Around the track they advanced, a cluster of about 20 kids, on a warm July morning at Woodinville High School.
They were members of the cross country team, going from station to station, encountering various obstacles to build up their balance, stamina and core.
At various points they jumped on mini trampolines, contorted their bodies as they ducked beneath hurdles, and even put their shoulders into blocking sleds.
And of course, being cross country, they ran and ran copiously.
Their coach, a 58-year- old fireball of energy named Sandy Laurence, encouraged and cajoled her athletes with relentless enthusiasm. The kids, out there voluntarily on this summer day, were smiling and laughing, except for when they were bent at the waist trying to catch their breath following some high octane exertion.
When the day was done, four of the athletes spoke to this reporter, who mentioned the seeming oddity of seeing blocking sleds and whatnot as part of a cross country training program.
“Our coach says ‘run like butter,’” senior captain Kobe Ryan said. “What that essentially means is when you’re running in track and cross country, there are always going to be obstacles in your way, you’re going to be twisting to your right and left, so if you train with obstacles in your way it builds your core and allows you to run more aggressively through everything you will encounter (in a real race).”
Keagan Bolibol, a junior captain, explained further. “I helped her plan what we were going to do,” she said. “I helped make the signs to lead the kids through the workout. We kind of bounce ideas off each to make it a fun workout. She’s very encouraging and has a lot of energy. When you’re running in practice or during a race you’ll see her at every turn and she’ll be yelling for you like crazy.”
Clark Cyr, one of the fastest members on the team, is excited for this fall and the chance at redemption. For the many successes that Woodinville has had in track and field in recent years, one stumbling block exists for the cross country squad.
“My main goal is not to get last in the KingCo races this year,” Cyr said. “At the KingCo tournament all the big schools in KingCo come in. The last three years we’ve gotten last place which has been a disappointment. But this year there’s going to be a change.”
“Everyone in track and cross country is just out here to have a good time and work hard of course,” Mallori Lindgren said. “But Sandy contributes to that – she is the most energetic person I know. She’s sometimes a spaz in a good way, but that brings all of us up and makes everyone laugh. Everyone is unique and it makes it fun out here.”
Added Lindgren: “It only takes one coach to believe in you to bring out the best of what you’ve got.”