Perryville Cross Country coach Shadrick Shafer asks his teams this question every year: where do you find that inner strength?
“What is it they go to and rely on when every part of your physical body is telling you to quit,” Shafer said. “Anybody that has done any kind of running knows that it is just as much mental as it is physical. That’s why sports like cross country matter. If it was just about running, no one would do it. Cross country is about challenging yourself to push back and past obstacles for the rest of your life.”
Shafer gets a variety of answers from his runners when he asks that question.
“For some it’s faith, for some it’s believing in themselves, and for some it’s family and wanting to make them proud,” Shafer said. “For some it’s their area to shine.”
Runners are working on that ability to shine this summer as Shafer has had team workouts each week from Tuesday through Friday. Shafer has had a good turnout with 20 to 30 runners every day.
Along with logging miles each morning, Shafer puts an emphasis on the weight room spending two days per week working on small muscle groups and a core workout.
“That’s all about injury prevention,” Shafer said. “We call it making yourself unbreakable. The things we do now help make sure that we are still running well late in the season.”
Shafer noted that his season starts in June and July and doesn’t end until November and he loves every minute of it.
“Every coach will tell you that there is nothing better than kids setting their own goals and watching them push day after day and eventually reach it,” Shafer said. “It’s a feeling unlike any other. It doesn’t matter if they are running a 17-minute 5K or a 25-minute 5K.”
Those goals are shaped now for the Perryville cross country team. While Shafer hasn’t sat down with each member of his team yet and come up with them, he does want some of his runners to make runs into the postseason.
Perryville had two runners reach the state meet last fall with Courtney Wright finishing 60th and Tegan Bishop earning 75th place overall.
Wright graduated, but Bishop returns for her junior season along with Kira Hagan, Keturah Pyland and Lilly Franklin.
Shafer has high hopes for all four girls, but Hagan especially.
“Kira is all business and is in tune with her abilities and can turn it up when she wants. She’s very capable of getting out of districts and possibly reaching that state meet.”
Bishop finished with a time of 21 minutes, seven seconds in her first state meet. Shafer is looking for her to do even better in the fall.
“The physical ability is there,” Shafer said. “She is as capable as any runner I have coached in the last 13 years. There is no one as talented as Tegan Bishop. I have to tell her to back off of her mileage on a regular basis. As soon as she begins to believe in herself as much as her teammates and coaches, the sky is the limit for her.”
On the boys side, Shafer is looking at seniors Lucas Smith, Waylon Krauss and Spencer Malloy to challenge for a state bid.
“They have all been working really hard and in the case of Lucas there has been some injuries in the past few seasons that have held him back. We would love to get some representation at state this year.”
Shafer is also looking at Ben Rehagan to be on the brink of a state meet spot.
“He’s right there on the edge and has been getting a little bit better every day.”
For those goals to be attained Shafer understands that they start in the summer.
“The races are not won the day of the meet, but now in June and July,” he said.