Making of a Championship Season
November 7, 2018
Sidney's Red Raider boy's cross country team won their first state championship title in the school's history this season. Cross country is a sport requiring intense preparation, mental toughness, and the desire to push yourself beyond the limits of exhaustion for success.
Casual observers of the sport often do not realize the amount of work the athletes put in prior to running that race that usually lasts about 20 minutes. Success for a team comes only after countless hours and thousands of miles have been logged in preparation for competitions.
A big part of this success story is the head coach of the Sidney cross country team, Donna Wiedeburg. In only her second year, she has helped propel the team to the highest level of success in school history.
Coach Wiedeburg spoke at length about the season, the commitment of the athletes, and what the future holds for the program.
When asked about what she had learned in her first year coaching, and how she applied that knowledge going into the 2018 season, she said, "I keep records of all our workouts from the first day to the last day. I did look over those workouts before this season began and all season long. We built on those workouts. A big takeaway from last year was just the confidence of knowing I could do this. We have an amazing group of coaches that all work together to achieve all we have achieved. Every one of the coaches we have on staff brings something special to this team."
Wiedeburg has an experienced and dedicated group of assistants that have been key in the development of the program and its' success. Nicky Banzhaf started her first year as an assistant coach in 2018, and has been running since the age of eight. She was a member of the Chadron HighSchool cross country team, and then competed on the collegiate level at Chadron State College. Michael Colerick had his second season as an assistant coach in 2018, and he has also coached the middle school track team for the last three years.
He ran four years of cross country at Alliance High School, and has run over 15 half and full marathons. Assistant coach Joydene McCarville is in her second year with the program, and has coached multiple sports throughout her teaching career and is dedicated to getting the personal best from every athlete in and out of the classroom. Finally, assistant coach Kyle Larson has been with the team for 10 years now, and ran cross country for four years while he studied at Tabor College, and is a youth pastor at the Evangelical Free Church in Sidney.
A big reason for the success of the team is its' vigorous summer training program. Prior to the start of the school year, the team members take it upon themselves to prepare for the season with a lot of running.
Coach Wiedeburg explained the importance of the summer program, saying, "We have a saying I learned from Coach Neels, the previous cross country head coach, that "Summer Miles equals October Smiles," and I remind the kids of that frequently. Our kids logged an incredible amount of miles this summer, over 2,100 miles in a few weeks. We keep track of the miles they log and announce weekly who our leaders are. The freshman were the total winners over the summer, as they logged 500 of the 2100 miles. We try to keep it fun, so we are able to have some running games mixed into our training and we do water balloon races and water fights. We work hard to keep the kids hydrated and near water during those hot summer days, and we're very grateful to the individuals and the businesses that let us get water from them during those hot runs."
"We go over the course maps before we even step foot on the course, covering the terrain and different strategies to do well on that particular course. We work on segmented runs so the kids understand the importance of a strong start, and how to get settled in for the heart of the race, as well as not to let anyone pass them as they finish. Plus we love hills and are pretty good with them. We do a lot of hill work and it shows in how well we compete on hilly courses," Wiedeburg said.
Wiedeburg makes it a point to be constantly informed of new workout programs and techniques for her runners, saying "I read a lot and we have tried new workouts, and I think they'll be a staple in the program for years to come. We have five fantastic coaches who all share their ideas to fine tune workouts. Plus, a few of us attend the NCA Multi Sport Clinic in Lincoln and we always pick up a few new ideas there. The love for this sport and our team comes straight from the heart because we all put our heart and soul into it."
Senior captain Collin Brauer was recovering from an injury that limited his time on the track team last season, and was having difficulty getting on track during the summer, and credited coach Wiedeburg with helping him overcome the challenges of returning to top form after an injury.
Wiedeburg commented on Collin's efforts, saying, "I give the credit back to Collin. Watching him not being able to compete last year in track, or even worse, compete in pain was hard. I knew coming into the season that he may not have had as much faith in himself as he once had, and on those days I had enough faith for both of us. It's rare to find that natural talent who just keeps pushing their own limits and doesn't settle for less than their own personal best. Collin is that kind of athlete. I didn't do anything out of the ordinary, I just believed in him and prayed relentlessly for him and all of the kids on the team, and let him know I was there if he needed anything."
The success of the boy's squad had a positive effect on the entire team, and even the Middle School runners. Wiedeburg said, "The boy's success rubbed off on us all. The middle school runners would look at what they accomplished each week and I heard a few of them say, "I want to do that when I'm in High School!" The boy's success pushed everyone to work a little harder, because if the boys could do it, they wanted to do it too!"
Sidney's program is blessed with young talent ready to take their place on the varsity squad next year. Although they lose team leaders Collin Brauer, Carlos Lucero, Ben Bashtovoi, and Alex Jallen to graduation, they have Daniel Bashtovoi, Mitch Deer, and a host of underclassmen ready to make their mark in a drive for another State Title. Wiedeburg added, "We do have a strong group of underclassmen ready to go and give it their all, but more importantly the future is always bright because we will again have the opportunity to impact children's lives all over again. Not all victories can be seen in results, medals, and even trophies. Other victories come in seeing kids take off almost nine minutes on their 5K times, or seeing them become stronger and more confident athletes and people. The success of the boys this year has lit a fire under all of our kids because now they've seen that it is possible to achieve their dreams. Dreams are only crazy until you make them come true."
The Sidney boy's cross country team had a Dream Season in 2018 due to the hard work and dedication of the athletes and the coaching staff. With that success, and the talented underclassmen coming up to make their impact felt, look for the Sidney cross country team to be the favorites for another State Title in 2019.