Sometimes it can be difficult to get teenagers out of bed in the morning, but Manitowoc Lincoln cross country coach Len Nikolai had no problem getting his team’s members wide awake and ready to head for Sheboygan by 4:45 a.m. on Saturday morning.
The Ships were up so early, one day after competing in the Fond du Lac Invitational, in order to make it to Sheboygan South High School where they began a 34-mile run at 5:30 a.m. to deliver the game ball for the Saturday afternoon Manitowoc Lincoln-Sheboygan South football game at Ron Rubick Municipal Field.
“The run was awesome. The team was pumped. They had more adrenaline for it than they do for some meets,” Nikolai joked as the team prepared to complete its journey. “Some of these kids, it will be the highlight of their careers here.”
For the past 25 years, if the Lincoln cross country team has not had a meet the Saturday of homecoming, they have come up with a run to correlate with the festivities.
While the wake up time is a bit earlier than what the runners are accustomed to for most Saturday meets, the Ships seemed unphased by a lack of sleep or having just run an incredibly long distance.
“Our legs were a little tired but the atmosphere of homecoming makes everything better,” Lincoln senior runner Courtney Griffith, who has participated in two homecoming runs, said.
Griffith’s teammate and fellow senior Taylor Albright agreed.
“You get pumped up because you’re running with the game ball,” Albright said.
This year, runners carried the ball in one-mile intervals with each individual running a minimum of eight miles and going all out four times per mile interval through Sheboygan and along County Road LS.
The team’s members ran the first mile and then took turns, in groups of two to four, running one mile at a time, always handing off the ball to the next group that was shuttled ahead and waiting at each mile.
By the time the individuals arrived at Culver’s, each runner had run a mile interval four times plus the warm-up first mile.