Coming into her second year as a head coach at Pisgah cross country, Stephanie Kuykendall has a good idea of what to expect.
She knows that cross country is a different animal when it comes to team sports, because individual times make up team score, so more than ever it’s important for the individuals to train mentally and physically.
“They have to be mentally and physically prepared to pull their own weight,” Kuykendall said. “They have to prepare themselves individually by running the distances that they can run and work hard in practice so that the top five can compete and the team can make it on to regionals and to state.”
There will also be a change to the Black Bear’s coaching structure this season; Kuykendall is excited to welcome a second head coach, Kelsi Pinkston, who will coach the girls team while Kuykendall will coach the boys.
Last year, the boys team made it to states for Pisgah. Kuykendall wants to be able to send both teams this year, and figures to rely on her seniors to accomplish that.
Perhaps more than in any other sport, in cross country it’s more important than ever for individuals to be driven to set their own personal bests every time they take the field.
In order for the team to reach its goals, Kuykendall knows how important self-motivation will be for her runners.
“I want them to take ownership of what they’re doing and not so much rely on me to tell them,” Kuykendall said. “I want them to know what their personal goal is that they want and expect to meet for themselves and push for that. I can encourage them but I can’t run for them. I want to be there to lead and to guide but I want them to have the want to.”