By Dylan Wallace | The Tribune
Every day that the Seymour boys cross-country team has a practice at Freeman Field, it means the team will be doing something else other than running their workout.
Before practice, and before head coach Randy Fife arrives, the boys arrive around 4-4:15 p.m. They split up into teams, grab a tennis ball and play a game called “cross-ball” in-between two mini soccer goals at Freeman.
The rules are simple. They mock those of ultimate frisbee, where once you catch the tennis ball, you can take up to two steps before making your next move.
The objective? Get it down the field and try to throw the ball through the soccer goal for a point. You can throw it through the air, bounce it off the ground, whatever way imaginable to try to score some points.
Cross-ball has been going on prior to practice at Freeman for many years before this team.
“It’s been a tradition for a long time,” junior Jude Bane said. “Way before we’ve ever been in high school.”
It was introduced to Bane and sophomore Sam Rockey during their first practice at Freeman during their respective freshman years.
They aren’t sure who started it, but now that they are they’ve been around for a couple years, they’ve kept the tradition alive.
“Jude used to play baseball and I used to baseball, so for us, it’s kind of fun,” Rockey said.
The two Owls had quite the chemistry going at one of last week’s practices. They would launch it deep to one another, fire off shots at the goal in mid-air and lead their team out to a 7-1 lead.
But the score doesn’t really matter. They keep score, but it’s not about who wins or loses.
“We don’t keep records,” Rockey said. “You don’t really remember who wins at the end. It’s just for fun.”
They usually just play for time, killing time until Fife arrives to start practice, plus it serves as a nice warm-up to the run.
Occasionally when they’re still playing when Fife gets there, he yells, “next point wins,” to wrap up the game quickly.
Sometimes the tactic of scoring is simple, “Just hurl the ball as hard as you can at the goal sometimes,” Bane said.
Some of the guys on the team have taken some tough shots from the ball. Bane recalls one time Michael Proffer getting hit in the face with the tennis ball.
“It brings out some good competitive spirt before practice,” Bane said.
So far this year on the course, Bane and Rockey believe Seymour has a lot left in the tank to accomplish as a team.
Individually, Bane wants to run sub-16 by the end of the year and Rockey wants to run low-17’s.
They believe if they can get some young guys to come along, the team will start to perform stronger.
“As a team, we’ve lacked a little bit,” Bane said. “As the meets come, I think we’ll progress a little bit. We got a good two weeks for training before we run a really fast course. I think we’ll have some PR’s and see what we’re made of.”
Seymour’s next race will be this Saturday at the Brown County Invite. Fife gave them a hard training schedule over the past two weeks, and Bane said the Owls are going to make the most of it.
As Seymour looks to improve the rest of the way, cross-ball remains a staple for the Owls anytime they’re able to practice at Freeman.
It creates a care-free, fun game before they embark on serious workouts.
“We get everyone involved,” Rockey said. “Even if you’re not great at it, everyone can still play. It definitely helps create a strong bond with my teammates.”