Cross-Country: Damascus's exceptional adventure
Robert Youngblood heard the sneers. He saw the disapproving way that a few other coaches looked at the way he was running his boys’ cross-country program at Damascus. Their annoyance gave Youngblood pause, but when he saw in the rule book that his style wasn’t illegal, just unorthodox, he decided to stick with it.
Youngblood’s extraordinary methods yielded extraordinary rewards Saturday in Parkton. Damascus defeated Quince Orchard and Mount Hebron to win the 3A state championship, its first boys’ title since 1965.
While most teams try to establish a clear No. 1 runner and build from front to back, Youngblood went another way. Since a team is only as strong as its last scorer, he constructed a squad with at least three capable No. 5 runners. If one had a bad day, the others could ably fill in.
That strategy essentially won Damsacus the title. While the Hornets were led by Thomas Arias, who finished 9th, Ben Constantinides and Lorenzo Acosta, the Hornets' fourth and fifth scorers, clinched the victory.
Youngblood’s unconventional techniques didn’t stop there. He sometimes split his team up, sending weaker runners to dual meets to learn how to run up front with confidence and stronger runners to big invitationals, where they ran on steep hills against top-notch competition.
Instead of sending the junior varsity runners home after the county championships—they wouldn’t be competing at the region and state meets—he kept them around to challenge the varsity. Youngblood used them at strategic spots on the course as rabbits.
“Some of my JV runners, that’s when they found out what a rabbit was,” Youngblood said, laughing. “Each JV runner had somebody they had to pace. They set the tone.
“It gave the JV runners confidence and they felt like they were part of something special. And they were.”
Things that initially didn’t seem to fit wound up infusing the team with vigor and ultimately propelled the Hornets to the state title.
“I thought it was all a little crazy at first,” Thomas Arias said. “It was different. We never really did it before. I guess it was for the best.”
November 17, 2009; 2:04 PM ET
Categories: Cross Country , Damascus , Montgomery County
Save & Share: Previous: Westlake allowed to play in region final
Next: Volleyball: River Hill rallies, will play Northern for 3A title
The comments to this entry are closed.