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One on One: Interview with MC girls XC coach Neil Breneman

Editor’s Note: Back in the winter months Editor Kenny Varner talked to then newly selected Mifflin County girls cross country coach  Neil Breneman.

HS: At what age did you start to enjoy running?

NB: Actually it was later in life. So it’s probably been within the last six or seven years. So about age 35. With that being said I did not run in high school but I almost did. In my junior year I really thought about going out for cross country. I didn’t have a hate for running but I was a farm boy and I chose work on the farm instead of cross country. So I use that sometimes when I talk to kids when they try to figure out what to do. So I tell them this one side of it and here’s the other. You’ll never have this opportunity again.

HS: What brought you in to starting to get into it.

NB: Wanting to get in shape personally for myself. Just making sure that I was taking care of myself. I wanted to lose some weight and running burns off calories. But then it went from that to working with my son who was starting to get into running. I’ve always loved working with youth my whole life even as a youth. So there was the natural jump from wanting to run personally for myself and then leading others into it. It was kind of my love of investing in youth and their development.

HS: How long have you been an assistant coach at Mifflin County?:

NB: Two years for cross country.  I’ve also helped with indoor and outdoor track.

HS: You’re getting a great group of returners this season. You have to be excited about next year’s potential season.

NB: I am. I really am. The thing that I’m really passionate about is recruiting new kids to come in. I think the program has been good these last few years but I think it can be developed much more. I think it has to start for the kids when they’re young. The younger you start the better opportunity you have to develop that.

I’ve already been reaching out, making contacts, looking to get into some of the schools and talked to kids, younger kids. I am thinking about starting up a camp this spring to help with that.

HS: What are your feeling on cross country and what it is for people who has never had the opportunity to really find out what it is? What it does and what feelings you get out of running.

NB: Things that I love about cross country is that it’s a team sport but also an individual sport. We’re out there as a team and we are running as a team. Of course, your top seven runners are the ones that are scoring the points but nobody sits on the bench. Everybody gets involved and individually each athlete can have their own goals and their own challenges.

The one thing I love about cross country is you can have a runner like a Kylee Cubbison who is setting all the records and everything. She has goals that are challenging that she can step up to and tend to meet those goals. Then you can have a student that maybe has never run much in their life and they’re not going to be the fastest in the field but they can still have goals, they can meet those goals. They can challenge themselves in their own way.

Even though they may be on the other end of the spectrum as far as their athletic ability in many ways they are in the same place. They are setting their own personal goals  and challenge themselves. I think it’s a great opportunity for everyone. Athletes need confidence  building opportunities. The need opportunities to feel like ‘Man, I accomplished something. It’s a great opportunity for that. Build confidence for that.

When they run the race they’re probably going to feel like quitting, they’re going to feel like garbage but there is that accomplishment in the end. Then there is the team aspect. It’s a great feeling watching the elite runners cheering for the girls who are coming in five to ten minutes later. You can’t beat that. You can’t beat that type of environment. They encourage each other. I’m going to do more of that. I want to build them as a team.

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