Cross country emphasizes teamwork to succeed


Contributed by John Werner

Despite the fact that runners race independently, a cross country team cannot win with just one star runner. They need depth with solid supporting runners.

Millions of people everyday step outside the comfort of their homes, place one foot in front of another and run. Anyone who runs does it for their own reason; some for exercise and weight loss, others just for fun.

For the boys and girls cross country teams, running is a competitive team sport that requires hard work.

Cross country provides an opportunity for students to run 2.5 to 3.1 mile races competitively. The runners compete with schools across the state at different meets throughout the fall, which includes a regular season and a postseason. Everyone who tries out is placed on junior varsity or varsity.

Michael Deyoung has been the coach of the girls cross country team since 2005. Deyoung ran track in high school and college and he said he brings his love for running into coaching his team.

“Running has always just been my go-to sport of choice throughout my life. It’s a great way to stay fit, stay healthy and de-stress,” Deyoung said.

Deyoung said that, unlike most sports, the scoring of cross country develops much more team dependency. The first five runners from each school are given a score that is correlated to their placement overall in the race, and the school with the lowest score wins.

“You could have a superstar, but if you don’t have depth with solid supporting runners, then you aren’t going to go very far. It produces a real feeling of depending on each other. It makes the team really close and tight,” Deyoung said.

The collective score changes the nature of the sport, according to Deyoung.

“It is a common misconception that cross country is an individual sport. If you asked the kids on the team they would say it is a team sport,” Deyoung said. “Individual goals are good but the girls need to focus on competing as a team, and the times will take care of themselves.”

The long hours of training allow for the team to bond over the difficult workouts that Deyoung and coach of the boys team, Mike Glennon, hand out. Deyoung’s motto is that nothing bonds people more than shared misery. This means going through pouring rain and bitter cold to complete exhausting and grueling workouts.

Senior Adrian Seeger, co-captain of the boys cross country team, said long runs strengthen bonds between team members.

“It has to do with the day to day work,” Seeger said.“After school, coming to practice, being with a very specific group of people that you run with every day, you run 7, 8, 9 miles with them and you really get to know them, what their strengths and weaknesses are, and you can lift each other up in that way.”

For senior Gavi Meyers, co-captain of the girls team, it’s not only bonding over the shared work but also day-to-day conversations with her teammates.

“We talk about classes; oftentimes you’re in a group of people that are in a different grade than you. I find myself with sophomores and juniors, and I give them advice because when I was a sophomore and junior, the seniors gave me advice,” Meyers said.

Since cross country is a no-cut sport, there are athletes of all skill levels on the team. Runners who are looking to compete for college scholarships run alongside high schoolers who have never participated in an organized sport before.

For example, Meyers was already a strong and experienced runner before entering high school and had plans for joining cross country. Seeger on the other hand, had never tried cross country before until it was suggested by some of his friends.

Deyoung said that new runners often shock themselves with their amount of success in the sport.

“A lot of kids show up and they don’t know they’re good, and they just find a talent they never had,” Deyoung said.

Meyers said that the team focuses on making every athlete a great runner, not just the fastest runner on the team.

“We have each other’s backs but also push ourselves to be the best we can,” Meyers said. “We are only as strong as our weakest runner. In order for the team to be great, we all have to push each other to be great as well.”