The Needles Middle School Cross Country team

The Needles Middle School Cross Country team pauses for a picture after a meet in Kingman on Oct. 16. Stacey Martinez, NMS Cross Country head coach, said that the team got better and better throughout the season. Pictured left to right are Issac Shutts, Luis Muñoz, Joshua Davis, Savannah Hancock, Lily Keller, Martinez, Gloriana Collier, Giana Collier, Kelan Phillips and Tyler Phillips.

NEEDLES — It was a successful season for the Needles Middle School cross country team.

“They did good,” said Stacey Martinez, NMS Cross Country head coach. “At the beginning of the season one of the runners had a 23 minute 1.5 mile and at the end of the season, he was down to 11 minutes. The majority of the runners had faster times as well at the end of the season.”

Some of the meets that the cross county team went to were held in Kingman and Lake Havasu City.

Martinez said that at the middle school level they focus on technique, build up strength and focus on pace, not just speed.

“At the beginning, a lot of students ran fast and walked at the end,” said Martinez. “I told them that this is not a walking social club they have to run and jog. We worked on other skills like how to run uphill and downhill, how to breathe and how to use the location to take over other runners.”

Martinez said that at the beginning she would run with the team so that she could observe how they would run to see where they needed to improve.

“Later on I would drive so that I could follow the whole group to cheer them on, give them water and guide them to where they needed to go,” said Martinez. “Every Thursday I would time them on the same route and I saw their timing go faster and faster.”

To practice for different types of terrains Martinez said that they would run all over the city of Needles.

“We would run a couple of times on J Street and a couple of times up Mustang Hill,” said Martinez. “Everybody in Needles would wave at them when they would be running and cheering them on.

“Chuck Stahl helped a lot because he’s the previous coach and he would always give us tips. Not only that he would be there with water and help with safety as well. Katie Keller, head cross country coach at Needles High School, helped the program out a lot as well.”

Martinez said that the booster club was a big supporter for the NMS Cross Country program.

“They gave everybody a new pair of Nike shoes and that is amazing that they raised money and did that for the runners,” said Martinez. “Because not everybody can afford that and running shoes are very important. In middle school we don’t do a banquet for the cross country so they provided some funds for us to do a celebration. Every student in this program worked very hard and deserved something to celebrate.”

A couple of the runners that Martinez had on her team were in the eighth grade and she gave them a couple of tips of what they needed to work on to continue on to the high school program.

“I told them that they needed to run longer distances, keep hydrated in the day and work on their upper body strength and core strength,” said Martinez. “Because a lot of runners forget that upper body and core strength are very important. They have to be able to think quickly as well because running on different terrains, running uphill and downhill all take different techniques and they have to adjust their breathing.”

Martinez said that next season she would like to do something with the community that deals with running.

“I would like to bring like a fun run to the community; like a 5K such as the Color Run or the Glow in the Dark Fun Run,” said Martinez. “Not just to compete but it should be fun as well.”

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