JHS Cross Country Takes On the Catamounts

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Malin Just, Falcon Post Staff

After a summer of solo training and only two weeks of official practice under their belts, the girls’ and boys’ cross country teams prepared for their first meet. Even on the home course, Panther Creek would pose a big challenge. With traditional pre-race pasta parties being out of the question during a pandemic, runners took pictures with their pasta at home and everyone participated in a “virtual” pasta party. Spirits were high as many athletes were doubtful they’d have a season at all. The fact that there would be a race after all was thrilling.

But just as everything seemed to be perfect, a devastating message came through. No, the race was not cancelled. But by NCHSAA guidelines, all runners had to wear masks while on campus, including while running and racing. That was different from the initial guidelines that allowed runners to remove their masks when running, and required them to be put back on as soon as they stopped running. 

Fired up for race day, the news resulted in outrage among the two teams. Some athletes were more furious than others. The masks would no doubt make it harder to breathe and could pose a significant risk for those with breathing issues like asthma. Returning runners and new additions alike felt that their plans for personal records, placings, and an all around successful race were crushed. But in the wake of it all, one thing remained clear: the race was still on, and they were lucky in that.

On race day, the team gathered on the track. During warm ups, the girls’ team furthered their disapproval of the new rule but acceptance of it was necessary as there would be no changes to it and the race would start in forty minutes. As the athletes changed from trainers and team shirts into spikes and singlets, the frustrations of the new rule morphed into focus on the first race of a season that had so far been strangled by the raging pandemic. 

“We all have been training all summer for this and this is our chance to debut and show what we can do,” said the girls’ team’s captain, Grace Miller, as they stood in an expanded huddle on the infield. “It’s great we are able to have a meet.” After offering last minute tips on strategy, Miller left them with one last phrase: “This is our home course, you know how to race it.” 

After a coin flip for box number, the girl’s team settled into box one with Panther Creek next to them in box two. Timers, photographers, racers, parent volunteers, coaches, and the starter all stood poised for the start. As Coach Brosnan, the starter, raised his arm and called, “runners set,” everyone’s hearts pounded in their ears. When the trigger was pulled, a small pop sounded and all figures stood upright again, laughing off the false start. Then, all poised again, the gun was fired and the race was on. 

When the last runner stumbled across the finish line, the boy’s team was in their own expanded huddle at center field. “It’s our first meet of the season, some of us have been training all summer for this, you know this course well, so go out there and run it hard,” said the boys’ team’s captain, Andrew Rossi. 

When the gun went off and the boys charged across the infield, the girl’s team cheered them on in between heavy breaths. When the results came in, the boy’s team managed to bring the score to 30 to 25, despite leader Ian Rouse finishing without his left shoe. The girl’s managed 45 to 15. Both races landed in favor of Panther Creek. But while Jordan may have lost in numbers, they have yet to lose in heart.