Accountability often can be the ultimate motivator.
And for Wheaton High School’s boys’ cross country team, led by second-year coach Michael Trumbull, the summer provided a unique opportunity for Trumbull’s runners.
After noticing improvement toward the tail end of the 2012 season, the Knights re-committed themselves throughout the summer and ran every weekend. Team members met and trained, did group runs and worked out individually. And all of their progress — their times and workout dates — was tracked at Running-Log.com, where everyone could see everyone else’s data and hold one another accountable.
“Every weekend we met up and did group runs together,” senior Chris Cherrie said. “I think that’s one of the main reasons why we’re doing so well this fall. It’s great knowing that everybody else is doing the same training as you, and then to see them and run and talk and train together was a real good thing.”
The exhaustive workouts — through one of the hotter summers in recent memory — have paid off. Trumbull said many of his runners have shaved minutes off their times from last season, and entering the postseason portion of the 2013 schedule the Knights are 5-1. They came one win away from a division title, where they lost against Gaithersburg, 33-22.
“The best way to motivate us is to forget about what happened and move on,” senior Randy Verduguez said. “A lot of us were really sad and down. We just need to get together and talk about it and move on.”
The meet was Wheaton’s third that week and fourth in 10 days, and many of the runners said they were a bit exhausted.
While there are no Chase Weaverlings (Poolesville) or Alex Riishojgaards (Bethesda-Chevy Chase) headlining Wheaton’s team, the steady times posted by the upper classmen have them hoping for favorable results ahead of Saturday’s Downcounty Consortium Championships at Northwood. From there, the county championship, the 3A West Region championship and 3A state championship will be held, with the season scheduled to conclude Nov. 9.
“I think last year we kind of saw the potential that we had on this team,” junior Ryan Scott said. “Last year we only sent one kid to states, and this year we really want to go to states as a team.”
Scott enjoyed a breakout race at the Frank Keyser Invitational on Sept. 28 when he finished 27th overall and posted a time of 16 minutes, 17.3 seconds. And while that time was roughly a minute slower than the race’s leader, Gaithersburg’s Danniel Belay, it’s a sign of progress for a school that hasn’t had much athletic success in recent years.
“I think it’s a mix of dedication and teamwork,” Scott said. “We all keep trying to pull each other up. We have more confidence this year, something our coach has been trying to teach us — to have confidence in ourselves.”
That said, the Knights still feel as though their positive momentum hasn’t yet carried throughout the hallways of the school or made a significant impact on the student body. They’re out to change that with a solid postseason performance.
“It kind of bothers us a little bit that we don’t get that much attention,” Verduguez said. “We have the best record in the school, but a lot of students follow football even though they’re not doing so great. We just want to prove to the students that we’re a good team.”
Whether or not Wheaton will make it to states as a team in its second year under Trumbull remains to be seen, but it’s clear a transition is taking place, and the runners are dedicated to turning the Knights into a successful program.
“They step out there, and they know they can run with a lot of these teams that, in the past, our team has not been able to run with,” said Trumbull, who teaches history at the school. “Hopefully this confidence will continue into the next few meets.”
Added Scott: “In recent years our teams haven’t done that well. This year we wanted this year to earn the respect from schools around the county and show them that we worked really hard for this and that we can run with them.”