SPRING HILL — When Joel Myers took over the girls cross country program at Springstead four years ago, the ex-football coach admittedly had very little knowledge of the sport.
That hasn’t stopped him from righting the ship and giving the Eagles something they’ve never had in that arena — success. Springstead has gone from North Suncoast doormats to being ranked 13th in the state by the FACA.
“What I knew about cross country that first year, you could fit in a thimble,” Myers said. “I have to give a lot of credit to the other coaches around here for sharing so much with me and helping me out.”
Those other coaches are former Lecanto coach Dan Epstein, Nature Coast coach Eric Milholland and local legend and former Hernando coach Ernie Chatman. Myers said this fraternity made him feel right at home and gave him plenty of tips. Soon, he saw improvements on his own team.
Last year, the Eagles had a legitimate shot at state with senior Jackie White and junior Mikayla Bogulski in the lineup. But the team fell just short when the postseason came around.
Though there is less star power at the top in 2010, the depth is far improved, something few saw coming.
Senior Maria Garcia and junior Natasha Haglund, both in their first season of distance running, are already under 23 minutes, which takes many runners years to attain.
Junior Kailey Genrich, who ran in the 20-minute range as a freshman, dipped back to the 22s as a sophomore seemingly without explanation. A foot injury that had plagued her more than a year has since been corrected and has helped her run without pain. Myers hopes this will help her regain her form.
Bogulski, now a senior, credits the rejuvenation of the team to hard work and better chemistry.
“We’re closer this season, and I think that makes us work harder in practice and push each other more,” Bogulski said. “We only have six girls on the roster, but over the summer, we did a lot of little things to get better like lunges and sit ups.”
After finishing second behind North Suncoast powerhouse Wiregrass Ranch at the Mitchell Invitational, Springstead struggled at the Zak Lucas Invitational when junior Devon Rennie missed the meet after getting four wisdom teeth pulled earlier in the week and senior Sasha Spalding was forced to compete with a pulled hamstring.
“As long as we stay healthy, we know we’re good enough to get to states this year,” Myers said. “It’s never happened before at Springstead, so just getting there and placing is our goal.”
Photo: Mikayla Bogulski, who ran for Central before transferring to Springstead last year.