Path to the Podium: Mary Persons Girls Place 4th in 3A

Path to the Podium-Mary Persons Girls

By Andy Christie

What exactly did it take for a team to arrive at the moment where they are standing on the podium, clutching their prized trophy? In this article, Mary Persons coach Alan McGough details the journey his girls took to their 4th place finish in Class AAA. 

XC 2022

Any seniors that set a good example or laid the foundation?
Madelyn Causey was a great senior leader in the 2022 class. She wasn't the most vocal but she always showed up ready to work. Her commitment to her training really paid off when she was the #1 runner for our girls at Carrollton. She was always in the top 5 but never our lead girl until her last XC race of her high school career.

Any good or bad results that motivated the team?
The girls wanted to come into the 2022 season and build on the success they had the previous years when they placed 6th in 2020 and 4th in 2021. The team was definitely running faster each progressive season and they wanted to keep that positive momentum.

Winter 2022

Anyone that stepped up their training with XC already in mind?
Not to my knowledge. All runners were advised to take some time off to let their bodies recover after a long summer and XC season. After that time off, the runners proceeded with business as usual preparing for their winter/spring sports.

Any setbacks/challenges that had to be overcome?
Not so much a setback/challenge but more of a transition. It was at some point during this time, the former head coach of MPXC Lonisha McElhaney accepted her new position at Jefferson High School.

Track 2023

Did anyone have a breakout season, or were there new additions that changed the outlook of XC?
Ella Hoover ran some of the fastest times she's ever ran during the '23 track season which put her in a great position to have a breakout season that following year during the 2023 cross country season

Any setbacks/challenges that had to be overcome?
The girls were training and competing under Coach McElhaney "Coach Mac" (someone who had been their coach since their middle school years) knowing she was leaving at the end of the 2022-23 school year. 

Summer 2023

Any new additions that changed the outlook for XC?
I accepted the head coach position for MPXC in May 2023 so that was a change for the whole program.

What were the early goals for the season?
I knew the girls needed to have a solid summer of training in order for us to stay relevant at the State level. With the timing of me accepting the head coach position and the end of the school year, I wasn't able to meet with the runners prior to them going out for summer break. Therefore, the initial goal was just get the girls out and running during voluntary summer workouts. 

How did summer training go for the team?
It was initially difficult getting some of the girls out to summer workouts. Understandably so, they were probably a little hesitant with a new head coach versus someone they had known and trusted for years. However, I did see the girls logging their miles on Strava so I knew most of them were meeting my expectations.

Any setbacks/challenges that had to be overcome?
We had a few girls battle knee pain before, during, and after the season. The only treatment for their type of knee pain was time off. The doctors told us it was a pain tolerance for the runners so as long as the girls could tolerate the pain then they were cleared to run. I was incredibly proud of how those girls battled through and finished the season.

Season 2023

Did anyone have a breakout season that changed the outlook for the team?
Ella Hoover and Kolbi McBrayer were really driven over the summer and I knew coming into the season they would be competing for the top spot on the girls' squad. Those two were back and forth all season and it was fun watching those girls push each other. 

How did early results compare to the team goals?
I had a very ambitious team goal for the girls with an average team time of 20:58 at Carrollton. This was before we had girls battling injuries so I was very optimistic going into the season that we could hit that goal.

Did the team revise any goals?
After the injuries we just wanted to see how close to that time we could get. 

Any setbacks/challenges that had to be overcome?
I think just the change in coaching staff and the knee injuries. 

In hindsight, what are the key moments of the season that led to the State result? 
At the Coach Wood Invitational, we were missing a couple of our usual top 5 since we were coming off  our Fall Break holiday. The girls were still able to average 21:58 and just missed placing in the top 3 teams. I told the girls that if we can do that without our usual top 5 then we're in great shape heading into region and state.