This seems to be a year of coaching changes for the Winfield School District, with Bryan Keim moving from middle school to high school softball, and Erin Hesselbach coming in to head up varsity soccer for the boys.
Yet another change has taken place in Winfield’s cross country team, which is now in the hands of Kathleen Norman.
Norman was an assistant track coach for Winfield last season, but this will be her first year as a cross country coach.
She is also employed full-time as a counselor for the district.
Norman graduated from Lutheran High School, and was a runner herself during a time when the school’s program was in a state of flux.
“I grew up running in this conference,” said Norman. “I was part of a really strong running program while it was building. I know what it’s like to be involved with a small program that grows and becomes stronger. I’m hoping that will happen here at Winfield.”
That may prove, however, to be easier said than done.
“I don’t really have a good idea of what our team’s structure is going to look like yet,” said Norman. “I know that in the past, Winfield’s cross-country team has been very small, particularly the girls.”
In fact, only two girls attended the recent informational meeting that Norman hosted, although she said those two athletes have demonstrated top levels of commitment and discipline in the past.
That’s in contrast to the approximately eight boys who attended the same meeting. Many of those boys competed in long-distance track events last year.
“One of my big goals this year is to get a solid girls and boys team together for scoring at meets,” said Norman.
Athletes can score as individuals in cross country meets, but to receive a team score requires at least five runners.
“I’m pretty confident that we will have a full boys’ team, and that we will be able to score at meets,” said Norman.
Norman said she is aware of three or four girls who are considering coming out for the team, but just haven’t taken the plunge yet.
While she plans to do everything she can to encourage them, she is also hoping that more female athletes become aware of the opportunities that currently exist on the team, and that they sign up during the first few weeks of the school year.
“Athletes have to get in 14 practices and compete in at least one meet in order to participate in district and state-level cross-country meets,” said Norman.
“I have about 19 practices left before our first meet. That means I have this first week of school, and maybe part of the second week, to recruit people who are still on the fence about cross country.”