North Xtra: Hard work pays dividends for Hampton girls cross country
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The Hampton High School girls cross country team has adopted a philosophy this season and it appears to be working well.
The Talbots have put up a strong showing this season in Section 3-AAA with a 4-2 record and also placed in the top five at this past weekend's Central Catholic invitational.
The Talbots remember well the rains of 2011 at the WPIAL championship meet last season. The cold, mud and sleet did not allow for the best running day and Hampton finished 16th of 40 Class AAA teams.
Gina Alm, Emily Arnold, Lauren Neugebauer-Wagner, Maggie Bauman, Lauren Hanna and Nicole Luchansky all ran for Hampton in the sodden 2011 WPIAL race. It was an experience that made the group drive for more.
"Our district meet last year was pretty rough," said Alm.
She felt that the weather was no excuse, but the WPIAL meet still marked a turning point. Alm, Neugebauer-Wagner, Bauman, Hanna and Luchansky became focused on better performance as a team.
The girls decided to start work with their 2012 track season. Alm called it a lot of "speed work," and it showed. She took second place in the 800-meter event with a time of 2:14.88, and the Hampton 1,600-meter relay team took sixth place (4:04.78) at the WPIAL track championships in May.
Furthermore, the Hampton girls took seventh place in the 3,200-meter relay with a time of 9:37.80. Each track success became a motivator toward their 2012 cross country season.
The next step was summer training.
"We met pretty frequently over the summer and I think there was a lot more participation over this past summer [than there had been previously]," said Alm.
She explained that the girls carried the speed focus of track season into many hill repeats. Together, the Talbots girls became stronger.
The 2012 cross country season arrived, and the Hampton girls were 4-2 in Section 3-AAA as of Oct. 2. They placed third of 25 Varsity "A" teams at the Sept. 8 Red, White & Blue Classic. This past Saturday, the Talbots were fifth of 20 "A" teams at the Central Catholic Invitational.
Alm ran 18:40 in the Red, White & Blue meet and a time of 19:08 at the Central Catholic Invitational. She recalled the Red, White & Blue meet as being an example of her team's shared vision.
"It was one of our team's major goals," she said. "We wanted to go out strong into the season."Alm also noted that the Talbots girls keep their team dynamic in their section meets.
"I think we are all really comfortable with each other," she said. "In meets we can use each other for positioning."
Overall, the Hampton girls run with a shared goal that drives team success. The Hampton boys run individually, trusting each other and abandoning the need for what might sound good to someone else.
"I think our team is looking really good, and I think we have a pretty good shot at making states," Alm said.