(WFRV) – The Valders Vikings have seen plenty of success in cross country, and the three time state champs have their sights set on lofty goals in an unprecedented season amid a pandemic.
“It’s a totally different animal from last year. Just wearing the mask in warm-ups, for the first 200 meters of the race. It’s just a totally different experience,” said junior runner Shane Griepentrog.
Running is one of the most pure forms of competition. In the end it comes down to who’s fastest, but even that is a challenge in 2020.
“Just everything has changed so much. Just having to wear the mask during the race. Before every meet, it could be our last one if someone gets sick. Just keep grinding, and working hard, focusing one every race, treating like it’s the state meet,” said junior runner Clay Taylor.
Valders is coming off their third straight championship. So, they know what it takes to reach the top. It comes down to peaking at the right time.
“We train for the later meets in the season. everyone kind of finding a rhythm. Slowly but surely all the guys will notice, won’t even feel it either, but they’ll just start knocking time off. Everyone trains for that time of year,” said junior runner Mitchell Braun.
The culture of the program is a big reason for their success as well. It’s not something that happens over night, but rather a product of years of work put in by runners that have carried the torch.
“Valders is Valders because we put in the work. Everybody puts in their mileage, and works so hard. IT’s that hard work and dedication to the sport. IT’s that love of running that makes us what we are,” said Taylor.
“Positivity in training. Especially before that next meet. By the time that next meet comes around, everybody’s shook off that last one. If it was a good one or a bad one, it’s a new day,” said Braun.
This year Valders is targeting more success in uncertain times. The Vikings have three of their top four runners from a year ago back. All of them juniors charged with carrying on the program legacy as upperclassmen.
“We took on more of a leadership role, and less of a follower role. It’s a different experience for sure, but it’s also letting it all seep in. You absorb it all and just let it all happen,” said Griepentrog.
“I think there’s a good amount of pressure there, because we’ve been so successful for so many years. It feels like it’s fallen on our shoulders to keep this program going where it’s been going. We also have the best coach in the state. He’s incredible. So, that’s been a big help in taking a bit of the burden off,” said Taylor.
“Coach is a big part behind it. He’s always getting guys involved, and we’ve had guys jump right in. they wanted a piece of the pie, and I think that’s what makes this team different than others. Everyone wants that spot. Everyone wants to be there,” said Braun.
That could be a pandemic-proof recipe for success.
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