A team or athletic program always learns a lot about itself after finally getting the opportunity to compete against other programs or athletes, and as the first-year head coach of the Havre High cross country teams, Darci Heninger will surely know a lot more after this weekend.
Heninger and the Central A Blue Ponies have already had a solid off-season, but there is no doubting their excitement to run against somebody else outside of practice. The Ponies will get that opportunity today in Cut Bank, running in the annual season-opening Cut Bank Time Trials.
As a new head coach, Heninger is still learning about her runners. The Ponies have a lot of talent on the roster this season, and the first weekend of competition will be used to set the boys and girls varsity lineups moving forward. Running for the girls will be Adrianne Miller, Alara Vogel, Brooke LaValley, Haley Ohm, Julie Mckinney, Lindsey Kugrna, McKenna Barkus, Meggie Zook, Morgan Mazurkiewicz, Tori Mazurkiewicz, Peyton Filius, Rachel Majeres, Talina Hernandez and Taryrn Winchell. Key returners include Ohm, Barkus, Tori and Morgan Mazurkiewicz and Majeres, while Filius is a much welcomed addition. And running for the boys will be Brandon Robertson, Elijah David, Brock Ross, Cameron Knapton, Dylan Stewart, Ethan Smith and Sundance Lodge.
“We are pretty excited to get a chance to run,” Heninger said. “And we are pretty excited to see other runners from across the state that we need to keep our eyes on. It will be good to finally see where everybody else is at besides us.
“Our top seven runners on both teams will be varsity,” Heninger added. “I told them that this race is nerve racking because it is the first race of the season, but they need to give it their all and not to hold back. They can’t be scared to pass anybody, they just have to get out there and go hard so we know exactly where they are and what we need to work on.”
So far, the Ponies have been hard at work, utilizing well-rounded practices to make sure everybody is ready for Cut Bank. And the focus today will be getting off to a good start, not wasting energy at the beginning of the race, and pacing themselves. Heninger also stressed the fact that the HHS runners need to have a strong last mile, as well as strong kick at the end of the race.
And there are no goals as far as finish times set for the time trials. Instead, the Ponies just need to get out and get week one in the books. Running against real competition instead of fellow teammates is crucial, and the Ponies should be prepared to turn in a competitive outing.
“We have been mixing up our workouts,” Heninger said. “We have continued to do some long runs, as well as short runs, and hills. We are still doing a little bit of everything, but we are making sure everybody is in shape, that is the big thing heading into the weekend.”
Today the Ponies will compete in Cut Bank at the Cut Bank Time Trials.