Cross country builds enduring friendships


Debbie Ziemke

The Varsity Girls team huddles up just minutes before the race begins for a group cheer.

For most people, running an average of five to six miles a day would not be a welcome activity. And yet, the cross country team does this on a daily basis — and has fun doing it.

“When you run 10-12 miles with someone, you naturally get to know them eventually — and getting through that experience with someone else is something to bond over,” said Carly Sear (12), a four year varsity runner and the girls’ team captain.

While sports like football and soccer have cuts, cross country is open to everyone. Because of this, the sport allows kids who can’t make those sports to still compete, along with kids who just love to run. This causes the cross country team to be made up of many different kinds of students, but hasn’t stopped the spirit of the team from being one of positivity.

“There’s always been a strong team atmosphere,’’ Sear said. “We’re supportive and determined, and we always work together to win as a team.”

The girls team is much more youthful than in years past after a large senior class graduated this spring. However, the verdict from the underclassmen is that the captains have done a great job keeping the team together.

“I really appreciate how [the seniors] make sure everyone is included and doing the best they can,” said Rachel Ackerman (9). “They have an amazing work ethic, and I really respect that.”

The girls are in the midst of dominating another season, hoping to make state once again after their second-place finish last year.

All of the captains — both male and female — mentioned how the teams are motivated to run but friendly enough to still enjoy bonding moments right after practice. Getting breakfast after running and volunteering at various charities are just a few of the activities both teams do to bring the group closer together.

In addition, both teams participate in a once-a-week “ultimate” frisbee tournament; it’s part of their mission to spend time together so that everyone feels welcome.

Even when sitting down to be interviewed, the team captains of the boys team insisted on doing it as a unit. Itamar Shifrin (12), Gavin White (12) and Grant Hampton (12) all wanted to weigh in on the sport that they have participated in together for the last four years.

“It’s a fantastic experience, and I will cherish it forever,” Shifrin said.

White shared similar perspectives— in fact, he credits cross country for influencing him not just as an athlete, but as a person.

“Cross country has bettered my motivation and drive to succeed,” White said.

Several of the runners attributed this positive culture to the upperclassmen they met when they were freshmen. They mentioned how having the seniors set the tone, in training and as genuine people, has stuck with them even now.

“It all started from day one,” Hampton said. “As a freshman, the senior class motivated me to become a better runner, but they did it in a way that was enjoyable.”

Sear also attributed the bond the team has made over the years to the upperclassmen she met right from the beginning. She specifically mentioned Lauren Katz, an all-state runner who graduated two years ago, as a key mentor for her.

Because they had such good experiences as freshmen and throughout their careers, this year’s seniors are focused on paying it back to the underclassmen.

The senior captains said that they specifically want the underclassmen to understand how to become leaders, so that they can keep the team spirit alive.

“It’s all about being inclusive,” Shifrin said. “That’s where the culture begins to grow.”