Worse at first: Griffins gives first CC title to Ozark Catholic – Arkansas Catholic
All five runners make top 20, three personal bests set at the Hot Springs meet
Posted: November 30, 2021
Ozark Catholic Academy
Members of the Ozark Catholic Academy cross country team pose with the 2021 State Championship 1A trophy in Hot Springs.
It’s a bit of an abuse to say that the Ozark Catholic Academy boys’ cross country team was a dark horse to be Griffin’s first team to win a state title. When you’re dealing with a school as new as the three-year-old OCA, every team in the track and field program is, to one degree or another, finding its place.
That said, even the grassroots riders on this championship team who showed up for summer practice wouldn’t have predicted they would hoist the championship gear in just a few months.
“During summer practice we would go out on a track in Springdale, and we would look at each other and not talk because neither of us knew each other,” said Isaac Pohlmeier, the ranked freshman phenomenon. second in the 1A state meet at Hot Springs. “At the end of the year, we’re joking. We know each other and can say things to each other. We trust each other and it really makes me feel good. I wouldn’t have wanted to win the state championship with another team.
Elder Hayden Poe agreed. Last year, the Griffins were dead last to state, and the transformation from worst to first left him with the tone and appearance of someone still in shock at how much the team has accomplished so quickly. .
“I think once the season started and they started racing they started to see what that summer job had done. When we were running in the 98 degree heat, and I brought them frozen washcloths and made them jump rope, run hills, do all that, I would say, “Trust the process, boys. Just trust the process. Then we went to the competitions and they saw that they were stronger and more conditioned. I think it helped, sure.
“I was convinced to join cross country in my second year. I haven’t run so long; this is only my third year, ”he said. “My second year, we didn’t have a team; it was me and two other sophomores. We didn’t have a team until last year, so I wasn’t expecting that at all.
“After hosting the Chili Pepper (Cross Country Festival in Fayetteville) in the middle of the season, I remember thinking that maybe we had a chance to do well in the state or something like that. I remember hearing a whisper from another child as well. And that’s definitely when our times started to improve, and everyone was really starting to think more as a team.
The Griffins may admit to having been a star-eyed bunch of overachievers, but they ran the state like anything but. The five OCA riders placed in the top 20, led by Pohlmeier in second place in 17: 37.23 and Poe in seventh at 18: 42.35. After them, John Paul Schaefer finished 14th in 19: 37.47; Joe Squillace placed 16th in 19: 39.53 and Connor Lang 19th in 19: 45.69.
The team passed Donaldson’s Ouachita High School in second and Little Rock’s Founders Classical Academy in third for the tag team title.
“I think once the season started and they started racing, they started to see what that summer job had done,” said head coach Alesia Schaefer. “When we were running in the 98 degree heat and I brought them frozen washcloths and asked them to jump rope, run hills, do all that, I would tell them, ‘Trust the process, boys ”. Just trust the process.
“Then we went to the competitions and they saw that they were stronger and more conditioned. I think it helped, sure.
Three of the five State Place winners performed a PR at the State meet, while Connor and Pohlmeier were a bit slower than their career best. Pohlmeier was only 00.05 off his best time, and given the talent of the 15-year-old product from St. Joseph’s School in Fayetteville, that’s generally bad news for the field.
“Coming up to the state meet, I knew there were two kids ahead of me who had better PRs, a junior and a senior, and I had to finish third,” he said. “My goal was to race the Under-18s and try to finish second. I had run against the senior the week before in the Districts and beat him by about 22 seconds. So the race starts, and I normally go out with the senior, and then I wait for the junior, but the junior never comes.
“So now I have a chance to get the first one so I’m going to stick with him and run my best race to see if I can beat him. I’ve been doing this for quite a long time, but running that fast for the second time that year kind of took a toll on me. I was really tired about two miles, but knew I could keep going. ”
Poe has completely lost his mind about the state. His time beat his season average by a full minute and was better than any other of his times during the season by at least 25 seconds. The last game of his final season beat the first game of the year by a full two minutes, which in terms of racing is an eternity.
“I felt great before the race. I was more motivated than ever at this meeting, ”he said. “At the conference I was motivated, but I was also very nervous. I think in the state, I put that nervousness behind me. I know I was getting emotional before the race because for me and for the other seniors this is our last race and knowing that we had a chance to give these younger ones a state championship I was really motivated .
As busy as the program is with subclasses – only three runners graduate and 10 of this year’s 14 athletes are freshmen and sophomores – the Griffins have the makings of a dynasty in their hands. For athletic director Cody Vaught, it’s something to see.
“Coach Schaefer has high expectations and she is very competent. It’s the start of a good program, in my opinion, ”he said. “You have to have someone who has a good work ethic and who knows what they’re doing. It’s going to be a deadly combination for success.
“I started the program four years ago with Beth McClinton, never having coached cross country. We were just trying to develop a program. From where the program started to see it now, it’s amazing.
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