Jason Bowen

The Scottsboro cross country program produces championships.

Year after year, since the program started in 1988, Scottsboro teams have dominated their way to state championships under head coaches John Esslinger (1988-2012), Chris Schmidt (2013-15) and Luke Robinson (2016-present). The Scottsboro girls have won 21 state titles and the SHS boys have won 13. The girls and boys teams have times they won state championships in the same season 11 times, including last season, and both are favored to repeat again this season.

But their success is built upon more than just those state championship trophies in the cases inside Hambrick Hall. So how does Scottsboro continue to succeed? Why do its teams perform today just like they did 15 years ago?

For one, there is tradition to live up to. The runners themselves want to live up to the accomplishments of the runners and teams that came before them. They know what Scottsboro cross country is about, and they want to leave the program knowing they contributed to its tradition.

“Success breeds success,” Robinson said. “When kids walk in the program, they walk in with high expectations in themselves and in the program.”

But it’s not a magic formula. Robinson puts the runners through an intense offseason and inseason training regiment — “we start the season thinking about the end [the sectional and state races],” Robinson says — and their “willingness to work hard” makes a difference. 

But there is also a family aspect to it, Robinson said, that goes from seniors down to seventh-graders.

“We have great leaders on our teams because they had great leaders before them that set an example,” Robinson said. “Every single year we have runners that show what it means to be a great runner here.”

The teams are tight-knit squads. They spend time together outside of practice and races. And they encourage one another.

“Kids hear adults telling them ‘good job’ a lot,” Robinson said. “But when the encouragement comes from a team leader, a fellow teammate or one of the older [runners], it means a whole lot more. When you see it happen, their demeanor changes.”

So while Scottsboro chases goals in the present, its also building to chase the same goals in the future. That translates to success breeding success, and most likely, more hardware in the trophy case.


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