- The Lakeland Thunderbirds hope to run all the way to the cross country state championship this year.
The teams fell short of qualifying for the state championship last year. But, coaches think they have what it takes to win it all this year.
The boys have held the conference title for the past 5 seasons and the girls won their first title last fall. But, this year, the team is looking to head to the state championship.
"We now have this tradition of kids who want to be conference champions. We haven't had a state qualifying team yet, so that's our next goal," said Lakeland Head Coach Kevin Fitzpatrick.
The junior boys in particular are hoping to go to states. They just missed it last year. The girls also think they have what it takes. They only lost one teammate from last year.
"Hopefully we'll have another opportunity to have a run at a conference title this year and the chance to go to state. Tomahawk has an outstanding program on the girls' side and they have everyone coming back. So, it should be a good battle between our two teams," said Fitzpatrick.
The Thunderbirds are defending conference champs but what will standout about this team this year is their sense of comradery.
"It's really about the comradery more than anything else. I think if you ask any one of these kids they will tell you this is the most fun sport they've been part of in their whole high school career," said Fitzpatrick.
At the Ted Voigt Invitational on Tuesday, Lakeland had the 5 fastest boys and three of the four fastest girls.
"Those kids really are a close knit group of people, both boys and girls. They really care about each other and will do whatever it takes to help their teammates," said Fitzpatrick.
The team hopes to stay competitive this season without losing sight of why they love to run.
"It's not so much about the wins. The wins come. But, it's really about having fun with your teammates," said Fitzpatrick.
Brother-sister duo Andrew Schilling and Lauren Schilling of Lakeland won the invitational for their division. The next meet is Saturday morning against Watertown.
|Story By: Jeanine Ilacqua