Under the leadership of new head coaches Nick and Lauren Johnson, the Lady Foresters are sowing the seeds of success for future years and are improving their performance from last year. Four runners returned from last’s year’s team and welcomed four new freshmen and two upperclassmen additions to the team. Since over half the team is newcomers, it seems like the perfect situation for a new coach to instill a new coaching philosophy, and that’s what Nick Johnson is doing.
“On the training side, I feel consistency is incredibly important as well as being able to adapt to new and changing stimuli and making sure we stay healthy through preemptive work,” Johnson said. “On the mental side, I focus on making sure we hold a high amount of respect for each other, and that there is ample trust amongst teammates and coaches as well as the individual athlete.”
This philosophy has been successful in the past and has helped the team so far. Senior Aspen Dirr has noticed the attitude and culture change that has come with the Johnsons and feels that the team is heading in the right direction.
“We are excited to see how much we can improve, which has made practice something we look forward to everyday,” she said.
For Dirr, this coaching change comes at the end of her career as a Forester, which can be difficult for any athlete, but she feels that the Johnsons are leading the team in the right direction.
“They are preparing us for the real world, and they care about us and our lives,” she said. “It has been a very positive change!”
Dirr has a history of making it to the NAIA Cross Country National Championships and has a goal of making it there again during her final season.
“It’s weird that this is my senior year,” she said. “I won’t be able to run with the new recruits in the future, which is sad, but I’m still excited to be able to run competitively.”
As a collective goal, the Lady Foresters are striving to improve their standing in the conference this year. Last year they placed 10th out of the 10 Crossroads League teams, and they are looking to place in the top five this season. They are adopting the mentality of the Mighty Ducks in hopes of making this goal come to fruition. For women’s cross country, the Crossroads League is tough.
“It won’t be easy, but the pieces are there to make it happen,” coach Nick Johnson said. “This group of athletes have been really refreshing to coach. They are a great group of young Christians, and they have risen to the challenges I have given them.”
Huntington races again on October 12 when they will travel to Wilmington College for their invitational. After that meet, the Foresters only have one more meet to prepare themselves for the conference meet.