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Hurricane cross country runner honing skills this summer

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By Nick Brockman

Putnam Review

Rising Hurricane High School junior Justin Belcher is intensifying his training efforts this summer for cross country success this fall. Courtesy photo

Focus fuels the path to running success for Hurricane harrier Justin Belcher.

As he prepares for his junior season this fall, Belcher has dedicated himself to a rigorous training plan.

“He’s a coach’s dream,” Hurricane cross country coach Eric Cooper said. “Anything that I throw out to him, he listens, he responds well. I know he’s been consistent and he’s putting in six- to seven-day weeks. He doesn’t really miss a day basically unless he’s sick.”

This summer, Belcher said he’s aiming to build his mileage and improve upon his weaknesses in anticipation of a strong fall schedule.

“Right now, I’m just hitting my miles, about 60 to 65 a week and doing hills, working on my weak points and getting ready for the season,” Belcher said.

While some runners shine with sheer speed, strong starts or a great kick at the end of the race, Belcher is consistent.

“He doesn’t have the raw speed that some other kids have, but he has the endurance that, I think, can match anybody,” Cooper said. “He’s a grind-it-out type of runner. He responds well to high-volume strength work, lots of mileage, and he’s putting in the work that it will take.”

Belcher takes pride in his steady effort.

“My strength is consistency and hills,” he said. “I always keep in mind that you can’t lose a race in the first mile, but you can gain a lot of spots and you can definitely get up there. If you’re falling behind in the first mile, you can be up there in the third [mile].”

In addition to physical traits, Belcher brings a positive mental approach to running, and that contributes greatly to his success.

“Honestly, I tell the kids pretty often that I think running and racing is more mental than physical,” Cooper said. “I, 100 percent, believe that. He’s mentally tough. I’ve seen him get tough over the past couple years.”

With Cooper’s advice, Belcher remains focused on keeping a consistent pace throughout the race.

“He reminds me to stay steady, stay consistent and also to do all the small things to be prepared,” Belcher said of his coach.

As Belcher continues to hone both the physical and mental skills to race, Cooper said he expects great results to come.

“Going into his junior year, he’s set himself up to be successful in the next two years,” he said. “He’s gradually coming along. He’s progressed from his freshman year to his sophomore year, and he’s working harder than ever. I think he’s putting himself in a position to where he’s ready to run fast.”


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