By MICHAEL KINNEY
For the Yukon Review
For the Yukon boys cross country team, there was no better way for them to get their season started than facing off with Mustang last week in their annual Canadian County Clash.
Despite it being considered a practice run, facing the Broncos right out the gate was beneficial, according to Yukon boys coach Matt Parent.
“We had a pretty good outing at the annual Yukon/Mustang cross country duel. Mustang has an exceptionally tough group this year, and they showed it,” Parent said. “Our main goal really wasn’t to beat Mustang. It was for us to get better. Comparing results from the previous week’s Varsity/Alumni run, 35 of our 52 guys ran a better time. That was our goal.”
Because the Millers are so young, seeing improvement each time out is important.
But so is building up the body and conditioning for later in the season.
“We have a very young, inexperienced group right now,” Parent said. “So many of our starting group are sophomores and freshmen, so it will take a bit to get them going. We are by no means a finished product. Right now, we’re just trying to establish an aerobic base for them while trying to daily build volume. Slowly but surely, we are moving their comfort zone.”
Parent said his upper group consists of about 24 or 25 runners.
“These guys are starting to figure out that if they are going to achieve anything, they can’t do it by running comfortably. For them to figure it out this early is a testament to how hard they are willing to work. I have been extremely impressed with these guys. Most really seem to want to pay the price to get better,” Parent said.
In the first few weeks of the season, the Millers have been paced by a few of their underclassmen.
According to Parent, it’s been freshmen Max Marler and Coy Pope who have been setting the tone.
A few of the other runners to keep an eye on in the starting lineup include Eli George, Tyler Birmingham, Cade Pope, Aron Tahdooahnippah and Kyle Crow.
“These guys earned that right by having the best and most consistent two-mile times, but things could definitely change now that we are into the 5k portion of our schedule,” Parent said.
Freshmen Austin Miller and Hayden Griffen along with sophomore Jonah Hanscom, junior Caleb Ankrom and seniors, Seth Cortez and Chris Gerber all have stood out at practice and are right with the starting group, Parent said.
“ We really have a pool of about 12 or 13 guys that could step in a do the job. This creates a ton of competition, which eventually will make us better,” the coach said.
The Millers officially kicked off its season this week when it competed in Friday’s Putnam City North Invitational.
Heading into the meet, Parent said he is interested in learning about his runners.
“For the first meet of the year, our goal is more internal,” Parent said. “I would love to come out and win a meet. However, I am more interested in getting better. It will be our first 5k of the season, so we will be extending our guys a little over a mile from what we’ve been racing.”
The meet was also going to show Parent which Millers put in the work over the offseason.
“I’m extremely interested in where our times are right now,” Parent said. “That will tell me how far we need to go in order to achieve one of our goals, which are to qualify for the state meet.”
Yukon is coming off a season in which it didn’t qualify for state. It was the first time 12 years they failed to advance.
“It is a big team goal. While we are very young and inexperienced, we do work hard, so I really think we can get back into the state meet this year,” Parent said. “I have just been impressed with these guys and their willingness to work thus far. I get excited to go to practice every day, and they are the reason. This group will get us back on track.”
The Millers will be back in action Sept. 13 at the Choctaw Jacket Run at Choctaw Creek Park.