Seeing approximately 120 faces eager to hit the trails for the first team practice of the 2019 season Aug. 5 was a welcome moment for Dripping Springs head cross country coach Marisa Tuzzi.
While there are a handful of position and role questions that must be answered, Tuzzi was confident her Tiger team comprising of mostly underclassmen will step up when needed. That was evidenced by the commitment of those 120 waking up before the break of dawn ready to get the season started.
By instilling a culture that’s passionate about running, Tuzzi hopes to guide her program to another district title and perhaps a return trip to state in November.
“It will be more of a challenge that it has been in the past, but it is doable,” Tuzzi said. “Our goal is to win district on both (boys and girls) sides and getting to region and getting those top teams out (to state).”
For the Tiger girls team, finding depth is critical for success in 2019. As a result, Tuzzi, along with assistants Kourtney Morris and Thomas Acker, will turn to a large group of underclassmen to fill the void.
Sophomores Karsen Bobb and Marleena Mickel lead the youth movement for the Tiger girls team. Bobb returns from last season’s state meet team and is motivated to bounce back from a “less than stellar” performance at the end of last season, Tuzzi said. Meanwhile, Mickel joins the team after reaching the UIL state track meet in May.
Helping them will be junior Maddie Livingston, who has been a leader for younger runners, as well as Ellie Hovre, who also returns from last season’s trip to state.
“We’re excited we have a good core and we’ll have to pull from the younger ones to fill up those 10 spots,” Tuzzi said.
On the boys side, Tuzzi said despite some inexperience, the Tigers are slated to be a deeper group this season.
Caleb Lopez, who reached the UIL state cross country meet in 2018 and excelled in track in the spring, is the heir-apparent to former Dripping Springs distance runner Bobby Holt, who graduated this past summer, Tuzzi said.
Joining Lopez is Kylar Myers, who Tuzzi said has worked hard this summer, along with sophomore Brandon Melton.
“There’s a lot of depth and there will be a lot of competition for those top spots,” Tuzzi said.
While the goal is to help younger runners progress, Tuzzi said making sure they’re not overdoing it is also important.
Overtraining is a concern Tuzzi and her coaches monitor; all of them help runners gradually improve over time. The need to progress training from freshman to senior year is imperative.
“It’s hard to see, as a coach, a talented freshman but not throw them in with seniors in training,” Tuzzi said. “You have to adjust miles and tweak training plans to where they’re still fresh and compete at a high level.”
For Tuzzi, fostering a love of running in her athletes is equally, if not more, important that the accolades and success earned over the years. It’s all a testament to the students and parents who believe in the program ever year.
“We have goals with our varsity to be on the podium every year at state, but we also want to foster a love of running health and fitness,” Tuzzi said. “We’re competitive on the top, but we also want to teach them the discipline of running.”
Dripping Springs’ cross country team opens the 2019 season with its home meet held at Dripping Springs Ranch Park Aug. 24. The 25-5A district championships will be held Oct. 18 at Lockhart City Park.