If one were to walk by the coaches’ office or into the trainers’ room at around 5:30, they would find a bunch of sweaty guys eating freeze pops or drinking gatorade. They would find guys cramming into ice baths after cross-country, laughing and joking around.
“We just want to keep everyone healthy. We want to keep them focused on the prize and the prize is getting this team back to where they’re competitive and respected, [and…] competing at the state level,” Head Coach Jayme Skay said.
Skay has led the team for 25 years and always expects the best of his runners. Despite the track workouts and long runs, the team manages to stay together year after year.
”We have about 90 guys this year. It’s smaller than last year, but it’s pretty typical for City High,” Coach Evan Risk said.
The team is coached by Jayme Skay, Jay Welp, Evan Risk, Jeremy Negus, Steve Dodge, Ross Salinas, Jim Cunningham, and Haggen Opitz. The coaches try to make sure that the boys are worked hard but also have fun. Compared to last year, the coaches agree that the attitude has changed.
“I think just our overall attitude is much better,” Risk said. “[It’s] just more fun to be around when they’re more brought in and working harder.”
Over the summer, the team was split up into groups based upon times. The groups are Varsity, Other Varsity 1, Other Varsity 2, and Junior Varsity. This style of coaching and grouping is new this year.
“We’re just trying to change the culture of the team. I think the last few years, it got to be more of a fun running group. We’ve tried to get more focused on training and improving and competing, being tough competitors,” Skay said.
Some groups have specific chants or yoga routines, but all of the groups have found some way to bond and get to know each other. Each group has a designated coach. Not only does this allow the runners to get closer together, but it also creates stronger bonds between the runner and the coaches. One downside, however, is that there is not much cross-interaction from group to group.
“I would struggle to name many of the freshmen on the team, other than the two on varsity,” senior Mitchell Wilkes said.
This year, the team made the decision to pull its top seven runners out of the Tuesday race at the school formerly known as Iowa Mennonite School—now known called Hillcrest Academy—in order to save their legs for the Saturday meet at Pleasant Valley. This decision came after years of winning the varsity race, but this year, that has changed. The boys did not come out on top, but in second, as a result of that decision.
“We want our best races to be conference, districts, and state, and in order to do that, we decided to pull back just a little bit at the beginning of the year so we’re better prepared,” Risk said.
So far this year, the team has competed at the IMS invitational and the PV Spartan Invitational. The team, along with the girls team, was supposed to have competed at Noelridge on Thursday, September 12, but the event was canceled due to weather concerns. The boys are working their way back to state, one meet at a time.
“As long as they’re dedicated to doing well, and working hard, and doing everything that can become better at running, then we want them wholeheartedly on the team,” Skay said.