For the cross country team, facing courses over natural terrain, challenging hills, and outrunning fast competition aren’t the only things the Lions plan on conquering this season. Their main challenge is to combine their many personalities into one hardworking, united team with big goals to achieve.
The team this year is mostly made up of new athletes. Although the team runs as individuals, a sense of unity is crucial in gaining overall success. For seniors Chad Smith and Chelsea Van Cott, it is something they plan on making a priority.
Cross country is often perceived as a sport that is all about the individual. For the 2011 team, the mindset couldn’t be more opposite as the team focuses on one important word: unity.
“Unity is so much different in this sport [because] it is an important aspect of building off of each other and bettering each other as a whole. My goal for senior year is to leave like a leader and friend, and shine and show God’s love through my work ethic and actions,” Van Cott said.
Smith, who is one of the only two seniors on the men’s team, shared his thoughts on the misconception as well.
“It involves your top five runners on the team. We have to work together in order to achieve a good team score. Unity is one of the most important aspects; we need to keep each other positive and mentally focused. All of us have to do well, not just one,” Smith said.
The team is off to a good start in implementing unity. Not only are they working hard in practice, but they are gaining a mutual respect for each other as a team. Junior Daniel Okabe and freshman Tyler Cooley, who are both new to the team this year, commented on how quickly they felt their team has bonded.
“Although we all came into this season not really knowing each other, we bonded quickly. We know we’ve got each other’s backs,” Okabe said.
The cross country team is already starting to capitalize on a successful year with leadership from the seniors and promising talent from the freshman duo Tyler Dutchover and Cameron Barela, who placed 15th and 16th out of over 200 men at the Pomona-Pitzer Invitational. This accomplishment made them the first freshmen to lead the men’s team since 1992. Seniors Van Cott and Kimberly Jennings lead the women’s team by finishing 13th and 15th.
“We plan and hope to win the GSAC conference, we have loads of talent on our team and I think we can do great things.” Smith said. “ My goal as a senior is to keep our team close and spiritually connected, because that translates into a solid bond that can’t be broken.”
With the GSAC Championships not too far ahead of them, the Lions have to pick up the pace in order to further advance towards their goal.