Cross country team competes in first local race

The boys of the varsity cross country team step up to the line seconds before the race starts.

Hannah Miller, Opinion Editor

What keeps a person going when they want to quit is powerful. In cross country, training is only half of the battle; along with being in shape, the athletes have to have the mental willpower to just keep running. Senior Ashton Landes is a captain on the boys varsity team and has been running all four years.

“[The hardest part is] mentality. I don’t have a good mentality, do I suck [at trying to motivate myself]… It’s an uphill battle mentally the entire time to push yourself harder,” Landes said.

This past Wednesday, Sept. 13, the boys and girls cross country teams travelled to Verona to compete in the first local meet of the season. Landes, along with the other varsity boys, ran the meet as a workout.

“[Our coach gave us a workout] because it [was] a Wednesday meet, and no one cares about Wednesday meets because Wednesday is generally just the worst day of the week,” Landes said.

Landes found his mentality being tested by the course and its conditions.

“This guy and I were sprinting it out, and then he passed me. I thought, ‘I should probably pass this guy’, but then when he ran by I thought, ‘Nah, that’s too much.’ That’s where the mental part comes in,” Landes said.

With the focus on larger Saturday invitational races, coach Lauren Jefferson devises plans for each individual athlete’s needs based on their conditioning, experience and fatigue levels for Wednesday meets.

“This wasn’t a course that’s conducive to fast running, so I think it becomes more of a mental game… I’m really pleased, because I feel like everybody did what was asked for today, which was to work hard [and] to race hard on the hills,” Jefferson said. “I liked that attitude that everybody had, that, ‘Here we are, this is what we have to run, and we’re going to make the most of today because this is where we are’.”

Sophomore Kira Blagg was one of the athletes that raced. Participating in a joint JV race, where both girls and boys ran together, Blagg tried to focus on her own time rather than others around her.

“I felt great… [I just thought], ‘Run fast and catch the girl in front of me.’ I tell myself that I’m getting closer to the finish line and I am running to beat my time, I’m not running with all the people around me,” Blagg said.

This was senior Hashahm Ahmed’s first cross country race, having only joined the team a few weeks prior.

“I felt pretty good. My legs almost gave out at the two mile mark, but then I wanted to finish my first race without dying, so I pushed through,” Ahmed said.

To prevent himself from giving up, Ahmed uses a mental trick of his.

“Everytime I’m in a tough situation where I need to push myself, I remember this song by Paul Anka, “My Way”. There’s this part where he says, ‘Let the record show, I took the blows. I did it, my way,’  and I live by that. That’s like my life motto right there,” Ahmed said.

Blagg believes many different factors can cause a course to be difficult.

The second mile [was the hardest]; there were not very many people cheering, and it was harder mentally,” Blagg said. “[Races are always harder] if it’s hot, if there are lots of hills and if there’s no one running with you.”

At the end of the evening, Jefferson was proud of her team for pushing through the heat and hills mentally and physically.

“I love my team; they’re just a really good group of athletes that work hard and aren’t afraid to confront pain and be runners,” Jefferson said. “They’ve embraced the identity of running, and all that it means, and that’s very special because that’s a tough thing to do.”

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