Recently, cross country, under the guidance of Coach Cory Puffett, has experienced a resurgence in energy and dedication. With more new runners signed up, a fresh start to the season, and a structured training plan, they hope to embark on a successful campaign.
Coach Puffett, a former DeMatha runner with the school record of 15:27 for the 5k, seeks to improve from last year’s fifth place finish in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC). “We are aiming to build from last year’s fifth place finish with a top three finish this year. We have good senior leadership in [Senior] Matthew Metz and [Senior] John Ahalt, and two of our top four runners from last year are sophomores, so I think we have a strong foundation. Our focus is to remain consistent, especially because we have a young team.” The current four best DeMatha runners are Matthew Metz (17:58 for 5k), Sophomore Anthony Perry (18:19 for 5k), John Ahalt (18:30 for 5k), and Sophomore Thomas Parsons (18:49 for 5k).
The cross country team has high hopes and expectations for this season. Junior Keme Etta believes the team’s new foundation can contribute to great success. “Everybody is working hard to get better, so we plan to finish top three. Puffett’s coaching is effective and he connects with the team well, especially because he is young.” Junior Ashby Ervin also thinks the team has a shot at the championship. “We started the season pretty well. Our goal is to end up second or third place in the WCAC.” Junior Manuel Legaspi feels the team can improve on their previous records. “We feel very good. Everyone has been running faster than before, and there are many new members that definitely have a lot of potential.”
However, with all of their excitement and readiness, they are very aware of their strengths and weaknesses. Etta recognizes the team is dedicated, but they need to work on their diet. “Everybody takes the sport seriously. We want to be the best. I would say we need to eat healthier to improve.” Irvin commented on the younger runners and the advantages and disadvantages they bring to the team. “This year, we have a lot of very fast runners. They are also younger. Just last year, one of our fastest runners Anthony Perry was not even on varsity! They do add speed to the team, but they lack experience.” Legaspi believes the team is great, but rather needs to focus on the individual players’ performances. “We don’t really need to work on anything as a whole. [We] just need to speed up our times. Individually, it’s different. Some people need to work on their form, their speed, or their endurance.”
Coach Puffett has incorporated a strict training plan for his team. On Mondays, they have long runs of 50-70 minutes consisting of 5-7 miles and 4-6 uphill and downhill strides usually less than 100 meters. Short runs of 20-30 minutes are on Tuesdays. On Wednesdays, the team performs time trials of mile repeats, 1000m repeats, 800m repeats and other speed workouts. On Thursdays, they cool down with an easy 30-40 minute run. On Fridays, the runners prepare with a pre-meet run of 15-20 minutes. Additionally, they have general strength workouts of arms, abs, and legs. They lift lighter weights, but do more repetitions. The coach’s plan is to primarily work on strength and endurance at the beginning of the season, and speed later in the season.
All this training is for the competitions on Saturdays. During the meets, DeMatha competes with other schools from the WCAC, as well as other schools from different conferences in certain events.