As a Mitchell High School cross country coach, you usually have to appreciate the little things to stay energized at your position.
"I love just seeing kids improve themselves. That's what gives me the most rewarding feeling," said Walt Wilson, a 10-year cross country coach and math teacher at Mitchell. "We usually don't have enough kids to go for big team goals."
But that's all changing. This season, the boys' team at Mitchell has doubled from six to 12 runners, as the Marauders fielded a full team for the first time in three seasons.
And it's not just the size of the team that is changing. Friday, the boys' team not only qualified to run as a scoring team, but it also turned some heads placing two runners in the top 20 on a blistering, hot day at the Widefield Invitational.
"My thing with running is to never give up," said Mitchell captain Morgan Cisna, a senior, who finished 13th overall in 20 minutes, 38 seconds on a 92-degree afternoon around the Widefield Community Center. "And the same goes with our team. Maybe we were a little small last year - more than we want to be. But we didn't give up, and recruited, and now it's so awesome. We're all family already and we're doing well."
Cisna, who hopes to run at the Air Force Academy, was followed by teammate Shaawn Stevens in 19th place on a day where the Marauders finished fifth overall at the 11-school meet.
And if you missed it, it was all caught on video. Throughout the meet, the Marauders coach was busy running all over the course barking out times while snapping photos of his team.
"It's the most fun I've had in awhile," Wilson said. "We just have to keep it going and get our girls team up in numbers, too."
He's not nervous about it though. He thinks the girls' squad, which is still two runners short of a full varsity team, has the right kind of personalities to attract other runners in the future.
It'll have to start up top with the girls' captain and top runner Alissa Mastronardi. The junior will have to be an integral part of it the next two seasons for any sign of growth on the girls' team.
"I think we can do it. This offseason we just kind of told our friends to join, and obviously that didn't go over as good as we'd hoped," said Mastronardi, who finished third overall in the girls' race at 24:34. "I know there are girls who will join and love it. We just want to have a full team. And I think, well, I know we can do it."