It’s natural for a new coach to have high expectations for his or her athletes, but following in the footsteps of a successful coach carries its own expectations, as first-year Marion High School cross-country coach Rebecca Hofer found out this fall.
“I felt quite a bit of pressure before the season started, because the boys team made it to state last year under coach (Bethany) Carlson,” Hofer said. “I was really hoping that the change in coaching wouldn’t affect the team in a negative way. I had hopes for state as a team again this year, however, overall, I just wanted all the runners to improve.”
Warrior runner Jordan Hett helped Hofer to accomplish some of the success she hoped to achieve, finishing the season as the state’s third-best runner in Class 3A. Marion did not return to state as a team, but their performance in the state’s toughest regional would have earned them a trip to the event in any of the other three regionals.
“At every meet Jordan was at the front of the pack and worked hard’ Hofer said. “At state all the hard work paid off when he passed a runner in the home stretch and finished third”
More importantly, Hofer achieved the goal of progress for her runners.
“I wasn’t quite sure what to expect on an individual level since I didn’t coach them last year. Everyone on the team improved,” Hofer said.
“I was especially impressed with Jacob Cope’s improvements at the end of the season. He kept getting one personal record after another,” Hofer said. “Timothy Knolla also worked really hard after not being able to run at the beginning of the season. Once he was able to run he bettered his time at each meet he attended.”
The small number of girls on this year’s team presented different challenges for Hofer when addressing their needs as compared with the boys.
“During practice because we had so few of girls a lot of time the girls ran the same distances and workouts as the boys. It was easier for me as a coach to keep track of everything that way,” Hofer said. “I wish we had a girls team, because then the girls could not only run for themselves, but also for each other. When you are just running as an individual you have to be mentally tough to push yourself harder each time, even when you don’t want to.”
Sophomore Kaelyn Thierolf displayed mental toughness this season, which paid off by setting a school record in the 4K at the Heart of America League meet.
“She practiced individually with me on Monday and Wednesday mornings at 6:00 a.m. She had to run all the hard workouts such as hill sprints, without the rest of the team. Friday mornings she joined the team during morning practices and ran with the boys the whole way.”
Thierolf, who also played volleyball for MHS this season, had a difficult choice when the regional cross-country meet conflicted with Marion’s substate volleyball match against Hillsboro. Thierolf chose to forgo a chance at going to state cross-country as an individual in order to be with her volleyball teammates.
“I think it showed a lot about her character when she choose her teammates over an individual event,” Hofer said. “I felt bad that she didn’t get a chance at state cross-country, because I think she would have done great.”
Hofer is looking forward to her second year as head coach.
“I have high hopes for next year,” Hofer said. “We had a strong team this year, and next year everyone should be returning so we should keep improving. I will have a good group of seniors next fall and I hope I can help them finish off their cross-country careers with a trip to state.”