Red Cloud Student Athletes Push Limits

posted June 6, 2016 

At the beginning of this year’s golf season, rising Red Cloud junior Payton Sierra didn’t think she was at the top of her game. She says the season “started out pretty rocky, and I wasn’t where I wanted to be.”

Motivated by her family and coach Alicia Adams, she started practicing harder and focusing more on her game. She spent almost an entire week on the course preparing for the regional competition held late in May. Now, nearing the close of the season, all her hard work is paying off. Payton placed second in the regional contest, qualifying to compete in the statewide tournament kicking off this week.

And she didn’t do it alone. Payton’s younger sister Paisley—who will begin her first year at Red Cloud High School in the fall—played alongside her, placing 19th in the regional competition.

“It’s like being a mom who is so proud of her kids! They have worked so hard to get where they are,” said Coach Alicia. “We can talk and talk during practice, but it’s totally different to see it all come together for them on the course during a competition. To see the joy in their faces realizing what they’ve accomplished—it’s huge for me.”

Though Payton and Paisley have been playing golf for years, they still felt a mixture of nervousness and excitement as they started the course at the regional competition. Now, with the state tournament before them, they are practicing harder than ever.

“I feel like I’m ready for the state competition but nothing is ever perfect, so I know I need to practice right up until state so that I’m really confident in my swing,” said Payton. “Alicia has helped me a lot mentally. She’s talked me through my frustrations during practice and taught me to adjust my swing. She’s been a big help over the last few years.”

Paisley will also complete in the state competition and is excited to get out on the course.

“I’m looking forward to the state tournament. I’m excited to play, even if I don’t get a top place. I just like to play because it’s fun. And my family motivates me so much,” she explained. “I like that I can focus on my own thoughts playing golf, and that I don’t have to worry about anyone else.”

Alicia is also looking forward to the competition—and to seeing her student-athletes compete against the “best of the best.”

“For the last two years, Payton has placed 24 and 25 in the state tournament. That is huge coming out of Red Cloud, because we don’t have golf courses close by. We have to travel at least 35 minutes to really practice,” she said. “It takes hard work and dedication for our students to do this day in and day out. And it’s so exciting to see them develop and grow as players.”

The spring season brought some extraordinary accomplishments for other student-athletes at Red Cloud. Jack Fast Wolf—who graduated as part of Red Cloud’s class of 2016—placed 5th at the state track and field tournament in the two-mile event. “That was probably my greatest accomplishment of the season,” said Jack in a phone interview. “I trimmed a minute off my 2-mile time and 23 seconds off my miler.”

Those gains ultimately earned Jack two Red Cloud High School records as well. The previous records for the one- and two-mile events were set in 1984. Russ Cournoyer, who has been Jack’s long-distance since he was a sophomore, was thrilled with his win.

“I worked with him right up until the competition,” said Russ. “And beating those records was his personal goal—regardless of what place he got, he wanted to break both those records.”

Working with Coach Russ, according to Jack, is what really enabled him to achieve his personal best. “With running, there’s not a lot to it. It takes a lot of mental preparation, though, and when it would get tough I needed to learn how to push through it. Coach encouraged me to show up to practice everyday. Without him keeping me at practice I probably wouldn’t have gotten much faster.”

This fall Jack will take his focus to Northern State University, running both cross country and track for the Wolves while studying international business. Moving on to college and ensuring he would be well remembered in his home community, however, were on his mind as he pushed through his last miles as a Crusader.

“I really wanted to leave my mark at Red Cloud—do something big before I left.”

If history has anything to say about it, it will be another twenty-two years before anyone changes that.


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