You hear about minor league baseball players moving up to the major leagues or college football players getting drafted and playing in the pros, but how about those middle school student-athletes who are making the same sort of jump, when they enter high school? In the sport of cross country, that means a jump of running in two-mile races to competing with bigger and stronger runners in 5K events (3.1 miles).
I remember when I made that jump last season and before the first practice, I was excited about the move, but also knew it would be a new experience. I recently sat down with a teammate on this year’s Hurricane cross country team, Freshman Brady Dawkins, who also was excited for the change.
“The season has been a lot of fun so far; it’s a lot different than middle school, that’s for sure. The coaches have a different way of training, the runs are a lot longer, but I am getting used to that and enjoying being part of the team,” he said.
Brady was a member of the Hurricane Middle School’s track record-setting 4 x 800-meter relay team last season.
I have mentioned Hurricane’s cross country coach Eric Cooper a number of times in this space and the amount of fun he has provided the team through running. I was curious if Dawkins was of the same opinion.
“Coach Cooper has helped me a lot in adjusting to high school running and competition,” he said. “Going into my freshman season, I didn’t know how I was going to do in 5K races, as I was used to doing 2-miles so much, but he upped my mileage and it hasn’t been that hard. I think it was pretty cool that he knew my name at the first practice.”
As a freshman, Dawkins has been one of the team’s top-five runners, after three races this season.
When I spoke to Coach Cooper about Dawkins, he sounded very encouraging.
“Brady has been a great addition to our program and he is just getting started,” Cooper said. “He’s been a hard worker since day one and one thing I noticed since he started is, he is just tough. He competes tough. He’s going to be a big piece for us going forward.”
For the most part, when runners think about running, they think about how many miles they have to run for training purposes. When we get to practice each day, Cooper has everyone’s name on a list for how many minutes they need to train, not how many miles, and that is something that is also new to the 14-year-old runner.
“I really like that type of training; it has put me into a different mindset when it comes to getting prepared for races. I believe it’s better for me because it’s more versatile and it has actually helped me train harder, I think.”
Dawkins was one of the top runners on the Hurricane Middle School’s Cross-Country team that went undefeated last season.
In any high school sport, when you are one of the top new athletes on a team, expectations can create pressure for that young student-athlete. I asked Dawkins if he felt any of that pressure in his new environment.
“Yeah, I did at first but I am getting used to it, because I know I still have a lot of work to do to be able to move up to the levels the better runners I am competing against are already at right now. I get nervous before races, but everyone does and for me I think the pressure makes want to run harder.”
One of the biggest things I get out of being part of Hurricane’s Cross-Country team is just being part of a team and the brotherhood that comes with being a team member. That is also something that Dawkins has come to appreciate.
“In middle school, each class more or less kept to themselves, but it’s a lot different now in high school, we talk and run together across all of the classes and that’s great.”
This is the third year that I have gotten to run with Brady and even though he is a Patriots fan, it’s great to have him as a teammate.