Lainey Phelps & Will Stone return for Homewood High School in 2017. (Photos by Rivercat Photo)
How many years have you been coaching high
school cross country (and at your current school)?
This is my sixth year coaching high school, and they have all been at Homewood.
What do you attribute as the main reasons for the success of your
I was fortunate to inherit a great group of kids my first year that helped establish a positive culture. Each class has poured into the next. You can accomplish a lot with positive attitudes, strong work ethic, and an eagerness to improve.
What would be the best way to describe your style and philosophy of coaching
and working with high school runners?
I see myself as a facilitator. My coaching staff and I have established and communicated a strong training philosophy. We believe that we can help kids reach their goals, but true growth happens when they take ownership of it. At that point, we can just stay out of their way, watch them grow, and be their biggest supporter.
What are your core beliefs in your training plan and workouts for
your cross country squads?
This one is tough because there is so much involved with training, but I would say, that it all boils down to balance. While cross country certainly emphases aerobic work, we still pay attention to the anaerobic system. Couple that with prioritizing recovery over additional work, and we've been satisfied with the results.
How many runners do you return from your top 7 from a year ago?
The boys are returning 5 of last year's top 7, and the girls are returning all 7.
6. Who is your projected top 7 heading into the cross country season?
For the boys: Will Stone, Lucas Lamb, Jack Gray, Azariah Kipchumba, Carson Bedics, and Alvin Finch.
For the girls: Lainey Phelps, Celie Jackson, Audrey Nabors, Zoe Nichols, Adah Allen, Hannah Brook Gibbons, and Edie Smith.
Who are your team captains or leaders and what stands out about them
as examples for the rest of their teammates?
The beautiful thing about our teams right now is that there is a real sense of shared leadership. Our seniors, however, are all doing their part in organizing group runs, leading warm-ups, and setting the tone with consistent effort. This would include Lucas Lamb, Azariah Kipchumba, and Alvin Finch for the boys. The girls group includes Hannah Brook Gibbons, Katie Grace Bateman, and Maggie Sexton.
Who have you been most impressed or surprised with their improvement and/or
fitness from their summer training?
There are almost too many to name, so I will inevitably leave someone out that deserves recognition. But two that have really impressed me this summer for the boys are Lucas Lamb (just logged a bunch of quality miles) and Jack Gray (strength is catching up with recent growth spurts). Honestly our entire girls team has built on what was a great Spring so everyone is ahead of where they were last year. But one that appears to be entering with a great base is Edie Smith.
Any impactful freshmen or transfers to join the team this season?
We have some exciting moves on the girls side. Victoria Thompson is a rising freshman that has run sub-20:00, and we look forward to her training with us year round. Alex Steltenpohl has also moved to Homewood this summer, and having run under 20:00 several times, she will certainly be another rising freshman that will make an immediate impact. On the boys side it is hard to say. Our freshman class is extremely hard working, and we feel that several have the opportunity to run at or below 17-flat by late in the season.
What are the top invitational meets that your team will be attending
We open at Memphis Twilight, and we will attend Chickasaw Trails and Jesse Owens as always. We are also looking forward to running at the Greater Louisville Classic a the end of September.
What will be the biggest obstacle or challenge facing your team this
We just have to limit distractions and fight complacency, two things that both teams do well. We are poised for a great season, and if we focus on our own improvement I believe we will be successful.
What will be the biggest reason why your team is successful this
There is a hunger among both teams that is matched with maturity. They recognize that they have work to do, they are eager to put in that work, and they trust the training plan will have them ready when the time comes.
What is a favorite annual or common pre-season workout or run for
I am not sure that this is the athlete's favorite workout, but I love 12-16 400s on grass. It is usually hot and miserable, but it exposes everyones' fitness and shows us as coaches who needs work, who is willing to work, and most importantly, who wants to work.
What is a favorite annual or common mid-season workout for your team?
There is a love/hate relationship with Homewood's Murray Hill. We will do 10 by Murray Hill, a workout which many dread; but it leaves everyone with a sense of pride that they "beat the workout."
15. What is a favorite annual or common championship season or end-of-season workout for your team? Mile repeats with full recovery. We usually see PRs in the mile, and this workout solidifies confidence going into the State Meet.
What are your top 3 goals for this year's squad?
Less of a goal and more of a challenge for our athletes is to see how many boys can we run under 17:00 and how many girls can run under 20:00by the end of the season. If athletes meet this challenge, our team goals should fall into place.