Clovis sophomore Tori Northcutt, left, and freshman Lindsey Appelman, run the hills Wednesday at Ned Houk Park. (Staff photo by Eric Kluth)
By John Eisel: CNJ sports writer
The Clovis Lady Wildcats have leaped beyond last year’s performance with a solid pack of seven runners.
They won a meet at Borger two weeks ago, with sophomore Tori Northcutt finishing second overall.
Accompanying Northcutt in that front pack is freshman Lindsey Appelman, names familiar to fans of the Clovis cross country program.
Last year, Tyrell Northcutt and Matt Appelman led the Wildcats to a surprising second-place finish at last year’s Class 5A state meet, the best in school history.
Clovis coach Brian Stacy said it’s no coincidence the siblings perform well a year apart.
“They understood what it was going to take because they’ve seen their brothers do it and so they knew they were going to have to get in shape for the summer time, otherwise if they came in day one, the first day of school, they were going to be behind, almost instantly all the way up until the district race,” he said. “They know coming in that it’s going to be difficult.”
Tori Northcutt, a part-time starter on last year’s state runnerup basketball team, learned to like running, and training for the sport has increased her discipline.
Tyrell Northcutt’s discipline led him to Fordham University in New York City.
Both younger sisters credit their brothers with encouraging them to compete cross country.
Lindsey Appelman said her brother, who earned a cross country and track scholarship to Division II East Central Oklahoma, was excited when she made varsity.
The brother-sister influence may have had a physical effect on Tori.
“Everybody says I run like him, but I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing,” she said.
Lindsey may have improved on the original.
“They tell me I have better form,” she said.
Northcutt and Appelman will have a chance to work on their form Saturday when Clovis hosts the Clovis Invitational meet at Ned Houk Park north of Clovis.
Other teams at the meet include boys and girls teams from Hobbs, Hereford and Tucumcari, and the Canyon, Texas, girls. The girls varsity race starts at 10 a.m.
Usually home-field advantage just means playing in front of cheering crowd. Except for fences at a baseball field, the playing area itself in any sport is typically identical from one location to another.
But in cross country, the course mimics the geography. A course could be flat and straight. Or it could be like Ned Houk. With Houk’s dirt paths, steep hills and tight curves, coaches and players said familiarity brings advantage.
“They’re going to know where some of the hills are, they’re gonna know where the downhills are, they’re gonna know where the straight aways are, where the finish line exactly is,” Stacy said.
Stacy said the Clovis boys are making progress, but are still searching for three runners to compliment senior Chris Sawyer and junior Mike Wareham.