Special picnic starts season for MC

HUNTINGDON – The Mifflin County Cross-country team took to Greenwood Furnace State Park Monday morning for a voluntary summer workout and a chance to hear from a variety of guest speakers that were invited to the event by coach Greg Loht.

The team heard from former Indian Valley standouts Laura Loht, Alex Monroe, longtime area track coach Ron Sprecher, and culinary arts teacher and Mifflin County swimming coach Amy Houtz.

Monroe, a three-time, three-sport track All-American at Lock Haven University, was the first to speak after the team finished a morning run throughout Greenwood Furnace State Park. The star runner explained the huge sacrifice it takes to truly be the best one can be at cross-country, citing the rigorous daily grind of being a college athlete.

Early-morning workouts and not being able to go out at night with friends are some of the things a top runner must tackle- and full dedication to the sport is a necessity.

Loht was next and touched on many of her former Indian Valley classmate’s main points, reinforcing that success stems from making a choice to be the best you can be – settling for anything less shouldn’t be an option.

The extraordinary javelin thrower certainly has the resume to back her up – she won two Class AAA state titles at the PIAA Track and Field Championships and finished fifth at this year’s NCAA track and field championships, setting the Penn State javelin record in the process with a throw of 178 feet, 6 inches at the event.

Greg Loht sees the guest-speaking event as a great way to motivate his runners with the season rapidly approaching.

“It’s like I told the kids, a lot of times, even across different sports, the athletes that are the best have the same mentality,” he said. “Here we have Laura and Alex, with two different sports and events, they’re both champions and they both have that mentality. It’s good for our kids to hear that from athletes like Alex and Laura, that they need to do their best and make the right decisions.”

Sprecher and Houtz were the final two speakers. Sprecher delivered words of wisdom from his many years of experience at the helm of track programs throughout the area, and Houtz stressed the importance of proper nutrition in a sport where every second counts. Loht thought Houtz made some intriguing points.

“I liked how she started the talk with ‘If you had a Ferrari, what would you put in it?'” he remarked. “Do you put the high-test stuff in, or do you put junk? That’s how our bodies work, too, and they respond to things like that.”

Loht saw the event as a positive experience that capped the program’s voluntary summer workouts.

“Last year we had a picnic and it went well, so we decided to do a picnic with speakers this time around,” he said. “It was good for the kids to get out here and listen to what these guys had to say. Being able to hear from those like Alex and Laura is a good thing, because they’ve been there and they know what it takes to succeed.”

Monroe also thought the event was a success.

“It was really nice,” he said. “I always love coming back to talk to these guys. It’s a very close-knit group, and it always has been, ever since I’ve been a part of the running program here. So to come back was an honor and it’s great to be a part of the tradition that was started back when I was a part of it.”

Fall practice begins Monday and Mifflin County’s first regular season event will be the Big Valley Invitational on August 30.