Westwood Cross Country Goes Back to the Future

By Will Johnson

Messenger Reporter

WESTWOOD – The Westwood Cross Country team has a new look that seems somehow familiar. Coach Amber Bain returns to her role as the cross country after a three year absence.

The Westwood native said she learned to love running while she was at Westwood Jr. High and Westwood High School and under the tutelage of long-time Coach Mike Holder. “Coach Holder made an announcement over the intercom while I was in Jr. High that said, ‘Hey! Do you like to run? Then, come to a meeting after school!’ It went from there and I ran on the cross country team at UT Tyler. It’s something I really have a passion for,” she said.

“My runners are starting off slow because they were a little lazy this summer, so we’re trying to get them back into shape. I’d say we’re running between 15 and 20 miles per week. This year we have Tommy Umenyura, Brando Castillo, Portia Lafitte, Drew Hawks, Maddie Collie, Cadria Cayon and Victoria Castillo,” she said.

“I expect that we will make it to Regionals this year. We have a pretty big group because we gained a lot of the basketball team. Their coach told them that if they ran cross country, it would give them the endurance for basketball, so we gained a few more kids because of that. Some of the soccer kids are going to run with us as well, in order to improve their soccer performance,” she asserted.

As far as the teams’ training, Coach Bain said, “Right now in high school, it’s mandatory that they are there for practice. The Jr. High kids don’t have to come, but some of them do anyway. If the Jr. High girls ran a mile and a half that day, the high school girls would run two miles and the high school boys would do three miles. We’re trying to build them back up so we will either go for a timed run of 25 -30 minutes. I told them not to worry about speed right now but to focus more on the mental aspects of it. I tell them to just keep going. We can develop the speed later.”

“Other days,” she continued, “we’ll do distance. In their minds, the quicker they run the distance, the quicker they are done. We actually have a lot of different stuff that we do. We work on arms and calve and legs. We will do a bleacher mile which is where they run up and down the bleachers, along with the four laps. Then, we’ll finish with bear crawls and the crab walk. That’s a tough one and we only do that about once a week. Our district meet is in Elkhart and they have a killer hill! The bleachers really help with the hills.”