Owls runner regroups, moves up Coach's subtle ploy motivates Holford

October 19, 1992|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,Staff Writer

Every good coach has a way of getting the most out of an athlete.

Some athletes need pampering, others need to be yelled at and others can make the most of the most subtle points.

Westminster cross country coach Jim Gilford was trying to make one of those subtle points to senior Jim Holford a couple of summers ago.

Prior to every fall cross country season, Gilford takes his 10 top runners out on a trial run. The top five go in one group, the remaining five go with Gilford in another.

Holford, a junior at the time, found himself running with his coach.

"I just thought to myself I didn't belong in this group and dedicated myself further from that day on," he said.

The dedication Holford was talking about was running between seven and 10 miles a day during the summer, while throwing in some speed and hill workouts. Holford said some days were easier than others.

"You just gotta go out there and do it -- day in and day out," he said. "And when it's over, it's a good feeling and builds your confidence."

Gilford said Holford "ate everybody up" that day and has been doing it ever since as Westminster's No. 1 runner the past two seasons.

"What makes him stand out is his natural ability and the fact he's really worked hard," Gilford said.

"Some runners may have more natural ability but don't work as hard, while others may work just as hard but don't have the same natural ability -- it's really the combination that makes him special."

Holford isn't just the No. 1 runner for any high school team either, Westminster is the defending Class 4A state champion and a longtime power. The Owls won the Central Maryland Conference championship Saturday at Linganore with Holford leading the way with a first-place finish in a course-record 17:22.

It has gotten him some looks from some solid Division I college programs, but Holford is pretty much set on staying in Westminster and running for Doug Renner's team at Western Maryland.

The constant push he gets from fellow seniors Chris Zendgraft, Dion Stanton and Jim Zoulias among others makes him and the Owls that much stronger.

"The time trials at the beginning of the year may be one of the toughest races all season long," Holford said.

"We have good team chemistry and we really depend on each other."

Last Tuesday, Holford came within a second of the home course record in a four-team meet the Owls easily won. It was the last time he'd run at his home course and he was disappointed he didn't get the record.

He also talked a little bit about improving on his fifth-place individual effort in the state meet last year, maybe even winning the individual state title, although he said "that would be tough."

But his main priority is for the Owls to defend their team crown.

After toying with baseball, basketball and soccer as a kid, Holford found his niche in running.

He began running track (the two-mile event) his freshman year and a year later took up cross country. He began as the seventh-ranked runner at the start of his sophomore season and climbed to fourth by the end of it.

"I was half-decent in soccer, but knew I could help out the cross country team more," he said. "And once I started, I knew cross country was my thing. It's a little more individual, but it's a lot more team-oriented than people think."

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