Franklin Coach Anthony Laspada motivates team as they prepare for their recovery run.
By MileSplit El Paso Metro Suhail Boureslan
Down in west Texas, El Paso teams are already working hard in the summer to make an impact on this upcoming Cross Country season. One of those teams which are sure to turn some heads is El Paso Franklin. They're a 6A team that has the potential to really make some waves this season. With their new Head Coach Anthony Laspada, we are sure to see a product of their hard work. With star runner Eva Jess and other returning girls who Laspada spoke very confidently of, we're sure to see some fireworks. Laspada spoke of his veteran girls/boys coming to their 7:00 am practices every day setting the tone for the lower classmen and said they are leading by example for what it really takes to excel at a high level. He also said to watch out for some if his younger male/female athletes who are sure to impress this season. We were lucky to sit down for a Q&A with Coach Laspada and here's what he had to say:
TX MS - Franklin HS has always been known to have a great Boys/Girls team. What are some of your expectations for this upcoming season and what type of workouts do you feel will really play a role into how you strategize your 2018 XC season?
Coach Laspada -Being that this will be my second year with the team, I expect our kids to attend workouts consistently as they have been doing since we have developed an annual program. I took over the Head Coaching Job officially last year in mid August, and I have seen a major improvement in team moral and competitiveness. The kids are excited and are developing more and more confidence every day. I believe with continuing hard work, we should be able to make it to Regionals. Our program is broken down into cycles of training, which includes both aerobic and anaerobic development. It is key to me to hit both systems early in preparation for the later part of the season.
TX MS - Summer training is such key when trying to maintain a high level performance come XC season. Have you guys always trained in the summer and when did you really notice it pay off?
Coach Laspada - Since this is going to be my official first full year, I can say that this is definitely the earliest Franklin has started training. It takes so long to develop the aerobic system and it is absolutely necessary to start light running early in order to have success at the end.
Franklin Varsity girls work together to beat the hate and stay on pace.
TX MS - You mentioned that your team just a day ago ran a tough tempo run and are now in the middle of a nice recovery run. El Paso, TX has already seen record high temperatures this summer with some days even getting as hot as 108 or 109 degrees, so the motivation to run can sometimes be difficult. How do you beat the heat and what are some things you do to help keep your team focused and driven on the upcoming season?
Coach Laspada - One thing we have been doing is starting workouts at 7am. At that time, the weather is still mild. However, when school begins, we will have to change workouts to the afternoon during class. I try to keep the kids motivated by cutting some workouts short and to the point. Sometimes the water balloons come out and we have fun fights after workouts. Or there may be snow cones provided by parents. The kids really do appreciate those type of treats, which keeps them stay motivated during the extreme heat days.
TX MS - You still have a relatively young team. How many graduating seniors did you have this year and what do you do as a coach to help fill in those gaps to maintain the level of success that you have every year?
Coach Laspada - We had 8 kids graduate this past year, 5 girls and 3 boys. They are going to be missed. What we are doing in order to fill those gaps is starting early with our young ones. I believe that both teams have the potential to be really good. We have loads of talent and it's a matter of them gaining some confidence and experience along the way.
TX MS - El Paso is finally starting to get some looks, especially this past Track season. For XC it seems that if you really want to take your program to the next level, you have to go out and test your grit against some of the best teams in the state. This means going out of town. What are your thoughts on out of town competition and are meets like the infamous Desert Twilight or Nike South in your team's future down the road?
Coach Laspada - I do believe we have great teams in EL Paso, but I feel that we also need to show the rest of the State and Region. Going out of town to big meets allows our kids to be exposed to other competition and it also begins to put El Paso on the map when we have success. Coach McClain from Eastwood convinced me to attend Desert Twilight. I respect him and his program and I try to model a lot of what he does when it comes to mine. Desert Twilight is a no brainers. I've heard nothing but amazing things about this meet and our kids are very excited to go and compete with the best in that region under the lights. As far as Nike South, I'm excited for our kids to attend this meet at the end of our season so that they can compete with the very best in the South Region.
TX MS - It's been long debated that in order to have a successful team whether it be Track or XC, as long as your workouts are great you will be successful. What is your philosophy as a coach and how important are workouts vs. being able to create a family environment within the team's chemistry?
Coach Laspada - I have a simple philosophy. Treat the kids like they are your own. Respect them and create a fun, safe, and family environment. Workouts are critical, but the kids must buy into our program along the way. We have team dinners, movie nights, take your dogs on a run day, etc. All of these components play an important role in the success of our program.
Franklin Varsity boys show they can handle the heat after a tough day of tempo work.
TX MS - Do feel the summer plays a major role into this? And what are some things your team does to come together and forge what sometimes become a lifelong bond with one another?
Coach Laspada - Summer definitely plays a major role in building team chemistry as we all work towards the common goal. The kids are not in school and can primarily focus on running and team bonding. They tend to do activities together after practice like going to eat, or maybe the movies. The atmosphere is loose and fun with no pressure.
TX MS - Which teams do you think will give you guys a good challenge and who do you look forward to competing against this season?
Coach Laspada - Everyone in our district will give us a challenge. 1-6A is not going to be easy with all of the competition. I look forward to our kids competing against Eastwood, San Elizario, Americas, Coronado just to name a few. El Paso has great teams in cross country and I believe 2018 will be living proof!
TX MS - Are there any races in the summer that you have planned for your athletes to help prepare them for the upcoming season?
Coach Laspada - Absolutely! I have encouraged the kids to sign up for the Parra Law Eastwood Community Road Race that will happen in late July. It is not a requirement, but there's a lot of benefit if they choose to run in it. This 5k will give the kids an idea where they are early in the season. We may also do an inter-squad run just to keep the excitement going and to give our kids some fun competition among each other.
Like Coach Laspada mentioned in our Q&A, his athletes along with many other top El Paso athletes are competing in what is shaping up to become a fierce pre Cross Country race with all of the major runners in the city! If you'd like to get in on some tough Cross Country before season action you can check out the race details here. El Paso is sure to deliver on some great races this upcoming season and there will be more coverage for our teams/athletes in the months to come!