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Murray Journal

Murray HS cross country coaches join runners to help train and motivate

Aug 31, 2017 01:50PM ● By Jana Klopsch

Coach Jon Bowen, Rylan Shafer, Addy Moore and coach Anna Lewis (L-R) pause during a workout. (Anna Lewis)

By Carl Fauver | [email protected]

Of all the different high school teams that compete in the fall, the one that normally draws the least publicity may just be the most difficult.

Football players get a break between every play. Exert for five seconds, rest for 25. Volleyball players rest between every rally. Even soccer teams get their fair share of stoppages…and a halftime break.

But when the gun fires to start a cross country race, there’s no looking back. For three miles runners go at it hard, normally with few fans looking on.

At Murray High School, this is senior Rylan Shafer’s fourth year running cross country. 

“Yes, we are in the background,” Shafer said. “But that helps us pull for one another. I’ve met so many different kinds of people through cross country. I’ve made a lot of friends I probably wouldn’t have otherwise. And our new coaches are great.”

Veteran Murray High School art teacher Anna Lewis has been at the school since 2004. That came after graduating from and playing soccer at Utah State University.

During her first five years at Murray, Lewis was an assistant and head girls’ soccer coach. But since then, aside from a single season coaching tennis, she’s been away from athletics.

“When the (cross country head) coaching spot came open last spring, a few of my colleagues encouraged me to do it,” Lewis said.  “I don’t have any cross country experience; but I do think I know how to work with kids, train them and motivate them. And then I caught a big break.”

That break came from new assistant coach Dr. Jon Bowen, who has his own unique story to tell.

“Fifteen years ago I taught and coached cross country at Murray High,” Bowen said. “I was there from 1999 through 2002. But then I went to Ohio State for medical school, did my residency back East, and got completely out of coaching.”

In 2009, Bowen moved back to Murray. He’s now an emergency room physician.

 “My oldest daughter (Emily) decided to switch from soccer to cross country this season, and told me the team was getting a new coach,” Bowen added. “I told her she could let the coach know I’d be happy to help if she needed it.”

“When I got (Emily’s) email, I immediately called Jon,” Lewis recalled.  “It makes me feel a whole lot better to have someone with cross country experience helping out. It’s great because he runs with our faster group of kids, and I run with the intermediates.”

That’s another thing Rylan likes about his new coaches.

“I really like how the new coaches work out with us,” he said. “They are giving us harder goals and really working to make us better.”

Rylan was a member of last year’s state qualifying cross country team. Meantime, the girls’ team did not qualify as a full team, but Addy Moore had a strong enough time at the region finals to qualify as an individual runner for state. And she was only a freshman.

“Last year my older sister Rylee (a senior who has since graduated) and I were the only two runners to qualify from our region as individuals,” Addy said. “It was fun to run with her. This year my goal is to break the 20-minute mark in a race.”

Addy’s best time last year, to finish the three-mile course, was 20:01. She also feels the right coaches are in place to help her reach her goal.

“They are super,” she added. “I love that they (coaches Lewis and Bowen) run with us. That’s not something most coaches do. If we work hard, I’m confident (the girls’ team) can qualify for state.”   

The team has already had three cross country meets this season, with their biggest of the year coming September 8, on their home course at Murray Park.

“The Murray Invitational is huge,” Lewis said. “There will be about 2,000 runners and 2,000 more spectators. We’ll have athletes from across Utah, as well as Idaho, California and other places.”

The boys and girls cross country teams finish up their season with region finals on October 6 and the state finals two weeks later.

“I’ll be sad to see it end,” senior Shafer concluded. “I’ve met so many cool people and made so many memories. It doesn’t really matter to me that few people (fellow students) pay attention to what we’re doing. It’s just fun.”