After a remarkable 2017 season where the Dawson County High School boys’ cross country team won its third straight regional and took second place honors at state, Coach Charles Beusse knows that continuing that success will not be easy.
"I often tell the kids, the work required to stay on top is often harder than the work it required to get there,” he said.
This attitude is reflected in the voluntary summer conditioning sessions.
"We have had very good turnouts at our summer conditions sessions this summer and all of our runners look improved and fit,” Beusse said.
The focus during June has been primarily on building base mileage and improving cardio-vascular strength. After the Georgia High School Association “dead week,” which ends July 7, Beusse plans to incorporate hill conditioning with the goal of improving strength.
Although he acknowledged the adjustments necessary after losing key runners Chris Shelp and Nathan Blythe to graduation, Beusse was quick to point out that not a single returning member of the boys' team has finished lower than first in regionals.
Featuring Cody Wood, Nico Poston, Will Mulberry, Ben McGinnis and Wiley Dennis, and anticipating strong performances from young runners Luke Hamby and Preston Burt, this year's team demonstrates "a winning mindset and all of our boys are working hard to keep that tradition alive," according to Beusse.
The boys have made no secret that their goal is a fourth straight regional title and another podium showing at state, but Beusse stressed that the only goal is continuous improvement.
“If we can do that, all the other goals will take care of themselves,” he said.
The girls' team also finds themselves in an excellent position to continue the winning ways they have established over the last several years. Losing only one senior, Marley Hamby, and coming off a rebuilding year that featured a second place finish at regionals, Beusse thinks "this could be one of the strongest girl's teams we have had in several years."
"While we spent much of last season simply trying to gain the experience necessary to win, this year should be completely different,” he said.
Returning runners Frankie Muldoon, Jenna Lecours, Evion Reinhardt, Mattie Grant and Molly Muenchen form the core of the team. New-comers Avery Young, Kathryn Menoche, Bri Ray and Isabelle Kinsey have all shown the ability to make an impact throughout the season.
Much like the boys, the girls have made no secret about their desire to win the regional title, but their motivation is very different. 2017's second place finish was the first time in four years that the DCHS girls’ cross country team did not win their region.
“When you come so close to winning it all, it has a way of making you even hungrier than ever,” Beusse said.