Cross Country 2012: A Season to Remember

Jack Marchesani

 

Running. For some of you it’s a time to relax, for others it’s their chance to compete, and for many of you it’s that idea that sparks a loud groan in gym and health class. For many years now, Malvern Prep has had a solid and well-established trio of running sports: cross country, winter track, and spring track. All three are led currently by Coach Mike Koenig. Assisted by Coach Beverly Sutton and Coach Fran Hoey, Koenig has set off this fall for what seems to be a remarkable cross country season.  I had a chance to catch up with Coach Koenig to discuss the upcoming season.

FL: The year has just begun, and there is already a lot of hope and expectations surrounding cross country. How do you personally feel coming into what seems to be this monumental season?

COACH K:
 (smiles) Well, right now Malvern is the defending league champ for the Inter-Ac, so we do have a lot riding on this. To be honest, I have lots of feelings about this season. I’m really excited, but also kind of nervous. You know, we are relying on a lot of underclassmen as our top runners. They’re still learning and catching up to speed with the bigger guys, but they have the ability to be great. Unfortunately, these guys are really injury prone. This is making me have to train the team differently than I normally would. Personally, I also have a lot of hope for a good season, and if the guys put that dedication and effort that we’ve seen so many times before the outcome will be good.

FL: Malvern’s a good group, and everything is going to be put on the line on that course. What can we expect to see this season in terms of the team’s performance?

COACH K: Undoubtedly, we are going to be a very good team. We’ve been for a while. The opposite side of this is that we are going up against some really great teams as well. Penn Charter and Germantown are a big threat this year because we all seem to be about in the same place with Cross Country. Then again, Malvern has talent. We have the potential for a lot of success and to really take this somewhere. It’s been said a million times before: it’s all about the commitment.

FL: What specific things are you most excited to see happen this season?

COACH K: As I said before, Malvern Cross Country is a very young team. I am really excited to see people learning how to race, and really getting a feel for it. It’s a team sport, so I want to see them race as a team. I am also excited to see the guys develop a true love and passion for running which so many people already have. I want this season to be fun and competitive at the same time. I’m a competitive person so I’d like to see us win, but I also really want the kids to enjoy what they’re doing. It’s that kind of nervous excitement you get that is going to drive those kids to the finish line, but is ultimately fueled by a love for what they’re doing.

FL: Last year we won the Inter-Ac title. Do you think we could do it again this year?

COACH K: Absolutely.

FL: Wow! Okay, so describe your coaching technique a bit. How does this help the athletes?

COACH K: Well, I learned to coach from this thing called Carmichael Training Systems. Chris Carmichael, Lance Armstrong’s trainer, hired me to adapt Lance’s training system to a running platform. It gave them the same type of benefit from running, but a lot quicker. I use these principles for coaching today. My goal is to motivate the athletes. I want to make sure that they are staying healthy and making the right choices. If they can do this on their own, then this allows me to push them harder and harder in practice. In direct result to this, the guys get better and better.

FL: Last question, but this one’s deep! How can cross country, even for the guys not on the team, relate to life at Malvern and what we do around campus?

COACH K: (laughs) Malvern’s big thing is brotherhood, right? So this is important. Every sport solidifies the brotherhood. Just like in school, in cross country the guys are working towards a common goal. Malvern is an incredible thing, and it’s these values that promote success. Running on the cross country team, as with any MP sport, helps develop the guys to become better men in the long run (pun fully intended).

So far, Coach Koenig has been right. Over the past ten years he has developed Malvern kids into real runners. He started at Malvern back in the fall of 2002. His first year they lost 7 meets. Disappointed, he turned things around. Since then, they’ve lost a total of 5 meets, and won (what he thinks is close to) 70. Coach Koenig takes pride in his runners, and tries to keep them fresh for college. “Other kids will get burnt out by their senior year. I try not to do this, and that’s what colleges look for. They want kids who are great but have a lot of room to improve,” said Coach Koenig. Already this season the Friars have had a race at the grueling Episcopal course. Filled with what seemed to be endless hills, the runners pushed through for a great race.  Malvern dominated the top ten with Billy McDevitt (nicknamed “Squid”) taking first.

Coach Koenig wasn’t the only one fired up about this Cross Country season. The momentum has reached the students. I spoke with a few guys about what they thought.

Sophomore Jim Finnegan said, “The Cross Country team is working really hard. We want to live up to and surpass our expectations.”

Junior Brendan Stec (and only the XC runners will get this) said, “Yeah, it’s a good team. We go hard in the paint!”

Word has even spread beyond campus. Alumni Matt Abbott, Class of 2012 and current student at The University of Pittsburg, said, “Cross Country was one of my favorite experiences at Malvern. A really special thing occurs when you meet two hours every day of the week with the same people. Mr. Koenig has done a great job with the team, and really knows how to create a great environment!”

You can find more information and the schedule for Malvern Prep Cross Country at the follow link.http://www.usatodayhss.com/team/malvern-preparatory-school-malvern-pa/boys-varsity-varsity-cross-country