The Perryville cross-country program has hit a milestone of sorts. It has been four years since the program was reestablished in 2016, after a brief hiatus. Which means that the seniors and even the middle school athletes, who started in seventh grade are now entering their fourth year, or a full cycle, within the Pirate running program.
Coach Shadrick Shafer has seen a lot of progression from when the program restarted until now, but that’s not limited to racking up the miles in a workout.
“The biggest attribute that I’ve witnessed over the last four years is how much better the athletes have been able to handle the workouts,” he said. “It’s not so much the physical part, but more about the mental side of the sport. They understand that if we are doing a three or four-mile run at a certain pace that even though their body is telling them to stop, they know they can keep going. A big part of distance training is mental and convincing yourself to keep going.”
Along with the progression on the course, Shafer has also seen a broadening in leadership, especially when it comes to senior Trent Friedman, who is entering his fourth season in the cross country program.
“Trent has really taken on a leadership role, that he really hasn’t done before,” Shafer said. “He’s been working out all summer every morning during the team’s runs in the park, and he’s done a great job of pushing himself. But there’s that saying that ‘ a good athlete pushes themselves to be the best, but a great athlete pushes those around them to be their best.’ That’s’ where Trent has been stepping up the most.”
The Pirates have had about 17 runners participate in the summer workout program in June and July, and Shafer noted that by the start of the regular season he hopes he can have about 24 runners on the team. That number would exceed last year’s total and has exceeded anything that Shafer thought possible when the program was revamped.
“You don’t really know what to expect when you start up a program,” Shafer said. “I knew there would be a few kids that would be interested and that was about it. But to see kids who have come out, purely out of curiosity, who have never really thought about distance training is good to see. The culture of the team is what keeps people there year after year. It’s a very tight-knit group and we focus on the individual, and having a lot of support, because what these kids are doing everyday is very taxing on the mind and body. This sport is about a lot more than just running a bunch of miles. If it was, no one would probably do it”
Shafer was nearly not the coach this fall has he had to weigh his options when it comes to his new position as the assistant principal at the high school. But he decided it was something that he loved to do and an opportunity he couldn’t pass up.
“The position requires a lot more time because there has to be an administrator at every athletic event, so many of my nights are tied up with doing that, along with the principal duties,” Shafer said. “But it was my wife that spoke up at the dinner table one evening, when she said that if I loved it, I should keep doing it. That was pretty much all I needed to hear. It also allows me to impact the lives of students, even though I am not in the classroom anymore.”
Shafer also couldn’t pass up the promising year that the Pirates have this season. Perryville had one runner, Courtney Wright, who advanced to the state meet last season, the program’s first since the program was reformed.
“The state has decided to release where districts will be in September this year, so when we find that out, we will make the goals as attainable as possible,” Shafer said.