The Northern Potter cross country team enters the 2019 season young and energized. The Panthers look to compete this year, despite the absence of Amanda Ford. She was the team’s top female runner last season in her senior year of competition.
“We are still pretty young. On the girls’ side, we are extremely young. We are light on numbers but there are multiple girls that could be state qualifiers,” coach Corey Drabert said.
Though they are young this year Drabert believes the team can compete for league titles in the years to come.
“I told the girls team last year, they are a team that if they decide to work. They have the ability to be a league champion and possible win multiple district titles down the road. Definitely in the future on the girl’s side we are a team that can place very high in the state in the near future,” Drabert said.
One of the biggest obstacles when fielding such a young team is forging the mental stamina to compete. It takes time and persistence to develop the fortitude necessary to dig deep during a long run.
“With the younger kids you have more inconsistency overall, that’s definitely a challenge. I think the biggest challenge we face with some of them is on the mental toughness side,” Drabert said.
This is Drabert’s 13th year coaching the team. Drabert ran cross country and track in high school and college before he began coaching in 2007. He knows a little bit about breaking through that wall.
“One of the biggest goals this year will be breaking through that wall in terms of mental toughness. If we can do that, that will set us up for the future,” he said. Drabert also mentioned that youth can be a positive because sometimes the runners don’t realize how big certain moments can be.
The team will face strong competition in Smethport as well as Coudersport in the league. In the District, Drabert said Cranberry and Clarion are the top two girls teams the Panthers need to focus on as both teams return a lot of talent from last season.
The goals for this season are not only limited to the here and now. With such a young team, Drabert is looking toward the future and what the team can accomplish in years to come. “We hope to hit some of our ambitious goals and have the athletes reach their potential. We want to accomplish a lot this season, but also set them up for the future,” he said.
As the Panthers prepare for 2019 there is much to be excited for, but maybe the most exciting part of this year is that there is still so much more to look forward to.