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Conference realignment challenges mindset of Lowell runners

Sara Ellis and her Red Arrow girls cross country team knew the revamped O-K White Conference would provide a daunting challenge.

What they didn’t know is that a good chunk of the season they would have to meet the challenge without two of their top runners.
Rebekkah Bets has been out all season and is expected to return in a couple of weeks. Rachel Walters has been sidelined with a bad knee and has just begun working on returning.

“This cross country conference is tremendous. Many of the schools are a part of running communities,” Ellis explained. “I want to be in a fight with good competition, but it is made difficult when you’re developing runners.”

Ellis is coaching 16 girls who are new to cross country.

Ellis admits the start has been rough, but the potential is visible. “I see a mindset emerging of the girls wanting more, and with that will come better results.

The opening two jamborees have resulted in last place finishes. However, the results in weekend invitationals has been better.

“The girls a have a different mindset at league meets than what they display on weekends,” Ellis explains.

The last few years there has been so many program gains, but with the addition of three strong running schools to the conference, progress is more difficult to measure.

“Right now the girls have to look to little things to spark desire.” Ellis said.

For many of the new runners the experience is a learning one. And for the likes of some… freshman Haley Engles they are figuring things out.

“Haley has figured things out and I expect will surprise people later in the season.

With Bets and Walters sidelined, junior Jess Graves has stepped up and is on the verge of breaking the 20-minute mark. She won the Comstock Park meet in a time of 20:08.

“I see the potential and want more and the girls also want more,” Ellis said.

With that mindset better results are in Lowell’s future.