After finishing 11th in last year's 4A state cross country meet race, the Howard High School boys return a solid core of four varsity runners this fall to continue to build upon recent momentum in the program's growing relevance on the state level. The team continued improve upon the track season including 7 guys back who ran between 4:32 to 4:48 for 1600 meters. Howard is also looking to challenge River Hill and Mt. Hebron for the Howard County Championship with a real shot at becoming the county champs this year. Entering his second year as the head coach, Zack Dickerson shares with MileSplit what to expect from his 2015 boys cross country squad.
Top 7 XC Returnees for Howard Boys
|1) Gavin Reynolds||16:55.00|
|2) Steven Borisko||17:04.98|
|3) Ryan Gunderson||17:09.89|
|4) Nicholas Demer||17:12.38|
|5) Rupam Mondal||17:21.00|
|Average Time: 17:08.65 Total Time: 1:25:43.25 1-5 Split: 26.00|
|6) Dennis Danieli||17:25.37|
|7) Joesph Lapointe||17:48.49|
Interview with Howard HS XC boys head coach Zack Dickerson
1. How many years have you been coaching high school cross country (and at your current school)?
This will be my second year as the boys head XC coach. I spent one year as an assistant before that. All 3 with Howard.
2. What do you attribute as the main reasons for the success of your program?
The guys have a serious attitude towards running and experienced a successful season last year. We won our first invitational (Doc Jones Invite) as team in over 10 years last year and finished top 5 at a bunch of others. For most of the guys on the team that was the first time they were part of a successful XC team and as a result wanted to keep that momentum/feeling going. Also almost all of the guys are good friends away from practice as well which has built strong friendships between them. As a result they make sure everyone is getting in the summer miles, working hard at practice, and helping each other out if they are struggling on a particular day. The last thing they want is to let each other down.
It also helps that the majority of the team runs both Indoor and Outdoor Track as well. Running year round has really allowed them to improve as much as they have.
3. What would be the best way to describe your style and philosophy of coaching and working with high school runners?
As a coach I believe you have to balance being serious / competitive and having fun. No matter how “good” a team or a coaching staff is, if kids are not having fun on your team, if each individual is not getting constructive feedback from the coaching staff then they’re not going to be on the team for very long. I try to have the guys be part of the planning as much as I can. I have them offer different routes for long runs or pick where they want to run if we are going for a long or easy run. I also post results and how each runner is improving throughout the season and compared to last year. Little things like this can go a long way. Bringing Freeze Pops to practice never hurts either.
4. What are your core beliefs in your training plan and workouts for your cross country squads?
Staying healthy and writing a training plan that peaks for championship season are most important. While I plan out the whole season ahead of time I have no problem switching things up if I feel that the guys need an off or easy day. If I have 3 workouts planned for a week and some of the guys have some aches and pains and feeling tired I will cancel one of the workouts and just have an easy day. It’s great to be recognized in the preseason and run well at early meets but it doesn’t mean anything if you can’t perform during championship season.
5. How many runners do you return from your top 7 from a year ago?
We return 4, Gavin Reynolds, Nick Deamer, Ryan Gunderson, and Rupam Mondal.
6. Who is your projected top 7 heading into the cross country season?
To be honest I don’t know exactly who my top 7 are right and I think that’s a great problem to have. The 4 above are likely candidates along with Senior Joey Lapointe, Sophomore Dennis Danielli, Junior Erik Jenks, and Senior Brian Goulet. However juniors Ethan Williamson, Stewy Slocum, Andrew Harris, Rory Costello, and Travis Harrington have really stepped up this summer and can contend for a varsity spot.
7. Who are your team captains or leaders and what stands out about them as examples for the rest of their teammates?
Gavin Reynolds, Brian Goulet, Rupam Mondal and Joey Lapointe have done an outstanding job organizing captain runs over the summer and preparing for this season. They set a positive example through both their work ethic/commitment and through motivating everyone on the team. They know everyone’s PR’s and when somebody PR’s at a meet they are the first to go up to them and congratulate them. It’s a great thing to see.
8. Who have you been most impressed or surprised with their improvement and/or fitness from their summer training?
Looking back at Outdoor and during the summer three athletes stick out. Joey Lapointe (4:32 Miler), Dennis Danieli (4:41 Miler), and Erik Jenks (2:01 800m) did not make our top 7 last year. All 3 had outstanding track seasons and have had great summers putting in the miles. I’m very excited to see how their success from track last year translates to success this XC season.
9. Any impactful freshmen or transfers to join the team this season?
I don’t know any specific runners yet but we typically get between 10-15 freshman boys every year and there are always a few that step up and make an impact, if not on Varsity then on our “B” team.
10. What are the top invitational meets that your team will be attending this season?
The top 2 meets we will be attending during the season are Bull Run (Elite division) and the Glory Days Invitational in Manassas VA. We will also be competing at the Seahawk and Howard County Invites as well. As always everything during the season is preparation for championships season in November.
11. What will be the biggest obstacle or challenge facing your team this season?
Staying healthy is a challenge for every team, every season, and it’s no different at Howard. One of the hardest jobs I face is finding that line between getting the most out of workouts without crossing it and getting injuries and that line is different for every runner. With the exception of our first two invites we have an invite every other week. I’m hoping spreading out our schedule and having off weekends between Invites helps avoid some potential injuries.
12. What will be the biggest reason why your team is successful this season?
Teamwork, both at meets and at practice. Our 1-7 split was always under a minute last year and sometimes under 30 seconds. Having a group of runners so close together makes training great as they all can push each other through workouts and different guys can lead at different times. Same goes for meets. The goal now is to get the 30 sec spread down from low 17’s into the mid 16’s.
13. What is a favorite annual or common pre-season workout or run for your team?
We try to mix in some tempo/threshold workouts early. We do a 5 x 1000m @ Tempo pace at a nearby elementary school that a large grass field. It’s one of the first workouts in the season where they are working out in their specific training groups.
14. What is a favorite annual or common mid-season workout for your team?
On Saturdays when we don’t have meets we like to get away from Howard and run at a different locations. There are only so many runs you can do starting at Howard and for the juniors and seniors they can get repetitive and boring. Going to Patapsco or Rockburn Park for a long run or workout is a great way to change the scenery and keep things from getting monotonous.
15. What is a favorite annual or common championship season or end-of-season workout for your team?
We typically get shorter and faster as we begin to taper and approach championships season. The guys really like when we do 4-6 quick 400’s / 600’s on the track or a flat field. Since they are so much shorter than what they have been doing all season they can really let loose and feel confident about where their training is at.
16. What are your top 3 goals for this year's squad?
It’s hard to tell without knowing what other teams are bringing back and how well everyone trained over the summer however improving on our finishes at Howard County Champs (3rd) 4a North Regionals (3rd) and States (11th) are obvious goals. We have a talented core coming back and have solid depth with last year’s underclassman really stepping up. I wouldn’t be surprised if we challenged some of the perennial powerhouses in Hoco and 4A this season.