Gauging the success of the Dripping Springs Tiger cross country program goes far beyond accolades and times for head coach Marisa Tuzzi.
Fielding a roster of more than 110 runners during the first official practice Monday spoke louder than any medal or ribbon could.
It’s that popularity, along with a hunger for a possible Class 5A state title, Tuzzi believes helps motivate students in the program, who are gathering life lessons along the way.
“Running is a lifelong sport and we’re not just a recreational running club. We’re there to compete and to find kids who maybe aren’t into other team sports,” Tuzzi said. “We can find a spot for everyone, all skill levels, as long as they’re willing to commit and show work ethic.”
Dripping Springs cross country returns a handful of runners on both teams who have experience at the state level.
On the girls side, the Tigers will have Danielle Schroeder and Camille Corona anchoring the group, along with Maddy McCraw, Aubrie Caldwell, Maddie Livingston and Caroline Russey in the mix as well.
Tuzzi said all of the seniors on the girls team competed at the UIL 5A state meet when they were freshman three years ago. Corona, junior, who is a University of Texas softball signee, has put in the “mileage” while playing select softball all summer long.
“She demands more of herself,” Tuzzi said.
Dripping Springs’ boys team returns several athletes who guided the team to a sixth place finish at the UIL 5A state meet last season.
Along with senior Bobby Holt will be Caleb Lopez, who gained experience during his freshman year in 2017. Senior Polo Lopez, who is not related to Caleb, has gotten “incrementally better” every year he’s raced, Tuzzi said.
“He’s our silent assassin,” Tuzzi said. “He doesn’t talk much, but gets out there and does well.”
Other key contributors on the boys side include seniors John and Thomas Babiak.
All of their success comes from learning from previous Tiger athletes, who impart and pass down wisdom to the younger runners, Tuzzi said.
During the first week of practice, Tuzzi said former Tiger runners who are competing at the collegiate level will speak to current athletes about their high school experiences. Tuzzi said these discussions allow the team to learn what successes and failures they experienced while at Dripping Springs.
It’s part of a family mentality and culture Tuzzi is fostering for the program.
“This is an inclusive environment where seniors are helpful and are not intimidating,” Tuzzi said. “That all builds on itself. It’s the culture of the team.”
Dripping Springs will also prepare for life in a new district. Dripping Springs will square off against Austin ISD opponents during the district meet, and will face the same tough competition in the lead up to the Region IV meet in Corpus Christi.
Tuzzi said the team is aiming for a district, regional and state team title, which she believes is doable.
“They feel there is an urgency. There’s definitely an urgency to get going,” Tuzzi said. “They trained at different levels and paces all summer. They’re ready to get rolling this week.”