“Our motto this year is to win the day,” Sealy cross country head coach Anthony Branch said entering his 12th fall as head coach of a cross country program. “We can’t worry about what happened last year, we learn from last year and yesterday. Yes, we have goals up there we want to chase tomorrow, but you can’t get to those unless you win today.”
Consecutive wins, multiple regional qualifiers and program progress were all achieved last year but will only go so far to help the 2019 version of Tigers cross country. Luckily, plenty of the same roster returns with an added year of experience not only on the courses in District 25-4A but also with Coach Branch and his staff.
“As far as the girls, I think we’ll be led by Trinity Hall, Coral Becerra and Madison Manak. Maddie and Coral have been with me two years now, they’ll be juniors,” Branch said.
He is excited to see how far this group of runners can go, especially if they get some help around them as well.
“I feel really good about three girls and I think they can qualify on their own,” said Branch. “What I’m hoping and believing is that all the work we did last year, I think they’re going to realize going through that was worth it to get to this year. Sometimes you gotta take a step back that’s what I’m really excited about what the girls can do in taking that next step because I only lose one and hopefully we gain some more.”
On the boys’ side, the coach lost just one senior, Nahol Ahmed, and anticipates this group taking a leap forward as well.
“Vladimir Hernandez looked really solid, he’s ready to go, he’s ready to take another step after last year and we lose Nahol who graduated but we’re returning everyone else,” Branch said. “James (Gassiott) is still working on getting everyone in shape.”
That supporting cast around the top runners is still being formulated with Branch having a happy problem on his hands with about four athletes fighting for the last three varsity spots.
“I’ve got four people to fill three spots which is a good problem, my plan is hopefully for Cameron Eschenburg to take that fifth spot,” he said. “We’ve got Logan Eschenburg who’s got some soreness in his knee but Cody Prause, I’m hoping for him to fill in one of those spots and also Julius Aguilar is pulling double duty with football.”
However it does end up shaking out, the ultimate goal of this year is not only to see the success on the course this year, but to also continue building on the program’s foundation overall.
“I was telling James that the expectation is getting to the state meet but it’s not the end all be all,” Branch explained. “When we leave here, whatever happens, we want to be able to say did we come in and work hard every day? Yes. Did we show up on time, did we offer no excuses? Check, check. If we’ve done those things and they learned those things then by golly I’ve done my job as a coach and we’ve done our job as a program of what we’re trying to reinforce here.”