Cross Country: A Race to the Finish Line

Racing in the time of Covid


Andrew Descalzo and Jack Culp at a race last season.

Chinwe Onwere, Guest Writer

Running has always been considered one of the world’s greatest sports in versatility, strength, and endurance. Dating back to 776 B.C.E, running was first established as a sport in ancient Greece, with the first event in the Olympics being a race. Through running, we have seen some of the greatest athletes ever known – with household names such as Usain Bolt, Paula Radcliffe, Haile Gebrselassie, and Florence Joyner. It is through running that Holy Family’s cross-country athletes strive to better themselves, despite the many odds against them this year. 

Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic, many sports have taken measures to protect both athletes and those they come in contact with. During cross-country practices, athletes are required to wear masks until they are safely in a place where they can practice social-distancing. This same rule applies for meets. Additionally, only 25 runners can run in a given heat. Many heats are taking place at larger meets due to this limit. 

Despite these challenges, cross country runners have continued pushing, breaking not only their personal goals and bests, but developing together as a team.

“We have a large quantity of talented runners who have chosen to work exceptionally hard in less than desirable circumstances…” Mr. Steve Blair stated, after being asked what he was most excited about for the team. 

As an assistant cross-country coach and long time runner, Mr. Dave Good is also very enthusiastic about this upcoming season.

“I think that we have some amazing runners this year-not just your average runners, these are superstars. They can do very well in state competitions, as well as the freshmen. It’s just exciting to watch the kids achieve their goals, and with the talent this year, I know they are going to go far,” he commented.

 Cross country is both an individual and team sport, with the team only being as great as its players. Each individual must search their own strengths and weaknesses so that the team can be truly successful – in both motivation and grit. 

Senior Jack Culp has clearly demonstrated the physical and emotional determination needed for running, starting with humble beginnings during his first freshman practice.

Jack Culp at a race last season.

The first day I went to practice my freshman year, I didn’t have a concussion form filled out and was unable to run with the team, so I went running with my dad and I took off fast. About one mile later I thought I was going to die, and I never wanted to run again, mile two was full of walking and regret. The following two miles back were some of the worst in my life. Flash forward a couple of years, and I have won a half marathon. I never thought I would be able to do that, so the results are clear. By sticking with it, and gritting it out, I was able to do the impossible. This is by far the most memorable moment in my running career. And I earned three shiny medals in the process,” Culp reminisced. 

It is clear that Culp’s dedication and perseverance were not in vain. Running has allowed him to strive for victory, while also offering a new perspective on life. “Running can change your perspective on how difficult things are, for example, (the middle of a test), ‘I could be doing four miles of hill sprints right now, so this is really not that bad.’ The perspective shift that running so freely gives, is one of the most valuable things the sport has to offer,” Culp shared. 

Not only has cross-country fostered a determined and winning spirit, it has also created a close and family-like relationship with teammates as well as consideration for others.

“What I like most about running is the community and the teammates,” junior Evie Boyd remarked, “In the end, we are all going through the same workout or race and we are all struggling. Together, with our strong motivating community, it helps to push even harder with that support from our teammates and our running buddies beside us. It has helped influence my life because sometimes I see it as an outlet and I have found life long friendships. “

Despite grueling workouts and rubbery legs, it is clear that cross country offers more than just exercise and healthy lungs. The bond built between teammates withstands the obstacles and challenges present this year. 

Evie Boyd.

“A specific moment from my running career that is really important to me is the Pat Amato race in 2019 when our team decided to run for something greater than ourselves and were told to pick a person to run for,” Evie stated. “We were told to take that person’s initials from beads and thread them into our racing shoelaces. This race was powerful to me because it was not only the first time three of our girls finished under 20 minutes but also I wasn’t running for me anymore. I was running for somebody else and it helped to push me harder than I thought I could go that day. After that, I started to dedicate my hard workouts to different people because it helped in my mind to not only do this for me but to do it for them.”

This year will be different, for both cross-country runners and non cross-country runners, but through hard work and dedication, we will be able to see the finish line with a clear view, and have a shiny medal in our grasp.