Continuing a tradition/Player profile: Jaci Huckabee

Lansing cross country has continued to flourish over the years and has done so as of late under the guidance of head coach Brian Malm.

His recent successes have only borne more fruit in recent campaigns and he has watched as both the boys’ and girls’ teams push toward having a successful fall campaign over the summer months, braving the heat and all that comes with it.

“Our team is doing great this summer,” Malm said back in June. “We have had a great turnout, with all of our returning varsity and JV kids making at least 90 percent of the runs and strength sessions. They are all very goal-driven and want to have a successful season for themselves and their team.

“To be honest, I think we are ahead of where I thought we would be at this point of the summer.”

The Lions do lose some key components like Emma Bresser and Holden Giefer on the girls’ and boys’ sides, respectively, but the program has plenty of talent coming back.

Malm offered a list of what it takes to be a solid cross country runner, including:

n A willingness to leave your comfort zone

n Be coachable and accept criticism

n Be a good teammate

n Be flexible and go with the flow. “Racing won’t always be perfect, so roll with it.”

n Be mentally and physically tough so your body can handle a lot.

n Don’t be afraid to get dirty

n Have a winning mindset

One aspect of becoming better as a runner is putting in hard hours against the rough heat of the late spring and summer and dragging oneself out of bed in the early morning to get after it.

“The summer, I like it, because it establishes our bond before the season starts, but it’s tough with all the other things going on,” Lansing’s Celeste Hammond said. “It’s really important to do this before the season starts. It’s a lot hotter, but that’s why we work out in the morning. It makes it worth it in the end.

“It feels a lot better than it was last year.”

The key in the summer is getting a lot of work in, but also coming together as a team.

“Our team has been really consistent, especially the girls’ team that has done really well at state,” Lion Joseph Lozenski said. “I think our summer workouts really help in getting consistent mileage work. When the season starts, we are already used to each other. With Mr. Malm and Coach (Josh) Floetke we have continued getting better and getting new people every year so that is pretty good.

“Last year, (the boys) had some good seniors, but this year, we have a lot of younger people who will do well. By next year or even this year, we should be better and be able to compete at a lot higher level. We have a lot more depth. We might not have a Holden who is really good and scores a first and second, but we will have a lot of people competing for third and fourth and have a lot of people competing for points.”
Hammond believes that cross country is a highly underrated sport and the team needs to establish goals so they are all headed on the same path in a team sport with a special dynamic.

“It’s sad to see Emma to go, but I think we have some good freshmen coming on and we have some older girls and Jaci that are in a pretty good position,” Hammond said. “Our (girls) varsity team is pretty good and I think we are going to have a good season next season.”

PLAYER PROFILE: Jaci Huckabee - One more chapter for fierce competitor

It has been quite a run for Lansing’s Jaci Huckabee.

The senior Lion has made a mark in the sports of cross country and track, becoming one of the better long-distance runners over the past few years for her school.

As her final year inches closer to commencing, Huckabee, who is the reigning girls’ Cross Country Athlete of the Year for the Leavenworth Times and a top performer in track, running the one and two-mile races along with being a member of the 4x800 relay squad, Huckabee is feeling good about her prospects for success.

“Going into the cross season I am looking to increase my foot speed,” Huckabee said. “In order to do this, I am looking to have more speed-based practices while still building up my mileage.  

“What drives me to be a strong runner is the fact that I know how hard other runners are working, and I want to be just as good as them so I try to push myself to work as hard as them.”

Lansing head coach Brian Malm believes that Huckabee’s fierce desire to succeed is a big elixir that pushes the young lady toward the best of results.

“Jaci, like the great Lansing lady runners before her, is a fierce competitor,” Malm said. “She works hard to make herself better in all aspects of running. She is very conscious about her diet, hydration, and rest. She works very hard in the weight room and never misses a run. She will even run late at night or on a treadmill if she has to. Again, this is the expectation of the entire team. As a leader, Jaci models this for her younger teammates. When racing, Jaci will run herself into the ground before she will give up. She has needed medical attention on numerous occasions throughout the years.”

Her competitive spirit also aids in pushing her team, while she will never stop battling on an individual basis.

“I'm not really sure where the ‘never quit’ mentality came from I guess it's just always been a part of me,” Hucakbee said. “Ever since I was little, I loved being a part of athletics and wanted to do my very best.

“I feel really good about my team this year. Since my freshman year the girls’ and boys’ teams have grown closer together and that's what makes me feel confident in our success this year.” 

As much of a competitive beast that Huckabee is, she still finds time to be a normal person.
“Off the course/track, Jaci is a model teammate and friend to the rest of our team,” Malm said. “She gets along with everyone and works hard to keep the team motivated and driven. Academically, she is very driven and ranks in the top of her class. Jaci is also a great tougher leader amongst her peers. She is big into our student government and is very active in civic groups and volunteering.”
Huckabee, yes, can be a normal kid now and then.

“One thing I like to do when I'm not running is babysitting,” she admits. “I love being around the little kids in my neighborhood because they are always so full of energy and fun, and sometimes that's all anyone needs.”