You cross the finish line, finally done. You spent the whole race thinking about this moment, how you would fall on the ground and just relax. But out of the corner of your eye, ou see a bright orange jersey. You summon all of your strength to cheer on your team as loudly as you can and do this until every last bit of orange is over the line.
Cross country is a sport that is hated by some, loved by others but tragically misunderstood by most. Cross country is running. What’s the big deal? The big deal is that it’s so much more than running: it’s a family, it’s cheering for your team, cheering for yourself, trying to look like you aren’t dying as you see a mom taking a picture, laughing through the warm-ups, running in the rain, telling stories, climbing Primrose Hill again and again, and working together to become the best team possible.
“You can’t pass the ball,” explained head coach Mr. Ryan Steege.
There’s no one to pass to, no subs. But there is a team. In fact, the team is probably the biggest aspect of the sport. “There is such a comradery amongst distance runners… You’re all out in the rain together,” Mr. Steege said when describing the bond between the team. Because it is a team.
The coaches are Mr. Steege, Mr. Stephen Fordham, and Ms. Annie Yousey, and they’re the full-time cheerleaders, both at practice and meets. From yelling “pick up your knees!” to high fiving us right before we collapse on the ground, they’re the ones that keep us going.
Regular practice is more than just running around a course.
After a 1 km (0.6 mile) run to Primrose Hill filled with stories and rants, we do our warm-up. This is followed by an intense and thorough workout.
Eighth-grader Nate Kohler says that he feels the most like part of a team is during the warm-up because we just talk through it. This is what makes cross country special. Although the actual competition is individual, the group is still so strong.
After a quick debrief of the day’s plan, the athletes split up into groups based on speed and stamina to complete that day’s workout. This could be a distance run (anywhere from 3 km to 5 km) a recovery run after a race, hill training (exactly what it sounds like), or a tempo run (a medium paced run).
A cross country team is just a group of people crazy enough to run so that they can be with their friends with a couple of people who just love to run tossed into the mix. It seems like a pretty niche category, but there are a solid 20 plus people who think it’s worth it.