Varsity cross country team advances in rankings

Uma Desai and Delaney Oliver

As the gun fires, senior Piper Misse takes off, pushing herself as hard as she can in order to reach her personal goal. Each and every one of her individual victories helps bring the varsity cross country team, as a whole, one step closer to state.

“I feel like I’m on the journey to state, and of course you never know until regionals, but I would say that it is one of my personal goals to make it to state,” Misse said. “This year we’re so fortunate to have a team that has been doing great so far with the underclassmen girls who have really stepped up. I think that we have a very good chance of qualifying as a team. I would never have been able to do that in the past, but we’ve been very blessed to not experience any injuries so far, so I think that we could take a team to state this year and that would be wonderful.”

Misse is ranked 27th overall in Kansas girls cross country state and seventh overall for Kansas 5A girls. She has been a part of the cross country team since her sophomore year and has helped the varsity team advance.

Last year at regionals, the boys varsity team placed third and the girls placed fourth. This race was the qualifier to make it to state. At state, the boys’ varsity team placed fourth overall and the girls did not place.

Misse thinks the team has been advancing in the state standings this season because they have been training harder than ever before to improve themselves. After the EKL meet, the girls are ranked tenth in the state and third for 5A schools and the boys are ranked seventh in the state and third for 5A schools. The team hopes to improve and surpass these scores as they compete at regionals and hopefully state. Misse, along with others, thinks that in order to do so, the team must practice very hard.

“Just keep training — I mean, we never stop; we always push ourselves and just keep going,” sophomore Dylan Miller said.

This is exactly what the team has done, starting in the summer and continuing throughout the season. The success of the entire team can be partially credited to individual efforts. Every runner on the varsity team plays an important role in helping the team as a whole advance in the rankings and improve from the previous race by seeing what they could have done better.

“I just really like the competition, and I feel like I thrive off of it and I like working hard toward a goal,” junior Beau Constant said. “If you have a bad race or bad practice, a kind of a big mental thing is how you respond. If it’s during a workout or race you can be like, ‘Well, I can either accept that I had a bad race or take this really hard and pick the good parts out of the race,’ and then you can improve off that.”

This sport is not all about training physically, although to physically train, they do extended speed workouts in order to prepare for a race. It is also about the mentality of how everyone reacts before or after a race. To train mentally, the runners push themselves as hard as they can to prove to themselves that they can work through pain in order to have confidence going into a race.

“Physically, you just do long runs before races and then mentally stay positive and stay focused,” freshman Lindsey Batkiewicz said. “Don’t get distracted and don’t let the nerves get to you;  just talk to friends and have fun.”

While the athletes contribute greatly to the success of the team as a whole, the coaches also play a big role. Head coach Richard Wilson and assistant coaches Aaron Ballew and Kelley Alexander act as mentors and help guide the practices to make sure that all runners improve in order to reach their goals.

“The coaches have a huge impact on the cross country community,” Misse said. “They are constantly pushing us to get better and to work through pain. They hold us to a very high standard and I think that’s a wonderful thing because we need to be challenged in that sport.”

As of print time, the varsity cross country team was scheduled to compete at regionals on Oct. 24 at Pierson Park in Kansas City. To view the results, visit ks.milesplit.com. If the team finished in the top three, then they’ll compete at the state meet on Oct. 31 at Rim Rock Farm in Lawrence.

“There’s such a sense of family and team, and you’ll see it during the races,” Misse said. “If you’re not running, then everybody’s out on the course cheering on their teammates. There’s nothing like it when you’re at the end of the race, and you’re so tired but there’s one person in front of you and you look over and see your entire team out there cheering. It’s the best feeling in the world, and whether it’s a good day or bad day you’re always surrounded by kind, supportive people.”