A year removed from five Tornados running at Sun Willows Golf Course in the 3A State Championship race, Yelm High School’s cross country team returns to hit races throughout the South Sound Conference.
The team, which sports top runners Matt Walsh, Hewitt Smith and Sam Hall, returned to practice on Aug. 21. The Tornados will feature 37 runners on the team, which ties their record in athletes participating. Eighteen of the team’s athletes are first-year cross country runners. They kicked off their season competing in the Timberline Jamboree on Sept. 5 at Wonderwood Park in Lacey.
Alex McIntire, Yelm’s boys cross country head coach, said he’s really excited about the team entering the new season.
“These boys are strong. We lost some big dogs last year, but the young runners are stepping up in big ways. What we have lost in a front runner, we are making up for in depth,” McIntire said. “This year there are 10 boys as good as last year’s second man, and that’s where this team will find its strength. They are coming into the season with a huge base of summer miles and a lot of self belief.”
McIntire said that several of the boys have run over 300 miles since June 1 and added the team captain Walsh hit the mark of 500 miles before the team’s first practice.
The team sports 10 athletes who could make the varsity seven on “any given day,” McIntire said. He said Ethan Stewart, Cristian Flores, Alex Hurd, Damon Rabalais, Andrew Geszvain, Patrick Walsh and Nick Cox will be battling for spots on varsity.
“We held a time trial this week, and all 10 boys came through the finish within 30 seconds of each other. I believe our varsity lineup will change weekly and I love it,” McIntire said. “We should also keep our eyes on incoming freshman Josiah Leonard. This is his first cross country season, but he is already proving to be a force on the team.”
Members of the Yelm cross country team are big believers as the upcoming season approaches, McIntire said.
“There is a lot of ‘why not us’ type of talk going around. They are aware that something special is building,” McIntire said. “These boys gained a tremendous amount of confidence over the summer and have the miles to back it up. We don’t talk much about winning races but trust that it will come as they trust the process.
“This season is built around being consistent in life, training, and racing,” he continued. “The foundation of our work is being consistent in our daily habits, and the boys trust that winning will come as a byproduct. With that consistency has come the confidence that they can be a real force in the 3A state of Washington.”
Despite losing athletes Zach Walsh, Paul Manwiller and Cody Helligso to graduation, McIntire said that over the past few weeks it’s been clear that Yelm has strength in numbers. All workouts leading into the first race have been completed as a pack, showing the team’s camaraderie.
“They find strength in each other and go to places in workouts that they would not be able to without the group effort that is there,” McIntire said.
The team will next compete in the Olympia Cross Country invite on Saturday, Sept. 9. The full schedule can be found at https://www.athletic.net/team/459/cross-country/2023.