Boys Cross Country Coach of the Year: Team aspect key for Wright’s Falcons this season

Melissa Wright

WOODSTOCK — Central cross country coach Melissa Wright always try to preach the team aspect with her runners, and never was that team concept more evident than this season with her boys team.

Central’s boys team placed second in the Group 2A State meet, despite not having anyone make all-state. However, the runners stayed in a bunch and were only 14 seconds apart from each other at the top five spots.

“I think they wanted that team trophy more than they wanted that individual medal that day,” Wright said.

Central’s top five of Ivan Alvarado, Thomas Gilmore, Sawyer Lucy-Speidel, Wyatt Robinson and Gus Wightman traded places throughout the season.

Gilmore and Robinson led the way for much of the regular season. In the Conference 35 meet, Lucy-Speidel won the meet to finish in front for the first time.

At the state meet it was Alvarado and Wightman in front with Alvarado passing Wightman during the last mile.

“I heard that going up the last hill when Ivan went to pass Gus, he tapped Gus on the back and told him keep going, keep going,” Wright said. ” By running so close together they can talk to each other and encourage each other. They just had a tremendous day.”

Wright said that despite the top runners being so close with their times, they always put the team first.

“I’m sure internally they all want to be out there in front, and that’s what makes our team good. They’re competitive. They want to do well. They want to win,” Wright said. “At the end of the day the team was first. And they wanted to go to states and it was going to take a whole team effort to do that.”

Wright said she believes the success they had this season started at Peter Muhlenberg Middle School, where most of them ran together for Marianne Lamb.

She said they were also motivated by not making it to states last year.

“I think when the bus left to go last year to states and the boys weren’t on that bus, I think they made a decision at that point that, that wasn’t going to happen again,” Wright said. “They wanted to make sure they were on the bus this year, and they did.”

Wright said everything starts with offseason training, and that was a key for the Falcons this year. She said they decided to start the offseason workouts a little earlier in the summer and she was pleasantly surprised by how many showed up for it.

The Falcons went 9-1 in the regular season, only losing to Group 4A James Wood. They won the Eastern Mennonite Invitational for the first time in school history early in the season.

The young squad, which had only one senior in the top five, didn’t have to look far to learn about team work. Wright said she likes to think that she and assistant coach Larry Bullock make a good team and example for the runners.

“He’s a tremendous coach to work with,” Wright said of Bullock. “I believe that our success is a result of his work and my work together.”

Wright said placing second in the state is great for the program, although she knows teams will be gunning for them next year.

“I got back on the bus that Saturday at the (state) meet, and I said ‘boy this was a lot of fun. I’d love to come back next year,'” Wright said. “I think they understand the time, the effort, the work that’s going to have to take place for that to happen again next year.”

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com