The Cross Country Season Creates Lasting Bonds

Jane Harig, Staff Writer

Starting in the middle of August and ending in late October, the cross country season began in full swing. Runners finally got a real season after the mid-COVID March 2021 season last year. Though COVID precautions were still in place, since cross country takes place outside, the team had less worry about the spread of the virus.

The focus is, of course, running on the trails, but many say that the team community outshines all of the other aspects. After the boys’ and girls’ team went to state, with the boys getting a second-place win, and the girls a sixth, the season came to an end. There were, however, two post season races – Nike Cross Regionals in Idaho and Showcase at the beloved Hole-in-the-Wall course.

After a week away at the summer running camp White Pass, which a lot of runners on the team went to, and some summer training practices (which consisted of jumping in the lake or pond after running, getting pizza, and playing card games), the team spirit was bubbling and runners were excited to get the official season going.

With a team of one hundred and twenty runners all together and a coaching staff of seven, the season was bound to be a good one. They started with a time trial, a two-mile race at the Issaquah course to see where all the runners are, then a jamboree, a two-mile race at the Lake Sammamish course to see what it feels like to race against other teams. Then, they had five duel meets, five invitationals, districts, and, lastly, state.

Besides all the running at practices, there was a lot of time for team bonding. Whether it was Halloween parties, team dinners, game nights, movie nights, or more, the team spent a lot of time together when they were not on the trails.

Sophomore Faith Dougherty, who was new to cross country this year, advised people thinking about joining, stating, “Don’t think ‘oh I can’t do this because I’ll be slow,’ because you can only get better. Trust your training.” A prior gymnast, Dougherty was new to cross country, but she started doing summer training and signed up for the official season. Dougherty says running helped her get in shape after quarantine, and one of her favorite aspects was hanging out before practice with teammates, eating snacks, and doing homework.

Freshman Lorelai Beernink was part of the cross country team at Pacific Cascade Middle School and heard about doing cross country in high school from her friends. She says, “Do it, you won’t regret it,” and “it’s easy to make close long-term friends.” To keep people informed, she intends to tell eighth grade friends about it. As for advice she would give to people thinking about doing cross country, she states, “Time management is important,” as cross country does take up a good amount of time.

Sophomore Ryan Lee, who participated in cross country last year, said this season was different than last year, as there was a lot more people and everyone was more connected. Lee is a track runner, but does cross country to train for the spring. Lee says to “join even if you don’t like distance, because you’ll train to run long distance and it’s such a great community.”

Junior Marcus Heu-Weller has done cross country for quite some time now, starting in middle school at Pacific Cascade. Though he does track, he says cross country is vastly superior (which many other cross country runners interviewed agreed with). Heu-Weller states the team is “closer than in the past, the culture is healthier, and it’s shown in people’s performance.” Heu Weller’s favorite non-running activity to do as a team is volleyball. When asked about the team community, he says, “It depends on who the seniors are. Every year there is a pace setter for the team atmosphere.”

Specifically focusing on seniors, senior Gavin Soleibe says, “Cross country has been one of my favorite parts of high school. You can’t beat the amazing team environment and I’m definitely going to miss running Swamp on Thursdays.”

Senior Eliza Fuhs had her first full season after working through many injuries. She started a cross country club at Clark Elementary with her mom and has continued to run since then. When asked about her favorite parts of being a runner, she says, “Running culture is a really strong part of my family. It’s just you and your body. It’s the most pure form of exercise.” Fuhs says she will always remember cross country after high school, and for those who are staring out or having been running for a while, she says, “Push through the hard days. If you are injured don’t give up.”

Senior Sarah Burke did one year of cross country her seventh grade year at Issaquah Middle School. Burke, who also does cross country skiing, started high school cross country her junior year and continued through her senior year. She enjoys becoming so close with the team, and would tell newcomers, “Be intrinsically motivated to succeed and try hard in practice.”

Lastly, senior Josh Delgadillo, who started cross country in sixth grade, said that throughout his years of doing cross country in high school, he thought his last year “had so much more focus on close team and spending time together. We came back strong.” Delgadillo started cross country because his older brother ran at the high school. When asked if he will remember cross country once he graduates, Delgadillo said, “Absolutely, if I forget everything about high school, I’ll remember cross country.” And for all the newcomers out there thinking of joining, Delgadillo says, “It can be scary and hard, but stay with the people because they’ll became really important to you.”

Whether it is hard practices, tough races, exciting personal bests, or just spending time together with the team, cross country has become a big part of many runners’ high school career, giving them memories to cherish after graduating. And if you’re thinking of joining, do not hesitate. You will not regret it.