Dean Mullikin restarted the cross-country program at Greeneview about 10 years ago. Three of his kids and a few of their friends were looking to run, and Mullikin, a former Ram athlete, wanted to give them an outlet to compete.
But after several successful seasons, the sport is on shaky ground again. For the fifth straight year, Greeneview doesn’t have enough participants to field full teams. While football, soccer, volleyball, golf and even cheerleading have healthy numbers, cross-country has just three boys and three girls.
“For a lot of kids, running is just hard. It takes a certain person,” Mullikin said.
Other Ohio Heritage Conference schools take pride in cross-country. The West Liberty-Salem boys have been to the state meet 16 times, winning four crowns, while the girls have made five trips.
Greeneview’s only state appearance came in 1966.
“It seems like in cross-country that there are just running towns,” Mullikin said. “West Liberty is one of them, and so is Russia and Minster.
“At Jamestown, they’re not into running at all. If you’re running, people will stop their cars and ask if you need a ride.”
Senior Alex Brown, junior Mason Link and sophomore Wade Hoyle compete as individuals each meet. Link is the fastest with clockings in the 17:30 range, which Mullikin said may be good enough to finish in the top 10 in the OHC.
For the girls, sophomores Alex Hansen and Samantha Webster are competing for the first time. Both were on the track team. Sydney Webster, Samantha’s twin sister, plays soccer but runs cross country when she doesn’t have a conflict.
“All I do is I try to get them to be better at the end of the season than they were in the beginning,” Mullikin said.
Though 53 years old, the coach usually works out with his athletes.
“I enjoy practice more than I do the meets,” he said. “In the meets, they pretty much disappear in the woods, and you don’t see them again until they come back out.”
Meets also make him yearn for what he doesn’t have.
“You watch Beavercreek, and they’ve probably got 120 kids on their team,” he said. “If you have that many kids, it’d be hard not to have a good runner. It would be hard not to have 10 or 20 good runners. The more numbers you have, the better you are. It’s just like any sport.”