A crowd of teens dressed in light athletic wear shielded their eyes from the sun as they looked up at coaches Tom Martin and Ashley St. Denis. Newbies fidgeted with paperwork. Veterans stared through Martin as if they had heard what he was going to say one hundred times before.
Drink water throughout the day. Bring a water bottle to practice. Get a good pair of shoes but donít tell your parents I told you to buy a $300 pair of shoes.
Chuckles came from the half dozen parents standing in the back. The football team decided to cut across the bleachers, interrupting Coach Martinís speech until the clanging of their cleats against aluminum gave way to the clacking of metal against concrete in the distance.
We want you to learn what it takes to work hard in this sport. We want you to record your miles. You may be running 15 miles in a week now. You will be amazed when you are running 40 miles at the end of the year. Your times will improve and we hope that you develop a passion for the sport. That is what it takes to be successful.
Administrative matters were at hand. In a single-file line, paperwork was turned in to be sorted and organized later. Bodies were corralled into a school auditorium where a mandatory health and safety PowerPoint slideshow was projected onto a screen.
An hour after the practice officially began, the team returned to the track to start a light workout. The top boys did eight laps of jogging the turns and striding the straightaways. Everyone else did as many laps as they could do in the same amount of time. Practice concluded with just a fraction of the routine of dynamic drills and core.
A senior told a younger runner that it would be the lightest workout they did all year.
On this day, everyone stuck together, but Coach Martin plans several workouts that allow him to quickly determine where everyone is. He does not need a time trial to start figuring out the pecking order.
The pecking order on the WJ boys team is anything but clear entering this 2012 season. For certain, there will be competition to claim a top 7 spot.
Will Delay transferred to Walter Johnson after completing his junior cross country season with Southlake Carroll High School near Dallas, Texas. His experience running track with Walter Johnson last year was highlighted by a gutsy 3200m performance in the rain at the Montgomery County Championship Meet. In that race, Delay latched on to the leaders for as long as he could and the result was a fifth place finish and a PR by over fifteen seconds in 9:40.62.
Delay was unable to re-create that magic at the regional meet where he was beaten by then-freshman teammate Itai Bezherano. Bezherano was the fastest and most consistent freshman 3200m runner in Montgomery County last year with three consecutive performances between 10:04 and 10:08 in a two week span.
Nathaniel Rees was the surprise of the year according to Coach Martin, dropping his 3200m time to 10:04 to nearly win the county B title against Bezherano.
James Duncan and Matthew Morris impressively pushed their 1600m times down to 4:36. Michael Spak and Franklin Floresca are the two rising juniors from last yearís varsity team. Ben Crites is the veteran leader who has never seen WJ lose a cross country state title.
To win a state title in 2012 would make five in a row for Walter Johnson. The Wildcats know that there is the proverbial target on their backs with a hungry and loaded Severna Park squad among those taking aim. That may be the storyline of the season as the two teams are slated to faceoff several times before the state championship meet.
As for the Walter Johnson girls team which failed to qualify for the state meet last year, the coaches would like to see their young team gel and grow together. When that happens, they say, the success follows.