MileSplit Ohio's Nate Shively caught up with Bay High School cross country head coach Steve Babson to discuss the team's goals for this upcoming season. Coach Babson is heading into his 15th year leading the Rockets distance team.
Like most teams across the nation, the Bay Rockets are ready to race. Coming off of back-to-back fourth place finishes in the team standings at the OHSAA Division 2 State Cross Country Championships. Finishing behind Woodridge, Unioto and Heath, respectively, in last year's race. 2020 graduates Khaled Hamil and Kenzie Deibel leave Bay with All-Ohio (Hamil) and state-qualifying honors. Returning 5 of their top 7 runners from last season, Bay looks to improve upon last year's fourth place finish. Heavy favorite Woodridge returns most of their state championship team, and Coach Babson and his team know the challenges that lie ahead.
How has summer training been going during these uncertain times? What has the team's morale been like?
I would expect that COVID-19 has had an effect on every cross country team in our state. Our summer training has been reduced due to my wife and I being in a high risk group. She is a Respiratory Therapist, so I decided not to have any in-person contact with my team since March. As a result, our roster is the smallest it has been in over 10 years, with few new members to replace graduated seniors. Still, a few of our guys have been getting together for training during June and July. There has been a good mixture of improving runners and those with state meet experience. We have a contest, which they keep a log for, so I am able to keep up with the amount of training they are doing. Bay Village Schools closed down all sports for a short time, so we did not start our 2020 season until August 10th. Morale has been up and down with our schools press releases. As I'm writing this, Bay Village Schools have not approved cross country for competition, but we are glad to be meeting and running together.
What does the team's training look like from now until the start of the season? What's your training philosophy?
Training for the next few weeks will be a variety. We do workouts for those who need to catch up, those in the middle pack, and the top few runners. My teams train more like a road running club. I like to devote most of my time with the guys to running, so we don't do any stretching or exercises of any kind. Our system has been very good at getting a large group in shape to enjoy running longer distances together. We are on the streets and trails 3 or 4 days a week, mixing in hill workouts when we come upon one and throwing in some short intervals during group road work. We have a great park and home course for the GLC, Cahoon Park, to get in some measured intervals for teaching pacing and improving speed, but we don't over use it.
The team finished fourth at the OHSAA Division 2 Cross Country Championships last year and 2018, and 5 out of the 7 runners from the state squad last year are returning this season. What are some team goals the group has for the season?
We hope to improve on our last two years of fourth place finishes, but realize it will be a great challenge, as Woodridge
will be formidable. We are off to a late start, and right now just making it out of Boardman Regionals will be a challenge, but we have a fine tradition and a good core group with state meet experience.
Guys like Will Warren, Jude Ault and Jacob Feicks had outstanding junior year campaigns. What do you expect out of those guys for their senior season? Are there any guys you see joining these top three this season?
Will Warren is our top runner and sets the pace for the other guys to try and follow. Jude Ault is usually side-by-side with him. They both have All-Ohio cross country credentials and are expecting to move up this fall. Jacob Feicks, on the other hand, was a late bloomer last year. He's not a firm believer in summer training, but he gets it done on gutsy racing. Junior Michael Muccio, our seventh man from 2019, has been training with Will and Jude all summer, and is battling for our third spot with Ezra Fleeman. Ezra won the team's July training contest for most mileage, so he is ready for the season. I have not been able to convince our fifth state returner, junior Luke Hansen, that summer training is better than weight lifting,
but he is so tough that I am confident he will move up. Due to his dedication, sophomore Iain Ray
is most likely to join our varsity team if he can avoid the injury bug.
Sophomore James Chilton
has already improved so much from his freshman season, and is an aggressive racer who will put himself in good position to make our top seven.
Can you highlight some of the Bay up-and-comers? What are you looking for from your underclassmen this year?
Freshman William Dunstan
had a good middle school career, and is a capable trainer, so he might put himself in position to help us this fall. Sophomore Roan Williams
and Junior Patrick Melvin, with a little more racing under their belts, should be able to grow into varsity level runners.
Is there anything else you would like to say about your team or this season?
Like every past season, I hope to get as many of our roster the opportunity to race in varsity events. We are very active for a Division 2 team, dividing up our roster and going to multiple events a few weeks each season, and often moving up to Division I races. The more events, the more fun. It seems to be working, as we aim, for what I think will be, Bay's 35th trip to the state championship since 1971.
Thank you, Coach Babson. Good luck this season!