The Horizon High School boys cross country team made school history twice last week.
The Hawks won their first Metro Tournament Championship Saturday, Oct. 15. Six days later, they added a district championship crown.
“I feel very honored, very happy it happened the way it did; it’s just the beginning,” head cross country coach Corey McKinney said. “This is something that needs to keep going in that direction. I would like to see this be the expectation for the program, I would like to see this be a consistent standard moving forward.”
Last year was the first year of the school and the cross country program, which saw an exponential growth in numbers from last season to the current one: 22 to 45.
“Being a brand-new school … most of the kids didn’t know each other,” McKinney said. “But they really connected rather quickly, and this year, we doubled in size because (the kids) got some of their friends coming out and some other kids moved in.”
This year, the Hawks were focused on a single goal — metros.
“That was a big goal from the beginning, and the kids embraced that,” McKinney said.
Senior and captain Connor Parrish agreed.
“I remember (when) we just wanted to beat Windermere (High School),” Parrish said. “This year, we were able to beat everyone, and that was a really big step up. It felt really good to be able to take that step (as a team).”
One thing different that has allowed the team to become more effective on the course in terms of leadership has been the incorporation of captain roles. Parrish, Dylan Royal and Jackson Brune are the only three seniors on the team — boys and girls included — and all three have been essential for passing down knowledge and instilling confidence in the young runners.
“We always encourage the freshmen at the starting line,” Brune said.
“It’s helpful to use the experience that I have from past years,” Royal said. “When you get on the starting line and stuff, people who haven’t gone through it 50 or 60 times start to get nervous, so it’s helpful to … calm people down and reassure them that it’s all fine at the end of the day.”
McKinney has a plan for the program and is looking forward to seeing it blossom in the next few years. Expectations are higher after all the accomplishments the team has had this year.
“I want to build a program here,” he said. “I want to have this where there’s 200 kids doing the sport. I’ve never been a fan of cutting anybody. I want to build a program where there’s a constant growth and … I think (we are) heading in the right direction.”
If there’s anything McKinney wants his athletes to take with them outside of the sport, it is the following:
“You guys can do anything you set your mind to if you guys really want to go after a goal,” he said. “This is proof that if you work hard enough over the years, you can accomplish anything.”
Looking forward to the remaining of its post-season, the team is excited to continue making history.
“We just want to make sure that we are in the top eight in districts and regionals, so we can advance to states,” McKinney said. “Nothing would make me happier to have especially the boys win a district title and also qualify as a team.”