Path to the Podium: Denmark Boys Are Runner Up In Class 7A

Path to the Podium-Denmark Boys

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, Denmark coach Andrew Hudson details the journey his boys took on their way to their 2nd place finish in Class AAAAAAA.

XC 2022

Any seniors that set a good example or laid the foundation?  
Meeth Naik was a positive and supportive leader who set a good example with workout and competitive intensity.  David Bolt was also a positive influence.

Any good or bad results that motivated the team? 
Region 2022 was one of the worst days in recent memory from a team and coaching perspective.  We knew coming into the season that we would have a bit of a rebuilding year but we had exceeded expectations all season and felt ready.  I had overscheduled meets and with Homecoming the week before, we had about half of the team get sick including a few important members of the varsity teams.  These circumstances dramatically affected their performances which combined with South Forsyth's outstanding races, left us at home for State outside of 2 individuals.

Winter 2022

Anyone that stepped up their training with XC already in mind? 
I don't have much of a pulse on the team in the winter.  It's the most challenging time since we don't have practices.  I had an idea that Ben and Ethan were getting after it in training since they checked in from time to time.  I assumed many of the others were working as well.

Any setbacks/challenges that had to be overcome?  
Ethan Bridge had been stunned not to go to state since he was 7th at Region and the team didn't qualify.  He had a good race but wasn't in position to qualify.  He also had an early track season injury that affected his track season a bit.  It took an off-season reset and some experience to help him past the challenges but he was able to overcome and his performances really helped the program.

Track 2023

Did anyone have a breakout season, or were there new additions that changed the outlook of XC? 
Ben Sydell came in really ready and continued his steady path of improvement cutting significant chunks of time.  His 3200m PR went from 10:07 to 9:30 in one race at County I believe.  I also think about the Rust Buster at West when the majority of our varsity boys ran a 1600 against a pack from West.  Their times had been trickling down in the 1600m but in that one race, we had a series of breakthroughs that led me to believe that we could really have a great XC season.  We had 5-6 guys whose PR's went from 5:09-5:16 down to high 4:30's to low 4:50's.  That was a significant day in our development.

Any setbacks/challenges that had to be overcome?  
Nothing comes to mind other than what I have already mentioned.  

Summer 2023

Any new additions that changed the outlook for XC?  
Jacob Grant, an incoming freshman was someone that we hoped could join our pack and do great things.  He ended up doing so by the end of the XC season. 

What were the early goals for the season?  
Our main goal after last XC season was to qualify to state which we knew would still not be easy in spite of our improvement.  

How did summer training go for the team?  
The summer went about as well as I can remember for any of my teams.  All of the runners that we were relying on to accomplish our goals were spot-on in attending practice and training with the team.  We were hitting mileage goals and they were working together really well.

Any setbacks/challenges that had to be overcome?
Jacob Grant, our incoming freshman, was slow to join because he had to miss a few weeks with injuries. 

Season 2023

Did anyone have a breakout season that changed the outlook for the team? 
I don't know if anyone had a breakout season this year with the boys.  Our model is steady improvement and with the way they trained, that's how the races went.  They were solid and steady and persistent.

How did early results compare to the team goals?  
We were on-target with early season goals.  The teams that we would see all season were at our first meet - Harrison and Carrollton - we raced them many times this season.  We were 20 something points behind Harrison at Hoya 2-Mile and won at Wesleyan, which was a surprisingly good meet.  The hosts and Whitefield Academy provided excellent competition in a small field.  

Did the team revise any goals? 
We tried to resist the urge to make more challenging goals as we kept reminding ourselves that qualifying to state was still going to be a challenge as the teams in our region were all among the best in 7A.  However, we knew that if we could qualify, we could do very well in 7A.  I did feel early on that we could be contenders for a state championship and we had that in mind.

Any setbacks/challenges that had to be overcome? 
The challenge of the pervasive mentality from last season.  Trying not to fall prey to the disaster.  Halfway through the region race, it looked like we were falling apart.  

In hindsight, what are the key moments of the season that led to the State result?
The way we rallied in the 2nd half of the region race.  Each of our scorers passed 2-3 runners over the last 1200m to really make it happen for us.  Aside from that, it's hard to narrow it down to moments because of our steady approach.  It all happened in the best possible way that we had hoped.  We had a chance to win and with one more characteristic race, it could have happened. The call-back and trampling affected our runners directly so who knows.  Most contenders could say the same thing though and we are happy with what we accomplished.  It's rare for all scorers to have great races at state and our margin for error was smaller than Harrison's.  Great job from Harrison to be the best team all season - not an easy thing to accomplish.