Leadership Lessons – Higgins, Patton set up Mustangs for success

Nov 02, 2018 • Athletics

It’s a given that Allison Higgins and Tony Patton have seen their share of farming scenes throughout life.

However, the phrase “the hay is in the barn” to them doesn’t reference a warm summer day with tractors in a field. Simply put, it means it’s go time.

The two seniors, who have taken different paths to collegiate cross-country success, have similar notions about what it takes for positive outcomes as they and their Morningside College teammates compete at the 2018 Great Plains Athletic Conference Championships Saturday, Nov. 3, in Fremont, Neb.

“We’ve put in the work,” Higgins, a native of Jefferson, Iowa, said. “We’re ready. Everything we’ve done during the summer and the regular season has led up to this. Now it’s time to show off what we’ve done, the talent we have.”

“I’m looking forward to week with a maybe little less stress, more sleeping and so on,” Patton, who hails from Lincoln, Neb., said with a smile. “We’ve been talking about those areas a lot in the time leading up (to conference).”

Cool, calm collective thoughts as the Mustangs and the rest of the league prepare to step foot on a course none of them have ever competed on.

Head coach Dave Nash’s perspective is similar to two of his team leaders.

“These teams are ready with leadership like Allison and Tony have provided throughout the season,” he noted. “It’s awesome seeing them focus on these types of things. As for competing on a new course, everyone has to do so too, and we intentionally prepare for that going to new places from time to time. It may be a little nervous early on, but I feel we’ll be ready.” 

If you’re in attendance this weekend, you might see Higgins and Patton lean on some trademark traditions pre-race … getting rid of the nerves for they and their teammates as strong leaders do.

“I don’t know why but I always joke around with the starter,” Higgins said laughing. “It’s something I’ve always done … to be a little less stressed.”

“You can hear me start some sayings the team has,” Patton added. “If I start with ‘Big dogs’, the others know to say ‘Gotta eat’. It’s the same with ‘Saddle up’ which ends with ‘let her buck.’

A couple of simple ways that Higgins and Patton have stepped forward to take their turn at guiding the programs. Going deeper into leadership, they both have a passion for the sport, too.

“It starts with being yourself,” Higgins reflected. “We both love cross country with all of our hearts. Showing that to the team encourages them on and off the course. It’s caring more about them than what I do. When they see that, they feel less stress and the nerves aren’t as big.” 

“Motivation is hard to do (in cross country) unless someone really wants to run,” Patton said. “I show my love for what I do by talking a lot to my teammates about cross country and track. Hey, football players are watching pro football, so why not take an interest in our professionals?  The stars of these sports are amazing, and when I talk about them, it shows everyone how cool competitive running is. As an example, we’ve been talking about a new world record being set in the marathon … absolutely mind-boggling. When you see that, it translates into wanting to push yourself harder.”

As Nash focuses his teams for the conference meet with individual and team awards at stake along with the bigger picture of qualifying for nationals, he knows he can look at competitors like Higgins and Patton to fuel the effort in Fremont. 

“(Allison and Tony) are two of the hardest workers we’ve had,” he said. “They are so passionate about the sport and the teams they are a part of. I know, come Saturday, they and their teammates will be ready to do something great. They’ll go out with a bang and a have a great time competing.”

Making more hay for another day for Morningside College cross country … just like Allison Higgins and Tony Patton and their teammates have done before.