For the first time ever, cross country runner representing Spearville High School will take the course.

Spearville has added the team to its fall options starting this season.

Leading them will be head coach Shelley Kolbeck, making her coaching debut as well.

Kolbeck said she doesn’t really know what got her interested in coaching.

“I like to run and the opportunity presented itself, and I hope that I can help these kids develop a love of running too,” Kolbeck said. “It’s something that they can take with them beyond high school. If anything, that would have been my main motivation: Would be to help them just get a love of running.”

The Spearville Schools, USD 381, Board of Education unanimously approved the team’s creation at its May 14, 2018 meeting, according to minutes from that meeting.

Kolbeck’s appointment as coach has come since then.

“We will be at a slight disadvantage in that we have not had any team runs,” Kolbeck said. “Other schools, they run throughout the summer and they have a (fitness) base that they kind of build on and what not, but we won’t have that. We will be starting from scratch, so this will most definitely be a building year.”

The Lancers join at least six other Southern Plains - Iroquois Activities Association schools offering cross country, according to the board of education’s April 9, 2018 meeting minutes.

SPIAA itself is far from a weak league in cross country, particularly on the girls side.

Of the top four teams at last year’s 1A State Cross Country Meet, two of them came from SPIAA. Ingalls finished second, while South Central finished finished fourth.

In terms of individual athletes, five of the top 10 finishes came from SPIAA. Only one of them, Kaylee Simon who finished seven overall, was a senior last year.

On the boys side, South Gray finished eighth, with South Central finishing 11th.

The Lancers will run a full schedule this season, which should give the team plenty of opportunity to grow, Kolbeck said.

“Our administration went to work for us, and they got us a full schedule of I believe it’s seven meets,” Kolbeck said. “The kids will have a meet pretty much every week once they start, so that’s good. They’ll get lots of experience.”

Kolbeck’s coaching will largely be focused on the mental aspect of running, one that requires toughness in that regard, she said.

Cross Country races themselves are over 50 percent longer than the longest track running events. In track and field, the longest event is the 3,200 meter run, which converts to two miles. In cross country, races at the high school level are most often five kilometers, which converts to 3.1 miles.

“It’s very much a mental-toughness sport,” Kolbeck said. “You mentally have to push yourself when your body does not want to, so that’s definitely gonna be something that I’m gonna be emphasizing for all of my runners this year, is just developing mental toughness.”

Running the extra distance is definitely possible with proper training and work, Kolbeck said. That also, however, requires an element of mental toughness.

“It’s just a matter of building that mental toughness of ‘this is very much doable,’ and we train for it and you go out and you execute it,’” Kolbeck said. “Each time you work on bettering yourself.”

The importance of that mental toughness and self-belief can last long after the race course, and affect far more than the athlete’s final spot in placing.

“I think so many people cut themselves short by not thinking that they can do something,” Kolbeck said. “Getting to where you believe in your head that you can accomplish something, it’s just that much easier if you first think that you can do and then you can go out and do it.”

Challenges become easier to overcome once a person learns to enter them with the belief that they can overcome them, Kolbeck said.

“How great would it be to learn it at this age,” Kolbeck said.

Despite maybe not having as much time as other schools to get to know her runners going into the fall, Kolbeck said she isn’t totally unfamiliar with them, as she has watched them run track for the last couple years.

“I’ve enjoyed watching them run track,” Kolbeck said. “I am very much going to enjoy working with them as they get to experience cross country, and run cross country. I think that’s what I’m most excited about, is just working with them in this new sport.”

Regardless of how the season goes from a standings and placing point of view, Kolbeck said she has already told the team they’ll have a special place in Spearville history.

“One of the things I told the runners was ‘no matter how this season goes, you are going down in history as being a member of Spearville’s first every cross country team,’” Kolbeck said.

The Lancers open their program’s competition history with a race Aug. 30, 2018 in Meade.