Coach Tim Spruill is an optimistic guy. He likes to see the bright side of things, his glass is always half full, and good things happen to him because of his positivity.
However, going into his second year as the Head Coach of the Panther Cross Country team, he knew that the year would be difficult. That did not mean that he didn’t find positives to take away from the season.
Junior Carson Sprunk consistently led the Panthers in times this season.
“Because of restrictions due to COVID-19, we were forced to go to a bunch of meets we normally would not have considered. Instead of being a negative, it was a total win for the team. We got to compete against different schools than normal and got to see a lot of different courses instead of the same course over and over again. Next year, even if all the restrictions are lifted, we will probably do most of these meets again. If nothing else, they were fun and we were competitive. That is what it is all about!”
Spruill considered this season a complete success, despite missing the State Meet.
“We had a full schedule and despite losing members due to 2020 being weird, we competed just as hard and performed and placed consistently higher than the year before. Growth under such circumstances makes me wonder how much we could have achieved in a more normal year. This counts as a win for us!”
The Panthers were led by two student-athletes who will return in 2021. Junior Carson Sprunk was consistently the fastest boy runner for the Panthers. When Carson wasn’t busy hitting the running trails, he was busy maintaining his 4.1 GPA.
The Lady Panthers were paced by Junior Carolina Alvarado. Not to be outdone by Carson, Carolina carries a 4.4 GPA and is a returning All-District player for the Lady Panther Soccer team.
“Carson and Carolina are the epitome of student-athletes. They come to compete day in and day out, and do not let their grades fall at all in the process,” said Spruill. “Both of them will be in contention to break the school records next year, as they were within a minute this year.”
Coach Spruill and the Panthers are already looking forward to next season.
“We have already started conditioning for next season. Many of our veteran athletes are doing other sports at the moment, but at the same time we have a number of rookies who are getting their feet muddy for the first time. Despite the pandemic, we are looking to increase the size and speed of the team for next year. The team is preparing to break school and personal records in the first meet of the next season.”
“Our main goal for the coming season and all future seasons is to get back to the state meet. Class 4A does not require you to qualify for the state meet, however Class 5A requires qualification. We have not been to state since the school reclassified to 5A. But our growth and conditioning plan moves us closer to making it every week.”
As would be expected, Coach Spruill puts his positive spin on even the most grueling of sports.
“Cross country runners are a strange group of people. They consistently come out and dedicate themselves to the most miserable, painful, terrible sport our school has to offer. When they get good at it, somehow they enjoy it. Their strength of character sets a standard we should all strive for. Three miles at a time, they show us how to be the best we can be. I am proud to coach this team and hope I get the privilege to continue coaching them for many years to come.”
Ashley Martin ’17
The Woodlawn Panthers Cross Country team traveled to City Park in New Orleans on Saturday, October 22, 2016 for the Jack Schommer Invitational. The meet included 11 new personal records for the Panthers, all of which were well-deserved and visibly fought for.
The Lady Panthers were the first to take the course. In total, there were 9 girls that ran in the race. The girls of the varsity team earned 5 of the 11 new records.
Alexis Martin (21:49), Melissa Grant (21:51; PR), and Aimee Martin (26:21) were the first three running for Woodlawn to cross the finish line. Coming in soon after were Ashton Howard (27:34; PR), Alexis Aucoin (29:59; PR), and Lily Khemmanyvong (32:04).
Aucoin was proud to have broken the 30-minute mark. Howard’s sprint at the end of her race was truly remarkable. Khemmanyvong, earning a personal record for the season, mentioned her determination to improve and her goals for the rest of the season.
Also running for Woodlawn was Rayan Kaadan (32:54; PR), Belyn Laird (39:33; PR), and Carolyn Sprague (39:33).
Kaadan and Laird finally got the chance to prove themselves this weekend by competing in their first varsity races. Sprague, fighting against pain in her knees, had Laird to rely on during the race, both finishing with respectable times.
Following the girls’ race was the boys’ varsity race. Gathering 4 new personal records, the team exhibited their definition of hard work and dedication.
Meeting, but not surpassing, his personal record, Khidir Al-Mustafa (16:52) came in 8th place in the meet, earning his second placing in the top ten since beginning cross country. Afterwards, finishing were Darmar Galvan (19:20; PR), Coby Sanchez (19:23), Saulomon John (19:27; PR), and Joshua Stephens (20:13). Running together for most of the race, they each pushed each other for personal bests. Julian Scott (21:27; PR) and Brandon Williams (21:27) also ran together.
Tyler Lewis (24:59; PR) ran in his first varsity race this weekend, surprising everyone when he finished under 25 minutes.
Competing in the Open Race were Makenzey Heughan (30:11; PR) and Lisa Wood (33:21; PR). For both of these girls, their first races went very well, and both managed to smile following the race because of this achievement.
Next weekend will be the first and only weekend off for Woodlawn’s Cross Country team. Regardless, they are continuing to work harder than ever to become a force to be reckoned with for the state meet November 15th. Regarding the rest of the season as a whole, Coach Wallace stated, “The best thing of all is that we are finally learning how to race against other schools instead of just trying to beat our personal times from the week before. We aren’t getting in shape anymore; we are in shape and battling for every position. We are in warrior mode.”
Ashley Martin ’17
Marking this weekend as cross country’s mid-season race, Woodlawn is pushing past their bounds for astounding times. Starting the morning strong, the girls set the bar high with four new personal records. Coming in first and second for Woodlawn with a close finish were Alexis Martin (22:37) and Melissa Grant (22:38; PR). Following were Aimee Martin (26:48; PR) and Kelli Oubre (27:15; PR), both of which are also competing in their first year of cross country. Finishing off the team’s female varsity race were Alexis Aucoin (30:41; PR) and Shelby Sanchez (31:16). These girls both exhibited the true meaning of teamwork with Shelby encouraging Alexis to meet a new personal record.
Woodlawn’s boys have also been working towards noteworthy finishes with two new personal records. Khidir Al-Mustafa (17:31), finished first for our team, steadily reaching for a new male personal record for the school, impressively motivating his peers to accomplish their goals. Soon after Khidir came Brandon Williams (18:52), portraying a fluidity that is seemingly natural which has furthered his abilities of strength and endurance. Finishing next were Marshall Bayles (19:15; PR) and Sauloman John (19:50) who are seen to be pushing each other in practices every day.
Rounding out the boys’ varsity race for Woodlawn were Joshua Stephens (20:22; PR) and Logan Fontenot (23:56). Joshua sprinted to the finish line with a smile on his face, as always, showing his inspiring motivation to continue to set new personal records.
Logan, bringing his heart into the race against all odds, finished with only 35 seconds separating him from a new personal record. Running for his late cousin Conner this season, Logan has dedicated himself and his season with cross country to Conner’s remembrance. Touching the hearts of all that watched this weekend, Logan has exhibited a strength that is admired and strived for by his teammates. From all of the cross country team and those that have continued to support Woodlawn as a whole, Logan has a strong family of people that will always have his back.
Bringing new talent onto the team this weekend was Itzel Vasquez (19:47; PR), Rayan Kaadan (22:19), and Carolyn Sprague (23:06; PR), competing in a two-mile open race. With continued hard work, these three girls show promising seasons. Running in the three-mile open race was Lillian Khemmanyvong (36:56), fighting the exhaustion of Woodlawn High School’s 2016/2017 Homecoming.
Next weekend, Woodlawn will be attending a meet in Walker, offering a much needed change in scenery.
It took until the fifth week of the season, but the Woodlawn cross country team finally got to run on a dry course, and the results were spectacular. Every Woodlawn competitor turned in their best time of the season. Twelve out of the eighteen that competed turned in career bests.
The boy’s squad turned in their best team performance of the year, averaging 19:04 over the three mile course as six runners went under 20 minutes. Khidhr Al-Mustafa turned in a season and team best 17:33. Brandon Williams finished in a time of 18:29. Junior Saulomon John was the third Panther across the line with a personal record of 19:34 and was closely followed by the trio of Coby Sanchez (19:34), Darmar Galvan (19:52) and Marshall Bayles (19:53), all of which were personal records.
The boys moved up ten places over their finish in the same meet last season and are really beginning to race and compete as a team.
Coach Wallace says the key to the team’s success is no secret. “It’s hard work, nothing but hard work. As the season has progressed the boys have really embraced our weekly workout plan and are competing with each other and pushing each other in practice. That makes us run faster in practice which makes us run faster in the meets. In other words, the faster you train, the faster you race.”
The girls’ team finished five places better than their finish in 2015. They were led by a season best 22:33 performance by junior Alexis Martin. Her time was the team’s best of the year and seemed to be just the motivation the rest of the squad needed as every girl on the team ran a season best at this meet.
Junior Melissa Grant was the second Lady Panther to finish in a personal record 23:51.
After the race Grant could not control her enthusiasm for the day and for the future as she echoed the sentiment of the entire team when she commented, “Coach, I want to work harder than I ever have this upcoming week and dominate the Highland Road course next Saturday.”
Grant’s excitement and work ethic, along with the leadership of Alexis Martin and team captain Shelby Sanchez, has been a great help to the girls’ team as they continue to improve from week to week.
Freshman Aimee Martin set another personal record of 28:10, as did sophomore Alexis Aucoin, who competed in her first varsity contest. Kelli Oubre and Rayan Kaadan both set personal records in the two mile JV race. Oubre is likely to see her first varsity action next Saturday.
In the boys JV race, freshman Tyler Lewis saw his first action of the season, finishing the two mile course in 16 minutes.
The boys and girls teams will return to Highland Road Park this Saturday for the Catholic High Invitational.