Dual leadership: Cross country seniors sets example on, off course

Fog rolls across the hills as the sun peaks over the horizon. The sound of footfalls in the grass echo through the early morning stillness as dew transfers to each runners tennis shoes. The cross country team has been hard at work for hours before most students arrive at school. Each morning they focus on the whole race physically, mentally, and even emotionally. Cross country isn’t a quick sprint and as such requires strong leaders who understand the mental game of setting a pace to finish strong.

“Brendon stands out to me as a member of the cross country team because he is a born leader,” cross country coach Darchelle Welch said. “He puts the entire team before himself and his goals daily are to help everybody out, to make sure we’re solid as a team, as a family.”
Brendon takes his role as a leader seriously and understands the importance of listening to his teammates.

“When becoming a leader, you’re not just thinking about, ‘Oh yeah, we have to get this done or we have to get that done’,” senior Brendon Mack said, “You have to understand that sometimes your teammates go through things that not everybody else goes through, so you have to look through their point of view.”

Over the last few years, his coach has seen him develop into the athlete he is now both on and off the course.

“Brendon has really come out,” Welch said, “he was quiet at first, but now he’s not afraid to make waves and shake things up all in a good way. He’s a strong leader and every year he takes that leadership to next level. When I talk to colleges about him I say ‘You want this kid on your team.’”

Another leader for the cross country team is a senior who moved to Texas recently, De’Arse Howard.

“De’Arse is also a strong leader,” Welch said. “He stays positive, reminds people what they need to be doing, and everyday he pushes himself everyday and works as hard as he possibly can to put everything out there.”

De’Arse knows the importance of having a clear mind when running and feels that he has grown into his role on the team as a leader.

“I enjoy how when running cross country, you have a clear thought process,” De’Arse said. “I moved here almost two years ago, so I feel like I’ve grown as a leader by people looking up to me and seeing their reaction to a new kid just running.”

Welch looks to De’Arse to lead the cool downs, keep everyone in line, and set a pace as one of the co-captains on the team. She sees both Brendon and De’Arse as examples that other team members look up to and want to emulate.

“De’Arse came in from Chicago, and not being a Texan, he was open to learning all of our ways,” Welch said. “We were a different kind of team, and he’s adapted to that and he’s really grown from it and knows this team is his family.”

Motivation is also a key part of the team’s success and is something their coach wants them to focus on every day.

“We have a lot of talks, we do goal writing, we talk about what our goals are but as a family we come together and we put goals together, and then we put those goals into action,” Welch said. “Stamina is huge in cross country because it’s long distance running so being being mentally tough is a big big thing. That’s one thing cross country has that other sports don’t have.”

Brendon recognizes that some things still need work, but the team has improved as the season has continued,and De’Arse agrees.

“This year has been a growing experience,” De’Arse said. “We have found ways to make improvements and come together as a team.”