Dave Emmans, Wayzata MN girls XC: NSAF Coach of the Week

For week ending Sept. 28, 2013

It took awhile for the girls of Wayzata to catch up to the boys, but after what’s transpired in the past 2-3 years, there are very few cross-country programs in the nation that can match the 1-2 punch this Minnesota school presents.

Wayzata swept the Roy Griak Invitational last weekend and it must be said that the effort that shook the rain-soaked earth at Les Bolstad GC in St. Paul’s was that of Coach Dave Emmans’ girls.  They scored a miniscule 58 points, 105 up on Cherry Creek CO and a galaxy of 48 other teams in this mammoth meet, and – despite wet, windy and slow conditions – crushed the meet record team average with an 18:47, 21 seconds better than any school has ever run at Griak, according to Rob Monroe at DyeStat.com.  They were led at the front by junior runner-up Anna French, but the deep pack they had – 7 in the top 23 – contributed strongly to the devastating result. 

For many years, Wayzata has fielded powerhouse boys’ teams under Coach Bill Miles, contending for state titles almost every year and making 4 Nike Cross Nationals team appearances with a best of 9th in 2010.  The girls were rarely to be seen even at the state level, but that began changing in 2010 when they were 7th at state under Coach Emmans.  They improved to 3rd in 2011, than won it all for the first time last fall by a big 43-point margin.  But they weren’t stopping there.  They dominated the NXN Heartland race (they were 3rd in 2011) and then placed an astounding 7th at the NXN Finals – with no seniors.

That led to a preseason ranking of 7th (DyeStat).  This week, unbeaten through September, they are #6 and #4 (Milesplit).  Understandably, expectations are high.  But Coach Emmans and his staff are working hard to keep the team on an even keel while focused on surpassing their amazing 2012.

A few thoughts from Coach Emmans:

On how he and his staff maintains a balance between encouraging the girls to keep progressing and keeping the pressure at a manageable level:  We have really been hitting this quite extensively the past 4 years and you really see the results.  What it boils down to is that we try to get our kids to look at life in the present moment and not dwell on past failures or over fixate on goals.  I know setting goals is something that is always emphasized in sport, but we feel that it is the process that is most important.  Achieving a great workout, or having a nice run enjoying nature for example.  This is very difficult to do, but we feel by focusing on small incremental changes, it provides a framework for sustained improvement.

On his team's summer training and mental preparation for the season, and whether his girls got where he hoped they'd be by the beginning of practice:  We are unusual from most teams in that a vast majority of our runners are Nordic skiers.  They put a lot of time into running, up 300 to 400 minutes a week, but it is also supplemented with a lot of roller-skiing.  We just ask the girls to run as much volume as possible in context of what they have done in the past.  Making NXN last year was all that was needed in providing motivation for this past summer.  We’re very blessed right now; we have the kids that love to train.

On the team dynamics and chemistry, with an outstanding front-runner like Anna French and a deep, tight pack behind:  I cannot over-emphasize this enough, they all get along, and have no jealousy towards one another.  It is unlike anything I have ever seen before in my coaching career.  Anna, for instance, has been our number one runner since 7th grade, but there’s not been one jealous word towards her in all that time.  If I had the secret to this, I would be a very rich man!  The question we have now is how to keep this going with our younger runners.

On whether the Griak race exceeded his expectations or if he was expecting them to perform at that level:  We knew going in that we had a chance to win and maybe put a few runners in the top 30.  But seven in the top 23, that was crazy!  We were actually nervous going in, because we had done a very hard session on Tuesday and they were really feeling it late in the week.  When the bell rang, they performed.

On the rest of the season, with state, NXN Heartland and the nationals:  We don’t talk too much about the future, other than the fact that we want to do our very best at that time of the season.  I think the girls know that they are of championship caliber and really have a quiet confidence about them.  In sport, we as coaches are always trying to keep everything we do in balance.  We still got a long way to go.

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