Sports are still limited in New York, with football and volleyball sitting out the fall and limiting options for young athletes. But at Salamanca, the Warriors have one new school-sponsored sport.
Coach Keith Jones led a push to restart the cross country program, which Salamanca has not offered in decades.
“I know I don't have the build now, but I actually ran cross country in high school for Newfane,” said Jones, who also has coached wrestling and softball and served on the football staff in previous years. “So I ran cross country and track and I've always wanted to coach it. I've asked a couple times and they said maybe in the future, maybe in the future, well this when I asked they said, 'OK, we can do it.'”
The 2020 program starts with just a modified team. The team consists of six seventh or eighth graders so far, Jones said.
“I was talking to coach (Rich) Morton and he and (superintendent Bob) Breidenstein about it, they decided it would be best to start off with modified. You've got to get kids the taste of it and start to build from there,” Jones said.
“Since we don't have a varsity, we could have run ninth graders as well. Some schools do that because I don't know if there's a JV for it. With COVID going on, unfortunately I think it's hindering sign-ups for sports a little bit.”
Jones said he’s thrilled to start the program again, which he’s heard has not been in place at Salamanca since the fall of 1995.
“I'm super excited,” Jones said. “I've been having a lot of fun. I wanted to do this for a very long time. All the schools I've coached at before have had a cross country team, so the first thing I wanted to do when I got here was get a program going.”
This year’s schedule includes trips to Olean (at Forness Park), Falconer and Frewsburg, finishing with a league meet in Bemus Point. Jones said he’s not sure where the Warriors might be able to hold future home meets.
“They used to run at Elkdale (Country Club),” Jones said. “Allegany State Park would be nice if they would let us do something. But our school grounds are just not big enough if we're going to end up doing varsity. It's not big enough yet for a varsity course.”
Building up to the first meet on Tuesday, Oct. 6, Jones said he’s worked with the team to build mileage.
“We've been trying to get them some mileage,” he said. “Today (Monday), we ran a timed mile and then we ran a relaxed two miles after our timed mile just to see where we're at. We've done some speed workouts. We're doing a lot of stuff that the varsity is doing as well, you kind of scale it back for modified because it's only a mile-and-a-half race, as opposed to varsity is a 5K.
“The biggest thing about cross country is it's mental. You have to try to figure out ways to get them prepared mentally as well as physically for it, and I think they're taking to it alright.”