We kick off our scouting report series with Notre Dame Academy, a team that has found success on both the boys and girls level. We caught up with Coach Gard to talk about this year's team
Top Girls Returnees from 2014 XC Season (5K Times)
|1) Maria Ehlinger||19:06.80|
|2) Ashley Laskowski||19:11.92|
|3) Kelley Gardipee||19:16.68|
|4) Kristen Burkel||19:34.84|
|5) Anna Patterson||19:53.09|
|Average Time: 19:24.67 Total Time: 1:37:03.33 1-5 Split: 46.29|
|6) Veronica Letter||19:58.55|
|7) Ashlyn Arett||20:21.87|
Top Returning Girls 3200m Times from 2015 Outdoor Season
|1) Maria Ehlinger||11:59.55|
|2) Kathryn Stumpf||12:28.78|
Top Returning Girls 1600m Times from 2015 Outdoor Season
|1) Kelley Gardipee||5:38.26|
|2) Anna Patterson||5:48.65|
|3) Anya Carlson||6:27.07|
Top Boys Returnees from 2014 XC Season (5K Times)
|1) Nick Robinson||16:52.69|
|2) Nathan Ciriaks||16:54.02|
|3) Brian Hansford||16:55.70|
|4) Nate Zeller||17:16.39|
|5) Ryan Ehlinger||17:19.22|
|Average Time: 17:03.60 Total Time: 1:25:18.02 1-5 Split: 26.53|
|6) Josh Hock||17:23.18|
|7) Beau Bellmore||17:32.55|
Top Returning Boys 3200m Times from 2015 Outdoor Season
|1) Nathan Ciriaks||10:23.62|
|2) Brian Hansford||10:26.21|
|3) Hans Ernst||10:52.15|
Top Returning Boys 1600m Times from 2015 Outdoor Season
|1) Nick Robinson||4:36.45|
|2) Brian Hansford||4:37.01|
|3) Cameron Knight||4:41.14|
|4) Max Polack||4:58.46|
|5) Nathan Ciriaks||5:01.99|
|6) Hans Ernst||5:09.29|
|7) Alex Mckean||5:11.50|
How was summer training for your team? What do you focus on during the summer months?
I think most of our kids had a good summer of work. I try to give them some guidelines but then give them space. I believe they need to see less of me and demand more of each other. If they don't own the responsibility of summer running, they won't be as hungry in the fall.
Who have you been most impressed or surprised with their improvement and/or fitness from their summer training?
This is the most senior heavy boys team we have had since I started coaching. I'm so happy to see how these boys have grown into men and how they have developed a true love of running. I love all my kids but I will remember these senior boys forever.
Our girls have been special and on the podium for 3 straight years. You never know what you get but I think they are coming together nicely and will be ready for a good run again this year. Most of my top girls excel in other sports and that is a challenge for us to make sure they are focused at the right time and in the summer. Thankfully, they have created a environment where they have each others back and truly understand the importance of summer.
What are some staple workouts you do during the season?
Each year I adapt them to the type of racers and kids that we have. Honestly, I tweak them each year. I have learned that for us the magic is consistency, backing off when they are on the edge and stopping a workout when I feel we accomplished what I needed to see. Also, I talk to a variety of other coaches for advice. I'm not smart enough or experienced enough to know all these things but I look for people who are. There are many tremendous Wisconsin coaches who have really helped me out with advice.
Who are your team captains or leaders and what stands out about them as examples for the rest of their teammates?
Boys- Brian Hansford, Nathan Ciriacks, Beau Bellmore, Nick Robinson, Evan Haas, Nate Zeller and Christian Gregory. We have a big team and lots of captains. Thankfully- they are captains and leaders. I believe CC is a great place to develop lifelong skills and they have each done that in our program. This year I expect them to act with humility, kindness and work ethic for their teammates and teach them the Triton Way.
Girls- Veronica Letter, Kristin Burkel, Anna Patterson, Kari Healy, Rachel Hall and Kelley Gardipee. These are amazing young women and really have looked after their teammates and been great role models. They are very different kids but they have a very special chemistry. I'll shed many tears when they graduate.
What will be the biggest obstacle or challenge facing your team this season?
Staying healthy. It's the same every year. The old saying- "We don't send our best athletes to the Olympics- we send our healthy athletes to the Olympics." I believe that is true in CC- staying healthy is the key and peaking at the right time.
What will be the biggest reason why your team is successful this season?
I hope we are successful. The run our girls have had is special but it has set the standard for success very, very high. We used to strive to get to state and were happy to get there- it's a little different now.
That said- if we accomplish our goals it will be mostly because our kids care so much about each other that they will not leave each other's side.
What are your top 3 goals for this year's squad?
Stay healthy, work hard and get closer to God. If we do those things we'll be successful no matter what happens on race day.
Your team has continually been successful in Division 2; what is the key to sustained success on the high school level?
Great kids, great families, great school leadership, incredible assistant coaches (we will have almost 10 this year) and getting everyone to buy in to the plan. If anyone observes what our parents do for this program- they will realize we have a truly special group of people that have made distance running a magical experience for many, many kids. Also, our secret is jellybeans for PR's. We gave out almost 400 bags of jelly beans to kids last year for PR's. It is amazing what these awesome kids will do in the last half mile for a small bag of free jellybeans:)
Obviously Wisconsin transitioned from 4K to 5K on the girl’s side - how did that affect the way you train and coach your team?
It forced us to change some things but we adapted. I was proud to have our girls be the first D2 state 5k champs. Our girls are so tough they can break glass with their teeth and they always answer the bell regardless of the distance.
You coach both the boys and girls team - how, if any, do you approach the teams differently?
They are very different but the depth of their character (both boys and girls) helps me greatly. This group is used to my quirks and knows when to give me a hard time. I don't feel I have done well enough with our boys yet but I'm learning. I have targeted specific assistant coaches to help get them to the next level and their 5th place finish at state last year gave my evidence that decision was a good one. They peaked on the exact right day.
3 years ago, I sensed we were just not getting consistency in our hard workouts for the girls. I started running every hard workout with our top girls (when I can keep up) and it seemed to create a sense of how to do these better. The girls tolerate me and tease me but running with them has been good for them and great for me. I have developed a much better sense of how they react to various types of work. It made our pack running even stronger. Our assistant coaches jump in other groups and it just seems like it has helped all of us come closer.
This is your seventh season now, what have you learned during your time as coach?
First, Notre Dame Academy has given me one of the greatest joys in my life to have this opportunity. It has been an amazing privilege to work with these kids. I have developed a much deeper awareness of how many kids are carrying "invisible backpacks on their shoulders everyday with lots of stress from homework to teenage issues to family issues to life issues". Cross Country is a great place for them to find a place where everyone has a place to fit in. No playing time issues- just work hard, run and have fun.
I have had the privilege of working with lots of kids who had seemingly never run a step in their life before they joined our program and I believed it changed their life and they certainly changed mine.
In addition, I know it can be a challenge for some but I firmly believe running brings a person closer to God and we would be foolish not to embrace that and celebrate it. Our kids have really responded to weekly Mass, praying and caring for each other. That has made them willing to dig deeper on race day. High School is a brief moment in their life and CC is just a piece of the greater puzzle but if we do this right it can be a piece that all other pieces build around.