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The Wesleyan Cross-Country team started with the sound of a gun, running full force into their new season. As cool as that would be, their season took off on July 30th at eight in the morning with a three-hour bus ride to Wilderness at the Smokey’s in Pidgeon Forge, TN.
Now that the school year has begun anew, the eruption of fall sports fills the Wesleyan community, and with this eruption comes the new cross country season.
The start of the new season began on July 24 at 8 a.m. when 98 members of the team traveled to Sevierville, Tennessee to the Wilderness in the Smokies Hotel and Indoor Waterpark to undertake three days of hard training and an exorbitant amount of fun.
Each day, all members of the cross country team rose bright and early for a grueling run in mountainous terrain to prepare for the new season ahead. Although there was plenty of difficult training, there was also plenty of opportunities for rest and recovery. This included swimming in freezing rivers, relaxing in Enos, bonding with teammates and riding enormous waterslides.
Cross country runners are not ones to give up on a task easily, seeing as they run for fun, and this quality has without a doubt been expressed throughout the season.
To any Wesleyan cross country runner, the phrase “form drills” will cause their mind to fill with escape routes and excuses to find refuge in the locker room. The dreaded exercises are not exactly enjoyable to say the least, but runners are not one to give up on a task, so they jump right into those high knees and B-skips.
The Wolves started out strong in August with a third place finish coming from the girls’ team and a sixth place finish coming from the boys’ team at the Wesleyan Invitational. It is common knowledge that the Wolves’ course is one of the most difficult to race, given the Sahara Desert above the upper field and the ever-so-common unexpected hills.
Throughout September, both the boys’ and girls’ teams’ times dropped substantially. Personal records were being achieved by the meet, despite the difficulty or terrain of the course – a feat that not many can claim to have conquered. The races held at Covered Bridge and Georgia International Horse Park resulted in outstanding times, as both courses were relatively flat and offered ideal footing (with the exception of the mountain towards the end of the Horse Park course).
In early October, the top 12 runners (13 for girls) from each team were given the opportunity to race in a highly competitive meet in Cary, North Carolina at the Great American Cross Country Festival. This trip proved to be much more successful this year than it did the previous year, as Hurricane Matthew decided to learn from its predecessor, Hurricane Joaquin, and refrained from perusing the east coast the same weekend as a much-awaited cross country race.
While in North Carolina, the 25 runners were provided with a personal tour of the University of North Carolina, courtesy of girls’ assistant coach, Ann Barnett. The race itself produced immaculate results, with nearly all of the Wesleyan runners attaining lifetime personal records.
The Wolves were able to run in a much more low-pressure meet at the Wesleyan’s second invitational, which resulted in a number of course personal records. Most recently, Wesleyan competed at the Nike/Fleet Feed Coach Wood Invitational, a meet that has been attended by the Wolves for many years, due to the excellent competition it offers. Many runners were able to get in a solid season record and help lead the team to a solid standing, with the girls finishing sixth out of 20 teams.
Though they work behind the scenes, such accomplishments could not have been achieved without the brilliant expertise and constant support of the Wesleyan cross country coaches, Chad McDaniel, Chris Yoder, Josh Smith, Jason Scheer, Megan Trotter, Laura Carver, Macey Sims, Abby Johnson and Ann Barnett. These faculty members willingly give up their afternoons and Saturday mornings to lead high school students in cross country practices and meets, a deed that should not go unnoticed.
Between Yoder’s strategically planned practices and McDaniel’s course patrol, the Wolves have inevitably improved throughout the season.
With two more races before the state cross country meet on Nov. 4, the Wolves are looking strong. Last Chance at Carrollton and the Region Cross Country Meet in Athens will give runners who are fighting to run in the state meet an opportunity to leave it all on the course and try to earn a spot as a top seven runner.
Coach Smith said, “Single A has a lot of really great teams- teams that look a lot like us [with] one or two really good runners [and] a pack of runners that are really good behind those two runners.”
The boys have a decent chance of becoming state champions, but Smith said, “It comes down to three teams: Wesleyan, Landmark, and Hebron.”
The boys will have to kick into the next level in order to perform to their full potential and possibly swipe the state title. Whatever the outcome may be, Smith said that the boys are “[working] harder than I think I ever have seen them work in the four seasons that I’ve been a coach.”
As for the girls’ team, the state title is looking like a slightly less-attainable goal because of Landmark’s strong girls’ team, with a number of girls running a 5k in the 18 minute range.
However, the Wesleyan girls will be pushing for a second place finish, competing with Hebron and Darlington. The Wolves have been successful in creating a strong pack that runs excellent times, so hopefully this tactic will lead them to a runner-up victory.
This cross country season has been one like no other. The senior captains have done an excellent job in terms of encouragement and leadership on the team. Every runner, despite the times they record, feel as though they are a valuable aspect of the team, thanks to the captains, coaches and fellow team mates.
Senior captain, Sophia Kidder said, “I felt that we had a very strong team effort this season in cross country which led to many great race performances.”