Cross country ends season reaching new heights


Ed Lull

Varsity cross country girls jump for joy following their advancement to state championships after placing third in the region.

Nyla Carter-Ogden, sports editor

Every weekday and weekend, they train. Three-mile runs, five-mile runs and even a grueling 10-mile run are no match for the cross country team, producing top-tier collegiate athletes as a result. This past summer, cross country athletes prepared and developed both their minds and bodies for one primary goal: reaching the state championship. Located in Great Meadows, The Plains, the host of Virginia’s top runners rests a mere 30-minute drive from Chantilly. As easy as the drive may be, the work and training it takes to get there isn’t as simple.

Over the summer, every cross country runner went to Lost River, a small camp located in rural West Virginia. With the camp offering steep rolling hills, members participated in twice-daily runs, building endurance and other critical skills needed for the season. Relationships and goal-oriented mindsets were also made through ice breakers such as campfires, ping pong tournaments, goal setting and race visualization. Those very activities resulted in a close-knit team, familiar with everyone’s dynamics and personalities.

“The fact that we did camp and always work out together makes our team closer,” freshman Jenna Haug said. “We’ve definitely gotten to know each other more.”

With only 18 out of 51 members being girls, the small number of female athletes has allowed them to bond closer and work together as a cohesive unit.

“Team bonding has brought us closer together. On the girls’ side, we have a very young and inexperienced team,” captain Nicole Re said. “We currently don’t have any girls that are on their fourth season of cross country. It’s bringing us closer and helping us better understand the sport as a group.”

While Lost River camp ensured that every runner started the school year with a plan and new friends, it also set the path for race season, with coaches and fellow teammates dispensing advice and encouragement.

“I want our team to be first or second in the district,” senior Kanav Bhardwaj said. “Overall, we want to be a very competitive team against other schools in the district and go to state, because that’s been a big goal this season.”

With continued work and effort toward their goals, the team has faced numerous obstacles along the way. Notable invites, including Octoberfest and Oatlands invitationals, were canceled due to inclement weather, which offered the team less chances to show off their hard work.

“One of the main obstacles we’ve faced this season is few races,” junior Patrick Mountcastle said. “Because of weather and other events that occurred, we’ve only had one invitational this season, when you’re supposed to have five to six before postseason.”

Later meets including Third Battle and the Glory Days Grill invitational have given the team some idea, but still leave a hint of uncertainty. Despite the uncertainty surrounding the status and times of other competitors, varsity girls were able to secure their first district win since 1999, with boys placing third, respectively.

“It was kind of hard to know where we [stood against our district] because we didn’t have a proper 5K time that we could compare to everyone else,” Re said. “After winning, we felt very excited and unified because we knew it was going to be a close race and we accomplished one of our goals.”

Even with inclement weather stalling potential growth and personal records, the cross country team has managed to rise above the trials before them. On Oct. 25, varsity girls placed first in the district for the first time since 1999, with varsity boys placing a close third place, all continuing their season onto the regional level.

“We overcame this by staying strong,” Mountcastle said. “We continued to practice extremely hard every day, and even on the days the meets were canceled, we still showed up to practice.”

Hard work paid off. On Nov. 1, varsity boys placed seventh, with girls securing a third place win and continuing onto state championship.

With the state and regional competitions ending in an overall successful season, students can support and encourage cross country in a myriad of ways.

“Talk to them about their races. Tell them good luck on race day,” Mountcastle said. “If you want to come out to races, cheer. Cheering helps push people past obstacles and helps people get that win that they need when running.”

The Chargers faced exciting opportunities to further their season and race against unforeseen competitors.

“We all came together and supported one another,” Haug said. “We just had to keep our focus and mindset on the goals that we made early in the season.”