Central Valley boys cross country coach Kieran Mahoney knows his team has a chance to accomplish some special things this fall.
To that end, he knew he had to challenge his runners this summer. So from time to time, he had them run The Grinder.
It’s an 800-meter uphill stretch in the Morningside Neighborhood, located on a hill overlooking Central Valley High.
Mahoney said the Bears often did repeats and combinations of other uphill drills.
Running on the hill seemed appropriate because the Bears want to finish at the top of the State 4A heap.
Second place a year ago, CV returns six of its seven state qualifiers. The Bears were ranked No. 1 last week in the preseason poll.
“Each one of these kids had an amazing summer,” Mahoney said. “They’re learning that in order to be successful in the season it’s one practice at a time, one meet at a time and staying healthy.”
Mahoney talks about his team running on its own planet.
“I stole that from Joe Maddon, the (Chicago) Cubs manager,” Mahoney said. “We’re in our own bubble. We’re on our own planet. We’re not worried about anybody else.”
Mahoney explained that his runners must be unselfish.
“You stay up all night playing video games and then you get your immune system down and get sick,” Mahoney said. “That can be passed on. You miss practice. They’re realizing that what each one of them does impacts the team as a whole.”
The returning runners are junior Ryan Kline (14th at state last year), senior Gabe Romney (17th), junior Evan Peters (23rd), junior Joey Nichols (42nd), senior Fielding Demars (52nd) and junior Sheamus Mahoney (77th).
“It was a good summer of progression,” the coach said. “Those juniors – I call them the Four Horsemen – have two solid years of running. Gabe and Fielding have three solid years of training. The cool thing about the summer is you saw the intensity and purpose knowing they’re on a mission this fall.”
Kline and Romney are running ahead of the rest of the pack. The priority is closing the gap from the first through the seventh runner.
The pack had a 46-second gap at state last year. Mahoney wants the gap to be about 20 seconds.
“I’ve told the boys that when we do that, the results will take care of themselves,” Mahoney said.
Mahoney coached CV to a state title in 2012. This group has the ability to do the same.
Romney and Kline have lofty personal goals.
“We want to go 1-2 in cross country and the same in the 1 mile and 2 mile in track,” Romney said.
Romney probably wouldn’t have been dreaming of such feats had he not seen a sports psychologist last spring.
“I’ve been working on the mental piece of my running,” Romney said. “It was there physically, but mentally I would fall apart in races.”
Not long after skyping with a sports psychologist in Seattle last spring, Romney had a 14-second improvement in the 3,200 meters last spring at regionals.
Romney expects much more improvement this fall.
“I noticed it last fall, but I couldn’t put my finger on what was happening,” Romney said. “I could tell I was ready to race but couldn’t figure out what was going on. So when I talked with (the psychologist), I got a lot of good feedback on ways to improve my training.”
Romney and Kline are calling their goal “the triple double.” They’ve written it on their wrists.
“It’s not going to come easy, by any means,” Romney said.
“Honestly, we have a shot at doing that,” Kline said, noting they’ve raced against many of the top returning long-distance runners and feel like they’re capable of competing with them.
“Our summer training has been fantastic,” Kline said. “We got a lot of good miles and good workouts all summer long. We have a better foundation and we’re in better shape than last year. We feel so much stronger when we run.”
Mahoney knows his runners have bull’s-eyes on their backs.
“It’s that concept that we’re on our own planet and we’re revolving around it and not worried about it,” Mahoney said.