran said. “We identified a couple of teams we want to be able to stay with or people we want to be able to compete with. And then, let’s see how we can race on the back end.”
The Ruston cross country team is listed below.