Boonville cross-country team seeks to find mental toughness in 2020

Chris Bowie
Boonville boys and girls cross-country team (front row, left to right) Jordan Birk, Rachel Massa, Daylynn Baker, Alison Eichelberger, Emily Gibson and Hailee Williams. (second row, left to right) Assistant coach Becky Eckerle, Austin Rice, Austin Coleman, Ryan Jones, Hayden Alley, Brayden McFarland, Hayden Williams and head coach Melissa Baker. (Chris Bowie/Boonville Daily News).

The Boonville boys and girls cross-country team couldn’t have picked a better motto for the 2020 season.

With a total of 12 boys and girls out for the season, head coach Melissa Baker said the motto this year is: “Mental tough is finding fuel in an empty tank.”

The split squad of six boys and six girls will find out soon enough where they stand on Tuesday, Sept. 1 in the season opener at Salisbury.

Although the team has been running the streets and trails in Boonville since August 10, Baker said they have also talked a lot in practice about strategy during the race.

“I think we will have a competitive team on the boys and girls side,”Baker said. “We have some athletic dual sport athletes that will be fun to watch. Brayden McFarland is showing great leadership as a senior at practice. He is leading the boy’s team in workouts and showing the middle schoolers proper warm up and running techniques. Iam proud of Brayden and how he is taking the senior leadership role.

“When all six boys can compete at meets together, they will get Boonville on the score board. The same will happen with the girls when all six are able to compete together. Emily Gibson is coming out strong again her sophomore year. She is working hard in practice and has really gained some mental toughness from her freshman to sophomore years. I am excited to see her race this season.”

A returning all-conference performer for the Lady Pirates, Gibson is looking to beat her time of 22:31.3 set last year as a freshman. Baker said Gibson’s goal is to run a 21 this season and place in conference and districts. “Making it to state would be a great accomplishment for Emily,”Baker said.

As for McFarland, Baker said he didn’t run last year but has really grown into a strong runner and is excited to watch him on the courses this season.

Other runners returning this season for Boonville are Austin Rice, Hayden Alley, Rachel Massa and Daylynn Baker. Massa and Baker also play on the Boonville Lady Pirates softball team.

Baker said the key to the season for Boonville is to never settle. She said she talks to the team a lot about not just getting by but focusing on getting better.

“This group of kids mesh well together,”Baker said. “They support and encourage each other and are a strong Pirate family. I want these runners to be self-motivated and have the personal drive to improve their times every time they compete.”

Baker said each runner has also written their own personal game this season and have visited about what steps it is going to take to accomplish those goals each day. She said as coaches, they would love to see the boys and girls team place at each meet and have all-conference and all-district performers.

As for the Tri-County Conference this season, Baker said last year Osage girls won the title, followed by Blair Oaks, Eldon and Boonville. However this year, Baker said she feels Southern Boone will have a strong team and be looking to get on top.

“I think our girl’s team could place third in conference this year if they keep working hard and our dual sport girls are able to compete at the conference meet,”Baker said.

On the boys side in conference, Baker said Osage won, followed by California, Blair Oaks, Hallsville, Versailles and Southern Boone. She said those top three teams will be strong again this year.

“I would just like our boys to be in the middle of the pack and each one performing a personal best time at conference,” Baker said.

In addition to McFarland, Baker will look to senior Hayden Alley, junior Austin Coleman, sophomores Hayden Williams and Austin Rice and freshman Ryan Jones.

Baker said Williams, Jones and Coleman are all first-year runners for the Pirates. She said Alley is a returning runner while Rice competed in a couple of meets last year and is a dual sport athlete in soccer.

“Hayden is looking to improve his team best from last year in 22:04.6,”Baker said. “As for Austin Rice, he is looking to improve on his best time from last year in 26:00. Austin Coleman is another dual sport athlete in soccer, so I’m looking forward to watching him run a race. As for Williams and Jones, they are also dual sport athletes. They are both hard workers and have made gains from the first day of practice.”

On the girls side, Baker, Alison Eichelberger and Rachel Massa will compete in meets when they’re not playing softball for the Lady Pirates. Baker said Massa ran a personal best time of 24.47 last year.

“Rachel is another runner that works hard in the off season,” Baker said. “I’m excited to watch her compete this season. As for Daylynn, she ran a personal best time of 23:29.6 last year. Alison ran in middle school and was an all-conference performer, so I am looking forward to watching her compete.”

As for sophomores Jordan Birk and Hailee Williams, Baker said both are first year runners and have improved since starting the season.

“Jordan works hard every day in practice, while Hailee brings a positive attitude and comes to work every day during practice,” Baker said. “All these kids come out and work hard every day. They support and encourage each other and they push each other to be better. We are already different team members stepping up and taking on the leadership role every day.”