Monday, October 15, 2007

Catching up with Carondelet coach Mary Ann Grubb

Today we have an interview with Carondelet coach Mary Ann Grubb whose team is #8 in the latest Harrier's National High School Team Rankings. Following last year's team accomplishments which included a state championship in Division II and qualifying for the Nike Team Nationals, coach Grubb tells us a little about this year's team which includes the return of the top 7 from 2006.

1) How long have you been coaching at Carondelet HS? I am not sure if you teach there as well. If you do, what do you teach?
I started coaching at Carondelet in the fall of '91 as an assistant cross-country and track coach. In the fall of 2000, I became head coach of both cross-country and in 2003, I decided to focus solely on cross-country.

2) What was your running and coaching experience before Carondelet HS?
I ran varsity cross-country my junior and senior year at Carondelet and then stepped into coaching during college. I have only coached at Carondelet.

3) Who are/were your coaching mentors?
There are 3 people who have really impacted my coaching: Helen Lehman-Winters (current USF coach), Kevin Selby (former DLS cross country coach) and Katy Himsl (current asst. coach). Having run for and worked with Helen, I learned the value of progression-taking an athlete and developing them over an entire 4 year period, not just a single season. Kevin is an incredible mentor for me as he knows our team quite well and often provides me with a fresh outside perspective. Lastly, Katy provides that necessary link between athlete and individual. Only when you tap into the individual and "what makes them tick" can you get the best from the athlete. Katy has that ability to read and understand each individual on the team so much more than I ever could.

4) Carondelet has a great history of success including the 1996 state meet team champions and Kristen Gordon who was also National Champion the same year. Is there a sense of success that goes with participating on the Carondelet cross country team?
We like to think that there is a sense of pride that comes with being a member of the Carondelet cross country team before a sense of success. It has been really fun to watch our team numbers grow over the past few years. We have gone from an average team size of 30 kids to 66 girls this year. Obviously, kids are wanting to be a part of the program and are willing to work hard. Traditions that were started with Kristen Gordon, both running and non-running related, are still in place today. For example, chocolate carmel oat squares for road trips only, Olive Garden dinners, cougar pals, team prayer, etc. There is a sense of pride and tradition on the team that gets handed down from year to year.

5) When did you first realize you had a special cross country team?
Obviously every team is unique and special in its own way which makes each season so different and fun. However, on the first day of try-outs last year, we ran a circuit workout and the level of intensity and competitiveness was so high that we as coaches were blown away. We had such a young team that we weren't sure just how consistant they could be. By about mid-season, they had proven to be fairly consistant so we knew if we could keep them healthy, then there was alot of potential.

6) Describe your team's summer training. Was there a team camp?
Over the summer, we just run miles. No workouts, just miles to make sure we have have a strong base going into the season. We end the summer with a week at Humboldt Running Camp. Its great there-the trails are amazing and Kevin Searls and Jim Hunt do an awesome job with the kids. This summer we went as a team to Yosemite and hiked Half Dome which really brought the girls together from all three teams: JV, Frosh-Soph and Varsity.

7) Does your team do weight training, visual training or any other such training methods?
Carondelet has somewhat limited weight-room facilities so lifting is not a huge part of our
program. We focus a lot on functional core training geared toward running. The first half hour of every practice is dedicated to muscle strengthening/injury prevention. Also, every Monday the kids are in the water versus running on the roads. If you ask them, they will tell you the secret training methods they employ are dance parties before practice and "rocket jumps" on distance runs.

8) With such a strong group on your varsity team, how do you keep the rest of the girls motivated in their own running?
We have been blessed with great kids who are self-motivated. We don't have to motivate anyone on the team. We have 66 kids on the team and each and every one of them pushes themselves to the limit to be the best they can be. Yet on easy run days, we encourage people to run with those they wouldn't normally run with. We have such a great environment at practice: Kids are asking to move up to the next workout group, kids asking to do more repeats, our team atmosphere is anthing but cut-throat. It really is a happy, supportive environment where all 66 kids are 100% behind each other and applaud each other's success. During tryouts, we make the first week really challenging to ensure that our three criteria are met: good attitude, strong work-ethic, and above all else, ABSOLUTELY NO WALKING. If you survive the first week, its all downhill from there.

9) With your team winning NCS, State and qualifying for the NTN race last year, how do you build on that success this season?
I think this year we are able to capitalize on each runner's potential . Its nice that each runner is a year older and year stronger so they can handle the increased mileage and intensity.

10) With the national attention that has come with all that success, how do you and your team handle the pressure that comes with each meet you attend?
Obviously there is pressure. And to top it off, our kids put even more pressure on themselves so we try to tone it down and keep it all in perpective for them. The running joke amongour team is that they are barred from Dyestat; ironically, we love Dyestat buy we don't want the girls to get hung up on numbers, rankings and what other teams are running because that is completely out of our control. We are constantly reinforcing to them that the only thing we have control over is ovurselves and that is what we need to focus on. Its our job as coaches to statisize, their job is to do the bes they can on that given day. Also, we try to take the pressure off the individual effort and focus more on the team effort. One way in which we do that is positive reinforcement notes in their running shoes and stand up "I believe in you because" statements.

11) From last year's season, was there one race for you that really stands out for you?
As I mentioned earlier, we were concerned last year about the youth on our team and just how
consistent we would be. so I think the one meet that really stands out for us is State where our number 7 runner popped in to our number 5 spot. And our number 2 runner was our 4th and ultimately it worked out ok for us.

12) Anything else you would like to add.
Thanks again Albert for all your coverage and hard
Mary Ann Grubb

"Yesterday is only a dream and tomorrow is only a vision, but today, well lived, makes every yesterday a dream of happiness, and every tomorrow a vision of hope."

Thank you very much for your time Mary Ann! AJC

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