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The Campus Lantern

The Campus Lantern

What happened to the X-men?

If you’ve been on a varsity sports team at SCH in the past few years, you probably know what it feels like to win a game or a match. If you’re on the cross country team, you don’t. For us, second to last is a victory.

Not long ago, it wasn’t this way. We used to have pride in our team. We used to be called the X-men. So how did we get to this point?

First of all, Coach Paul Hines H’03 told me that the team goes through periods of ebb and flow. He said, “We had good teams in the mid-90’s, … then it began to deteriorate, … then it picked up again as we got into the 2000’s.” We’re not doomed, just missing a few key things.

A good cross country team is made of the same ingredients that make any other team good. I believe a strong team culture is the most essential one that we lack.

This year, the team consisted of one senior, three juniors, three sophomores, and four freshmen. We struggled to build a culture because our contact outside practice was limited. Practice wasn’t as fun as it should have been.

Now, cross country isn’t the most fun sport to begin with. This is why culture is so important: we need to want to be there.

In some years, Coach Hines said, we had “ten, twelve kids on the team that were seniors.” These kids could bond both inside and outside of practice, and not only that, but they also trained together. If you’ve ever ran, you know how much easier it is with other people.”

Having other people to run with is especially helpful in the summer, when the coach is only allowed to lead a limited number of practices. It is up to the team and the captains to come together to train.

This brings us to the second factor: numbers. While it may seem more like an individual sport, cross country benefits just as much as any other team from a large number of athletes.

When we run along Forbidden Drive, teams like La Salle and GA are also down there. They have double or triple the amount of guys we do, and it’s intimidating.

At meets, our small team seems like nothing compared to the other schools, and it gets in our heads. How can we be hyped up when we look so weak? We even struggle to get a passionate “Devils on 3!”

In past years, Coach Hines told me that squash players would join the cross country team in the fall, or crew kids, or even kids who quit soccer after they got benched. The squash coach no longer forces his kids to run cross country; fall crew for experienced rowers took away a large market; and cross country just isn’t appealing to anyone else.

The third and final factor is our summer training, or lack thereof. Coaches are limited by the Inter-Ac in the number of practices they can run over the summer, so it is up to the team and the captains to organize practices.

So it’s either run alone or with the team. Alone, running can be extremely mentally challenging and it’s hard to maintain motivation. If not with a team, it’s more likely that you will end up skipping the workout that day.

With a team it is infinitely easier, but bringing the team together is a different story. Since, like I said, our lack of team culture generally makes practice much less fun, people aren’t chomping at the bit to join a group run.

Ultimately, this leads to an abject lack of fitness at the beginning of the season, leaving us miles behind the other schools’ teams.

With every meet we lose, we all lose a little more pride in our team. Without the numbers, it’s near impossible to build a strong and confident team culture. In turn, runners’ passion for the sport dwindles, and the drive to get better is lost.

We’re going into the next season, however, with hope. We’re so thankful for Coach Hines’ guidance for the past few years, and we’re hopeful that our new coach can breathe new life into the team.

If you are considering joining the team, do. Running can be fun. But what’s more fun than running is winning. We need your help, and with it, we can bring back the X-men.

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