By Clay Whittington Belton Journal Austin Wooten always wanted to be a head coach, and when the ideal opportunity presented itself, he took it. After spending a year serving as an assistant cross country coach at Lake Belton, Wooten was recently promoted, inheriting a program responsible for sending both teams to last season’s regional meet. And it was a chance he could not ignore. “It definitely helps that my first head coaching job is here at Lake Belton,” Wooten said. “I already understand how the program works and how the kids react to different styles of training, and they already have a good idea of what I want to do and what I expect coming into the season. “If I went somewhere else to be a head coach, it would be harder to get things across, and I would have to start all over to try and get them to understand.” Instead, Wooten, who has been coaching for four years since graduating from Stephen F. Austin, can focus on replicating last year’s success. The Broncos and Lady Broncos are each coming off second-place showings at the District 19-4A meet, but the competition could become more intense this season, when Lake Belton is elevated to Class 5A. Belton, Killeen, Killeen Chaparral, Killeen Ellison, Killeen Shoemaker, Waco and Waco University join Lake Belton to create the new District 22-5A. “That district has a lot of really good programs,” Wooten said, “so our big question mark going into this year is just seeing how we hold up against them. My expectations, though, are for us to at least get to regionals with both the boys and the girls teams. “And then we have a few returners coming back who have a real chance of racing at state.” Preparations for the upcoming campaign will begin shortly as Wooten has the initial preseason practices set to start in a few weeks, but for many of the athletes, workouts have never stopped. Following the cross country season, many of the runners moved into track competition, allowing them to improve on the foundation created in the fall. Then, a number of the Broncos and Lady Broncos continued the training after the school year concluded. While Wooten wants his athletes to enjoy their summer vacation, he also appreciates the commitment. “It makes my life so much easier if they are able to do a lot of work on their own,” Wooten said, “and the ones who take the sport seriously already are doing it on their own. It just helps me determine teams and things like that when the time comes. “I can already kind of tell who is going to be in the best shape once the season starts.”