LIBERTYVILLE — St. Joseph’s Sam Daughenbaugh looked a little lonely in the starting box at the Libertyville Invite Saturday at Adler Park.
While other coaches were having last-minute pep talks with team members waving the school flag, Daughenbaugh was just doing a couple of solitary run-outs.
The junior from Berwyn was the only runner from St. Joe’s competing in the boys varsity race.
“I didn’t find it intimidating at all,” Daughenbaugh said. “I see the big teams and it’s pretty cool because I didn’t really see cross country as a team sport. But they’re working together to get a certain time.”
To say that Daughenbaugh is a newcomer to cross country is an understatement. Libertyville was the first race of his career after he decided to join the team just before the season. The only reason he joined was to get in shape for another sport.
“At the beginning of the school year I thought that I better start preparing for baseball and that cross country was a good opportunity to condition myself so I gave it a go,” Daughenbaugh said. “I know I can cut a lot of time but right now I’m the best runner I’ve ever been in my entire life. I know I couldn’t have done this well last year.”
Daughenbaugh completed the three-mile course in 22:11.67.
“It feels pretty good to finish but I don’t feel too great because I know I could have done better,” he said. “But I see the other people running here and they’re great athletes so that makes me feel good.”
Chargers’ head coach Roger Bauers understands the challenge Daughenbaugh faces.
“It’s tough because the competition has been running all the time for the last three years, at least,” Bauers said. “And when you have guys out here running at 16 minutes, trust me, they’re running year round. So there’s no free lunches but Sam is a good worker.”
The good news for Daughenbaugh is that since he’s just starting out, there is room for dramatic improvements. That’s one of the reasons he has set big goals for the end of the season and beyond.
“Hopefully I can be around 21 minutes, maybe under,” he said. “I think that would be pretty good for me. During the offseason I plan on running a lot and joining again next year, hopefully running under 20 minutes by then.”
Daughenbaugh will also try to be a leader for a St. Joe’s team that is very young. The boys and girls programs had a total of five or six consistent performers last year. That number has swelled to 14 this season, but most of them are freshman and sophomores.
“I was wondering if we were going to be able to have a team this year, but we have a lot of freshmen so the future is the young people,” Bauers said. “If we can have five or six guys on the ground floor working and pushing each other, then they have a chance to make a lot of progress.”