Last season the Greencastle boys' cross country team made big improvements, however, this year they look to make even bigger gains. With the nucleus returning from last year's roster the team has set even higher goals.
Ryan Stevens, the varsity captain, who barely missed advancement to semi-state last season with a 16:49 at Ben Davis, is back looking to capitalize on his experiences. Running up front with Stevens is junior Tyler Hudson and senior Nathan Eubank.
"My top three are looking strong," says head coach Craig Callahan. "I think they realized last season they were capable of pushing themselves further than previously expected. I'm really happy with the way they're leading the team right now."
When it comes to expectations, it's not only the top three who are thinking big. Junior Paul Bryan has been working vigorously throughout the summer to improve his time. Last season Bryan was running at the sixth spot on varsity, however, with the improvements he's made over the summer, he will mostly likely be running right behind the top three.
"I think Paul has totally committed to our cause," Callahan said. "This isn't always a glamorous sport, and is extremely strenuous, but I think he has accepted that; his improvement is proof of that."
Also returning for the Tiger Cubs is senior Hunter Mitchell.
"Last season Hunter struggled through, what seemed like the entire season, with a nagging hip injury," Callahan noted. "We're hoping to keep him healthy, because with him, we're an entirely different team. He really adds to our strength."
Freshmen Taylor Secrest and Elijah Brattain are also significant additions. Last year, Secrest and Brattain had very impressive seasons for middle school coach Art Dwigans. Stepping up to the high school level -- and the varsity level at that -- will prove challenging, but coach Callahan notes they are embracing it.
"Seeing Elijah and Taylor stick with the upperclassmen on some of our major distance runs is very encouraging. They have no fear out there. I'm also very lucky to have Matt White at their heels. He has been hanging right in there with the freshmen. It helps keep them honest. And 'hanging right in there' for any of these runners can't be easy."
The past two weeks the Tiger Cubs have been conducting 'two a day' practices. Running between the Nature Park, high school and their home course at the Fairgrounds, the boys cross country team has logged around 110 miles in 12 days.
On top of that, in June most of the team raced in the "Park to Park Relay", which was a 64-mile course across Hendricks County.
"I sat down with my seniors before summer and told them the off-season was going to be more intense than anything they'd experienced before," Callahan said. "As a small school, we know the only way we could compete with the big schools was if we logged a lot of mileage this summer and early season. We have high goals and expectations for this season and with that comes a lot of hard work."
The Tiger Cubs open the season Saturday at Fountain Central at 9am.
"Fountain Central is the start of our journey. We're going to take it one meet at a time, week to week, and see what we can do this season," says Callahan. "I believe these guys are capable of really turning heads."
Article contributed by Tiger Cubs' head coach Craig Callahan