Mia Sappey (submitted photo).

Mental toughness leads to successful campaign for Lady Bucs as they prepare for state meet on Saturday

TENNERTON – While the Buckhannon-Upshur Lady Buc cross-country team isn’t a favorite to win the state championship in their appearance in the 2021 West Virginia State Championships Saturday at Cabell Midland High School, don’t tell that to the team.

The Lady Bucs have tons of momentum heading into the state meet after winning the Big 10 Conference title two weeks ago and placing third in the loaded Region I championships last week.

“I honestly don’t think we could be any more confident rolling into states this weekend,” stated Buckhannon-Upshur head coach Taylor Stacy. “We accomplished something that a lot of people wouldn’t have expected us to. The pressure of making states is now lifted off our shoulders and we can focus on our new task which is placing as high as we can.”

The Lady Bucs are predicted to finish eighth out of 12 teams by RunWV.com, but Stacy and his team have higher hopes than an eighth-place finish.

“We want to finish as a top-five team,” remarked Stacy.

Stacy said the team has had a good week of practice heading into the Saturday meet and are embracing the championship with a positive mind set.

“The girls have responded great to making states,” noted Stacy. “They’ve been in a great mood all week and they can’t wipe a smile off their face. The girls have been a lot more relaxed this week, which is how you want to feel going into states. They’re buckled down and are ready to show the rest of the state what Buckhannon-Upshur has been up to over the last few months.”

Participating in cross-country requires endurance and a mental toughness that is hard to explain unless you have participated in the sport.

Buckhannon-Upshur’s top two runners, freshman Samantha Shreve and sophomore Mia Sappey, weighed in on just how tough the sport is when it’s just you against the course running up a steep hill or through the mud and water.

“The first look of an oncoming hill is very hard to think about,” stated Shreve. “Some mindsets will automatically just think, ‘oh no, a hill,’ which isn’t correct and unfortunately it slows them down. I believe, for one thing, that I can conquer it head one and think of it as for me scoring the winning goal for my team.”

“I have to believe that I can do it before I can even meet this hill head on,” she added. “Even if it’s tough, the team, the coaches, and whoever set this horrible course up knows that we can all do it together. Just by taking a leap and believing that I can conquer it head on and defeat its purpose of being there boosts my confidence. Personally, I just think of it as another minor hill, and we will be at the top of it soon. Cross-country is definitely a mental game. You just need to believe you are strong. Once you believe in yourself, then nothing can stop you.”

Sappey added, “It really comes down to the mindset of how badly you want it and how confident you feel in your ability as a runner. Any race, hill, obstacle etc. you face during cross-country, you have to have the mindset of ‘I know I can do this.’ If you go into it thinking you can’t, you have already lost.”

Sappey agree with Shreve that cross-country is a mental game in which runners not only compete with other runners, but often with their own thoughts.

“Having that positive mindset is so crucial because running is a mental game,” Sappey said. “It’s a sport where it is easy to get inside your head and [that can] make you want to stop. When I am running, I will just constantly remind myself that I’ve been through way worse: the workouts, the hill repeats, and summer training is way more brutal than anything I’ve come across during a race.”

RunWV.com has predicted that both runners will finish in the Top 25 in the championship race as Shreve is picked to finish 18th while Sappey is predicted to finish 25th.

Stacy believes it is the mindset of that mental toughness of Shreve, Sappey and the rest of the team that has led to their success this season.

“I always tell my girls that if you aren’t doubting yourself, you’re not running hard enough,” said Stacy. “My girls have been through some really tough hill workouts this year. I’ve preached to them this whole time that they are strong and they have to believe it. I think one thing that helps them is that they run for each other. Each girl knows that they’re all depending one another to pull the team through. These girls love one another and never want to let each other down. It’s a beautiful thing watching so many individuals grind and fight for a common goal.”

Joining the Lady Bucs in the Class AAA championship are Cabell Midland, Greenbrier East, Hurricane, Jefferson, Martinsburg, Morgantown, Princeton, Ripley, Spring Mills, University and Woodrow Wilson.

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