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Goddard cross country sees growth in numbers

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Goddard cross country team poses for pictures after an event this year. Top row, from left: Alexander Lara, Josh Theimer, Michael Young, Julian Quintero, Austin Ramey, Julio Flores, Nick Fox, Daniel Montoya and Jonathan Smith. Bottom row, from left: Kayla Theimer, Morgan Waltmire, Allyson Lara, Madeline Crouchman and Valeria Martinez. (Eric Helmstetler Photo)

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Forward-thinking Goddard cross country coach Eric Helmstetler wanted to do a couple of things he hasn’t done since he has been at Goddard. One was field a complete team of boys and girls cross country runners, and another was to dispel the myth that cross country is too hard to do, and his runners couldn’t have fun competing.

From left: Nick Fox, Morgan Waltmire, Valeria Martinez, Kayla Theimer. (Eric Helmstetler Photo)

Helmstetler has done both. He had an idea to show up at freshman orientation with his runners and let the team recruit both boys and girls for the cross country team. Not only for this season, but to supply his team with runners for the future. The fifth-year coach has three freshmen on both teams and he’s excited about the new talent and his girls showing up to compete.

Goddard has not had a team compete in the district before. Helmstetler feels that if his team can get healthy from nagging injuries and shin-splints, both his girls team and the boys team will be right there to place at district and make it to state.

“Some of the newcomers to the team,” Helmstetler said, “They like being a part of a team. They like the camaraderie and being a group that is accomplishing something.”

The Goddard Cross Country teams had a strong showing in their last two meets, with runners improving on their times from last season in the Lovington and NMMI meets.

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Goddard’s senior Nick Fox has been running varsity since his eighth-grade year, and it is starting to show. Last season was one in which he was personally disappointed, because he was injured and didn’t feel like he was able to run his best.

Helmstetler feels like Fox has improved his running and times every year he has been in the program. As a coach, he has noticed the miles Fox put in this summer, running to be ready for his senior season. With a time of 17:33 and a top 15 finish out of 63 runners, Helmstetler thinks that if Fox wants to run at the next level, he can, as long as he continues to stay hungry and improve.

“I’m sure there are colleges out there looking at him,” Helmstetler said. “If he could get his time down to the below 17, to the 16 minutes, he could go to a junior college and run if he decides to.”

One of the most impressive things about Fox is his work ethic, which sets the tone for the team. Helmstetler feels Fox’s biggest strengths are his ability and endurance. Fox will run 13 miles on Monday, and then turn around and do hills on Wednesday, with Tuesdays and Thursdays designed for speed work.

“I try to create a total team and family atmosphere,” Helmstetler said. “When people hear that cross country involves running miles it seems to them a turnoff. But once they run their miles, it is a wake-up call for them, that they can achieve and be successful. Once the runners get confidence, and once they get their first race under their belt, they start talking about times.”

Coach Helmstetler has two boys basketball players and four tennis players on the team. Running cross country will help them get into shape for their respective sports with conditioning.

Helmstetler mentioned his runners and the contribution they have made to the team: Julian Quintero is a senior who has been running for three seasons and has improved his times.

“One of his biggest strengths is that he has stepped up his leadership,” Helmstetler said. “With his experience running the courses, his knowledge has helped the team. He has been a positive, steady influence with the team. He also takes college courses at ENMU-R.

Austin Ramey is new to cross country this year. According to Helmstetler, Ramey is the life of the party and keeps everybody loose and is positive.

“This being his first year,” Helmstetler said, “Ramey’s improvement is to himself, not thinking he could do it. After he did, it has given him confidence and an attitude toward loving cross country. Ramey is one of the first athletes out to practice.”

If Goddard can get their athletes healthy Helmstetler thinks both of his teams can place in the top three in the district, and Fox could place by himself.

“We have the future of Goddard Cross Country with our young kids,” Helmstetler said. “We’ve got some fires going, even though the younger boys aren’t as fast as the older, they’re serious about getting better. Michael Young is going to be running with the varsity, we have Julio Flores, Jonathan Smith, Alexander Lara, whose main sport is tennis. If he ever got serious … We have Josh Theimer and Daniel Montoya, Montoya has been running for three years. Our team is close. We just need to get our boys healthy and then we’ll see.”

One of the biggest surprises for Helmstetler is that his girls have enough runners and they’re competing. With the boys, he needs to get his runners to compete in four varsity meets to run in the district.

The leaders on the girls team are Morgan Waltmire and Valerie Martinez. Waltmire is a sophomore and according to Helmstetler she has kept up with some of the guys and beat them in practice. She gained valuable experience running last season. In a meet at Gateway, Waltmire finished first overall in the girls meet. Running with her this year are first time runner Madeline Crouchman, Allyson Lara, Kayla Theimer and Martinez.

“Morgan has improved her speed a lot,” Helmstetler said. “with a fourth-place finish at Lovington and a top 15 at NMMI. Martinez is new to the area, she’s from Texas and finished in seventh place at Lovington. Allyson Lara is a sophomore who plays tennis, but finished top-15 in the junior varsity race.”

Theimer and Crouchman have been bitten by the injury bug. Helmstetler is hoping they can get healthy to compete in the next six events remaining in the season, and be ready for district and have a shot at state.

“The girls can compete at district,” Helmstetler said “They have to come in the top 10 individually or top three as a team. I think the boys are going to finish in the top three and girls can go top three as well. I expect if we can get everybody healthy, we have a good shot to qualify as a team.”

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