Sand Rock’s Yoder to run at Northeast Alabama Community College

Sand Rock cross country runner Austin Yoder signed a scholarship with Northeast Alabama Community College in Rainsville on Monday. Picture with Yoder are his parents, Mark and Suzannah Yoder. Mark Yoder is also the Wildcats’ head coach. Photo by Shannon Fagan.

By Shannon Fagan, WEIS Sports Director

SAND ROCK – Four years ago, Sand Rock senior Austin Yoder was one on the first runners on the Wildcat cross country team. Now he’s preparing to pioneer another program.

Yoder signed a scholarship with Northeast Alabama Community College in Rainsville on Monday. He will be running for head coach Patrick Laney in the Mustangs’ first season next fall.

The Mustangs will compete along with 22 other Alabama Community College schools in the Alabama Community College Conference.

“I’m very excited,” Yoder said. “Northeast was my best place to land and continue growing. I’m very thankful to be able to keep building on the foundation I’ve started and hopefully make it to a bigger college.”

Yoder said he’s already familiar with some of his future teammates. He’s already run against a few of them, and he’s also familiar with his future head coach.

“It’s going to be nice,” he said. “We’re close to Pisgah, and some of them are going to run there. It’s really nice to run with some of my other friends there.

“Patrick Laney, he’s currently the assistant coach at Scottsboro, which is a very established program. They’ve won a lot of championships. He’s very dedicated to running as a sport in general. He cares about the runners themselves more than the running part. It just feels like me going to another dad basically.”

As Yoder alluded, he already runs for his dad at Sand Rock.

“To have our first Sand Rock cross country scholarship and also him being my son is wonderful,” Mark Yoder said. “Austin got to start a program right here at Sand Rock, and now he gets to go to Northeast and will be in the first class at Northeast to start cross country there. They’re slowly growing their sports for their school. We’re excited Coach Laney took a chance and brought him in to be part of their team.”

Both Yoders gave credit to the Wildcat boys and girls teams for putting Austin Yoder in the position of running at the next level.

“Both (Sand Rock teams) have put in the work,” Austin Yoder said. “The first three years we’ve done this, we only ran three days a week and just a little bit over the summer, but this year, the boys and girls have really seen how good you can be at this sport if you put in the time and dedication. Now we run all the time. We almost run six days out of the week.”

“This boys team and girls team has worked tremendously together,” Mark Yoder said. “They do everything together – voluntary workouts, eating together, all the team bonding things that go along with it. The group does such a good job of pushing themselves so much harder than I push them. They hold themselves accountable. I’m just there to kind of facilitate and help keep them in bounds, but they are really a motivated group, and Austin is probably one of my biggest glue members for our team.

“He’s a big brother for my little kids. He’ll be one of the first ones who says ‘Hey look, Elijah Hood doesn’t need to be running with these junior varsity kids. He needs to be practicing with us.’ He’s one who filters both levels, my JV and varsity. He helps keep things together.”

And now, the Yoders and Wildcats are seeing the benefits of their hard work.

“This is a sport where you can outwork somebody and see the benefits, see your own goals and your own times you get to improve on,” Mark Yoder said. “It’ll be a learning curve for him (at Northeast). It’s been a growing experience for him (at Sand Rock), and hopefully he’ll be able to contribute at the college level.”

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