Name: Blake Borden
School: Huntsville High School
1. How many years have you been coaching high school cross country (and at your current school)?
I just completed my fifth year so I'm going into my sixth this season, all of which have been at Huntsville High.
2. What do you attribute as the main reasons for the success of your program?
Not a lot has changed since I answered a lot of these questions back in 2018. For this specifically: Culture and consistency. The kids set the goals for the team each season and the coaches do our best to help them get there. It's important to point out my wife Lauren's impact as an integral part of the process over the last year. Her getting involved and helping out has not only made things so much better for me, but the kids love her being involved. We also have great help this year in Kelsey Hodges, Chris Brown, and Kaylee Stewart. Couldn't ask for a better group of people to do this with.
3. What would be the best way to describe your style and philosophy of coaching and working with high school runners?
I want all of the athletes to know I care about them first and foremost. I try to teach the value of being accountable and I do my best to really get to know each and every kid. To find out who they are and what motivates them. I also want them to know I am their biggest fan and that I believe they are all capable of great things. As far as running, quality > quantity, train smarter, recover harder.
4. What are your core beliefs in your training plan and workouts for your cross country squads?
Progressive aerobic development & we never get too far away from an aspect of holistic training at any point during the calendar year. Trust the plan and the process. Consistency is key. There are no secrets nor shortcuts. On top of that, pack up and work together.
5. How many runners do you return from your top 7 from a year ago?
All 7, but our philosophy continues to be that last year's PRs don't really mean much for this season. In other words, there is never a better time for someone new to step up than now - annually.
6. Who is your projected top 7 heading into the cross country season?
I don't promote pecking orders or do a lot of projecting going into the year to be honest, or during the season for that matter. Our top seven (technically 8) who are coming back from a year ago mentioned in question 5 are: XiXi Blauwkamp, Ava Mcintosh - both juniors; Caroline Ayres, Sarah Cobb, Kyla Sisulak - three sophomores; Audrey Becker & Lilly Delduco are freshman; and Kaitlyn Lee is an 8th grader. Along with them there are several who have been consistent during the summer and over the last year or so who can make an impact, and on top of that we have a ton of newcomers that have developed well this summer. It's legitimately going to be a healthy yet interesting team competition for all of the postseason spots. I'm excited to encourage that dynamic.
7. Who are your team captains or leaders and what stands out about them as examples for the rest of their teammates?
We have a lot of leadership within the girls team, at a lot of different levels. I am excited to see how this continues to develop and improve over the next year.
8. Who have you been most impressed or surprised with their improvement and/or fitness from their summer training?
I've been very impressed and proud of the commitment to the summer training for a majority of the team as waking up early to get a quality run in during the summer is not easy for a high school athlete. A few summer standouts not mentioned above: Mackenzie Toms, Leah Sitterson, Gabrielle Jeffery, Amelia Scales, Ariana Felton, Emma Jordan, Morgan Sundlof, Taigan Wessells, Dylan Wilks, & Amelia Wilbourn all have promising futures ahead of them and could contribute heavily throughout the season.
9. Any impactful freshmen or transfers to join the team this season?
Lilly Delduco and Audrey Becker will be varsity runners in the freshman class and will impact the team from the get go. Gabrielle Jeffery and Amelia Scales will also be freshman who help us out a lot this year and in the future. Taigan is a great leader in the freshman class as well.
10. What are the top invitational meets that your team will be attending this season?
We have a stacked schedule this year. We are visiting Georgia twice to compete at Starrs Mill and Wingfoot. Our major in-state invites are Chickasaw, Jesse Owens, and our home meet - The Southern Showcase.
11. What will be the biggest obstacle or challenge facing your team this season?
As always - complacency and lack of attention to detail. On top of that, if some of the ladies don't truly believe they're capable of being great they may underachieve, but I think they'll get there.
12. What will be the biggest reason why your team is successful this season?
Belief and confidence first and foremost. Staying focused on the daily details and routine. Maintenance, sleep, nutrition and consistency in training etc., so paying attention to the minor details that sometimes fly under the radar.
13. What is a favorite annual or common pre-season workout or run for your team?
Fartleks, Tempos, our Queen of the Hill intrasquad competition, and consistent long runs.
14. What is a favorite annual or common mid-season workout for your team?
Mile repeats and the ROHO
15. What is a favorite annual or common championship season or end-of-season workout for your team?
K repeats and the Lumberjack
16. What are your top 3 goals for this year's squad?
1. Continue to trust the process.
2. Focus on winning each day as well as believe in each other and ourselves.
3. Be the best team that we can be based on our standards, rather than allow any external factor to measure or determine our success