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Russellville cross country looks at new beginning

When Russellville’s cross-country team first began in 2015, it was a young program just trying to get off the ground. Now going into its fifth season, the Golden Tigers are looking at new beginnings to build a program that will withstand the test of time and other challenges.

This year’s team of 17 includes two returners and five seniors, plus a handful of middle-schoolers to complete the team.

“We have a really young team, but I think we have a lot of potential,” said Coach Larsen Plyler.

Coach Shawn Greenhill said in just the few weeks the team has been practicing, he has already seen significant growth.

“We’re not where we are going to be, but we are getting there,” Greenhill said. “I think we are going to get better every race.”

All of the athletes are running at the varsity level for meets, and senior Emmanuel Cooper said he has seen the middle school athletes rise to the occasion.

“As a senior I am trying to do my best to be a good example for them, but there will be times when I will tire out, and they will work to encourage me,” Cooper said. “They are doing a really good job and are pushing as hard as we do.”

Senior Jax Greenhill said although he and his team would like to be the first Russellville cross-country team to qualify for the state meet, the ultimate goal is build a foundation for the young athletes to continue to grow the program.

“Right now we are pretty much starting over,” Greenhill said. “These younger kids on the team now are the ones that are going to lead this program going forward, and I want to see that happen. Right now cross country isn’t really known at Russellville, but I’d love to see us build a program where one day it would be almost as big as football.”

The team is currently two meets into the season and continues to grow with each one.

“We are a young team, so it is going to take us a little bit to get there,” Plyler said. “I was very impressed with how they did at the meet, especially with it being the first and with a new team.”

Senior Melissa Gaspar said the goal is for everyone to continue to improve their times while working together as a team. Senior Abby Andres agreed and said the goal is to leave no one behind and make sure all of the athletes excel.

Plyler said although he and his team have goals for this season, he cannot help but be excited for the foundation he is laying for his younger athletes to continue. “We are excited about right now, but with as much growth as we are seeing, the future is bright.”