For one of the few times in her career—maybe the only time—Millie Kipp is being asked to slow down.
The senior, a fixture in the cross-country and track programs, is still working her way back after a double stress fracture in her foot hampered her during the winter and spring season.
Kipp appears fully healed, but head coach Bob Cooper is not taking any chances with his lead runner.
“She has only been running every other day to this point,” explained Cooper. "We don’t want her to push real hard early, but we are looking for big things for her from the end of the season.
"We don’t want to rush her.”
The plan to rest Kipp is a logical one from a coaching perspective, but telling a teenager who has spent the last few years seemingly in constant motion to slow down isn’t always easy.
Fortunately for Cooper, Kipp has been as patient as she is talented.
“She has been very good with it,” Cooper said. “Her head is good and she knows what you have to do when you are injured and what it takes to come back.”
Kipp has also taken to the role of providing guidance to the younger runners.
“She has been really good helping underclassmen and has been a really good leader this year,” Cooper said.
Kipp lost her running partner when Samantha Budd graduated last spring and has no real challenger as the team’s top runner. Sophomores Mackenzie Thayres and Kiersten Cooper should lead a group of six other runners competing to score points for the Eagles.
Having just seven runners at his disposal limits what Cooper can do with the team—he is working to get that number up to 10—but he has experience dealing with less. Last year’s team started with just five runners and went on to go 7-1. The outlook for this team is not much different, though a rehabbing Kipp throws a slight wrench in the picture.
“I think we are very capable of going 6-2,” Cooper said. “That’s my goal. We run against Haddon Township the first week and one of Millie’s top competition is from there.
"We are not going to push her in that meet; instead she will just run with the other girls to help them. A meet I would normally think we would win, we may not for that reason.”
Below is a look at the 2012 West Deptford girls’ cross-country team.
Coach: Bob Cooper
Last year: 7-1
Returnees: Millie Kipp (sr.); Gabbie Cox (jr.); Jackie Cooper (jr.); Mackenzie Thayres (so.); Kiersten Cooper (so.);
Promising newcomers: Alyssa Jordan (so.) Jannah Quigley (fr.).
Team to beat: Haddonfield
Outlook: Even with a small roster, West Deptford should once again finish in the top three in the Colonial Conference. If things go as expected, the Eagles should finish with at least six wins, and Kipp should have a long postseason run.
Three storylines to follow:
–Who will emerge from the pack?: While Cooper has a feel for who his top three runners will be, he is a little less sure how the order of the final four girls will shake out. Each has shown potential in the offseason and has a skill set to succeed in the sport, so he said the determining factor may be mental.
“It is up for grabs with the rest of the girls,” he said. “It could come down to who is in the certain frame of mind certain race days.”
–Building the roster: Even though Cooper is experienced in dealing with a small roster he would still be much more comfortable with a couple more runners. That would give the team insurance in case a couple of injuries popped up or a runner simply couldn’t make a meet—not to mention help build the program.
–Home sweet home: Both Cooper and boys’ cross country coach Mark Drummond have been pleased with the challenging course at , saying it is in as good a condition as they can remember.
“The course is in the best shape I have ever seen it,” said Cooper. “The parks and recreation department has done a fantastic job of keeping the grass cut and filling in the rough spots. It is in a beautiful spot right now."