Heading into his first year at the helm of Lehman High’s cross country program, head coach James Halatin had a grasp of the dedication made by athletes who participate in the sport.
Roughly a week into opening practices, Halatin said he gained a much firmer understanding of the steely-eyed work ethic cross country runners put in.
It’s enough for Halatin to eye success for a program that will contain a plethora of experience in 2018.
“These kids are driven on their own. I could tell that on the first day of workouts,” Halatin said.
Halatin, who is the school’s girls basketball head coach and assistant track and field coach, was moved into the cross country role after longtime coach Ramez Antoun took a job in Wimberley this summer.
Halatin said his work with track and field athletes provided some understanding of a runner’s mind. However, cross country runners are a “differently wired kid,” as they often are routine driven and oriented, Halatin said.
During the first few workouts, Halatin said he realized many of his students had logged in miles during the summer months, usually on their own. It solidified Antoun’s description to Halatin that the cross country athletes were “the best kids in the school.”
It’s a process that’s magnified by the rigors of running multiple miles on a consistent basis, which Halatin said is not inherent for teenagers.
“You talk about a sport you know you’re going to be physically beat down and exhausted,” Halatin said. “To willingly go out and get into an activity because you know you want to conquer that, it’s special.”
On the boys side, junior Jose Cano, who reached the 2017 6A, Region IV meet, returns, along with Santos Hernandez, who will lead as many as six senior runners on the roster. Meanwhile, the coaching staff will instruct a young team on the girls side, which will feature several sophomores and a few seniors “sprinkled in.”
Helping Halatin will be assistant coach Sean Dickson, whose background in marathon running will help to fine tune the details.
“They (the students) could run the workouts on their own. They know the terms and what their bodies need, whether they need to work harder or idle down,” Halatin said. “They are almost a smooth running machine on their own.”
With a team-first mentality, Halatin believes the Lobo cross country program can find traction as they ready for the first few meets of the season.
“They are hoping big things for everyone,” Halatin said. “They genuinely want the best and hope the best for everyone. That’s a good redeeming quality.”