Building an athletic program from the ground up is a tall task, no matter what level you’re at. As difficult as it can be at its peak, many might ask what would push someone to accept the challenge.
For DeKalb High School Cross Country coach Melissa Ruch, it all started as a family affair of sorts. Though she didn’t run and compete when she was in high school, she began running for her health 10 years ago. This, combined with her daughter’s interest in running, led to the start of the DCHS cross country team.
“We did not have a cross country program here at the high school,” Ruch said. “My daughter was very interested in running at the time, so I wanted to try to get a program going here.”
Her daughter, Mya, was the reason Ruch started the team and in her freshman year, she finished 15th at State for her division. Even with that success, Mya decided not to run for her senior year, leaving only two girls on the team.
“That’s been a hard pill to swallow,” Ruch said of her daughter’s decision. “As she got older and her body developed more, her times got slower and that was really frustrating for her. It’s definitely not as fun as when you’re winning.”
Even without her daughter, the team is expected to have a very successful crop of talent on the boys side. There’s a reasonable amount of youth amongst the boys as well, as three of their eight runners are freshman. Ruch credits their talent and success mainly to a middle school program that allowed each of them to put in the work and dedication necessary to prepare for the jump to high school competition.
“We do have an awesome boys team that I’m looking forward to seeing this year,” Ruch said. “One of those freshman boys had a great middle school career and he will probably be our fastest runner … (middle school coach Kristen Van Vranken) really does a great job to filter (runners) into our school.”
DCHS’s first time running as a team will take place at the Cookeville Jamboree on Aug. 15, and their first official meet will be at the Voyles Classic on Aug. 31.
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