Ardmore has sought a boost with its numbers within the cross country program.
That dream of a boost is now a reality.
The addition of a soccer program at Ardmore High School appears to have sparked a significant increase in turnout.
More than 100 runners in high school and middle are out for cross country, which is up significantly from a year ago when the Tigers had about 50 runners, including 25 at the high school level.
Higher numbers have created for a competitive atmosphere.
“It’s created better workouts because they’re pushing each other,” Ardmore coach Steve Wright said.
Today marks the first meet of the regular season. The Tigers will make the drive north to Oklahoma City where they will tie up their shoe laces and run in an event that is hosted by Carl Albert Schools. The first race is slated to start at 9 a.m.
A pair of returning state qualifiers, sophomore Kayden Johnson and junior Destini Sampson, have set the pace during high school practice, as has senior Caitlin Bart.
Johnson was an all-state performer a year ago when she placed ninth in Class 5A. She wants more this season.
Johnson and Sampson have been putting in the work to make sure that happens, running on most evenings this summer for training.
“I really want to try harder this year, I want to get better, and I want Destini to be closer to me,” Johnson said. “We’ve actually been running at practice right next to each other. We’ve been pushing each other a lot lately.”
Wright has high hopes for Johnson.
“I think she realized what it takes to be a good high school runner last year at the state track meet,” Wright said. “Of course, she was a state runner-up in the mile. She’s put in a good summer, also. I expect good things out of her.”
Sampson comes into the season motivated. She was unhappy with her 39th-place finish at the 2015 state meet. She was 21st her freshman season. Earning her first state medal is her top goal.
“My finish at state last year really disappointed me,” Sampson said. “I’ve tried to work harder over the summer.”
Sampson says that Bart, who is the team’s lone senior, has been selfless for the Lady Tigers, who seek their first appearance as a team in the state meet since 2012. Bart was a state qualifier her sophomore season.
A trio of sophomores, Tyra Johnson, Breanna Martinez and Katelynn Shelley, have shown good commitment.
That commitment has Wright feeling optimistic that his Lady Tigers can end their four-year drought of not fielding a team in the state meet.
“I hope so,” he said. “They’ve been talking about it. There is a good chance they can if they stay focused like they are right now.”
Ardmore lost its boys team leader from a year ago, Chris Garcia, to graduation.
Those leadership duties have now fallen in the lap of sophomore Destin Sampson, who is Destini’s younger brother.
When asked about Destin’s potential as a cross country runner, Wright responded, “He’s absolutely perfect for it. He’s got a lot of talent for it.”
Destin is the only varsity returner for the boys team, so he understands that it is his turn to be the team leader, especially to several freshmen, some of whom are soccer players.
“It’s kind of weird without Chris,” he said. “He set the pace. I ran with him. So, it’s kind of weird setting the pace and being the leader, even though I’m not the oldest. But I’ve got to do it.”
Wright didn’t provide the names of the other male runners for Ardmore High School.
“We’ve got about four or five kids who can hang with (Destin Sampson) during practice,” he said.