• February 22, 2020
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On November 6 the men’s cross country team competed in the NCHSSA 4A State Championship meet at Beeson Park.

It was a cold morning and many sweatshirt-clad runners pulled on gloves and hats before beginning a pre-race warm-up routine.

The Leesville boys ran their warm-up in a pack, jogging an easy fifteen minutes to loosen their muscles.

Red-faced and wind-chilled, the athletes stretched and did drills to prepare for the race.  Minutes before the gun, the boys laced up their racing spikes and ran strides.

Shaking out their nerves, the boys knew it was time to focus.

Bilo Hoese, senior said, “I knew I needed to do something big–this was my last race.”

On the start-line the boys did a few more last minute stretches, before bending into a race position.  Legs twitching, and hearts pounding–the gun sounded, signaling the start.

Runners rounded the many curves of Beeson park, struggling to avoid tripping among the throng of competitors.

Andrew Byrum, junior, said, “There were two guys next to me that fell, and I accidentally stepped on one guy and lost my balance.”

Luckily, his teammate, Christian Klute, was able to catch Byrum and the two were able to avoid the fall.

Aaron Smith, senior and captain, led the Leesville pack, finishing in 24th place with a 16:28.

Christian Klute, senior, was close behind, finishing in 33rd place with a 16:36.

Sam Sarakbi, Bilo Hoese, Andrew Byrum, Cory Fetterolf, and Stephen Ryan ran 16:46, 16:48, 16:56, 17:00 and 17:27, respectively.

According to Coach Mark McLamb, even though none of the Leesville runners ran a personal record (PR), the times were good for the course.

Christian Klute, senior, said, “I think it was the most difficult course I have ever run.”

Bilo Hoese, senior, agreed.  “The course was like trying to race in a rat-maze.”

Due to many sharp turns and a muddy trail, most runners ran significantly slower than usual at Beeson Park.

Leesville placed 5th overall, ahead of rival, Broughton, but behind the boys’ expectations.

Though 5th place in the state is very respectable, the boys were still disappointed with their results.

“We were aiming for second or third,” said Klute. “But at the same time, I can’t complain.  Most teams did worse than they expected.  A lot of 4A teams would wish for fifth.”

Smith concurred.  “You know that the last four years of your life is going into one race.  The pressure was there, and we tanked.”

Smith felt that better teamwork could have secured a higher place at States.  He felt that the team functioned as a group of individuals instead of an effective unit.

“It wasn’t a bad season,” said Fetterolf. “But it could have been better.”

Despite the boys’ disappointment, 5th place in such a competitive field is nothing to scoff about.

Ben Tyner, sophomore, attended the state meet as a spectator.  As an underclassmen member of the cross country team, Tyner found motivation for the future in his teammate’s performance.

“It was great to see our men of Leesville give their hearts into the last race of the year.”

Even though the boys did not meet their exact goal, they should still be applauded for an excellent season.  They have set the bar high for seasons to come and instilled younger cross country runners with a sense of dedication and admiration.  Tyner said it best.

“It was inspiring.”

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