The weekend marked the end to yet another successful cross country season. Both the women’s and men’s teams finished the season as Regional champions and top ten in the state for Division 2.
To make it to the state finals, teams have to place top 3 in the Regional meet. The boys have qualified for the state meet 19 consecutive years, winning the region the last 5, and the girls have qualified 26 times total in the last 34 years.
As an insider, I can assure you that these successes do not mainly stem from luck or natural talent, but instead from hard work, dedication to improving and the uplifting nature of the team.
Most cross country runners run all year round, and the ones that don’t are the ones that play other sports or are taking well deserved rest after pounding and pushing their bodies to the limit after the season. Though the first meet is in August, nearly everybody comes to non-mandatory practices starting in June and runs on their own when they can’t, and most of those people train together all winter and spring for both indoor and outdoor track.
Training consists of various workouts with total mileage ranging from 3 to 10 or more miles every single day or six out of seven days with a strategic cross train or rest day once a week depending on the person. Yes some runners train less and some train more, but you will find very few members of the guys or girls cross country teams who don’t put in miles of hard work and hours of time to make themselves the best runners they can be.
Not only are members of the teams dedicated and hardworking, they also want everyone to succeed. It doesn’t matter if you are the first to finish or the last, everyone supports you and wants to see you improve. Running can be painful, but going through the tough workouts and races together bonds us in a way that nothing else can. We run to better ourselves and each other. Our teammates give us strength when we can’t find it ourselves, and that helps make us stronger.
There were a lot of challenges this season and the months leading up to it. From Covid-19 related cancelations and precautions on a world scale, to a lingering injury on a personal level, there is a lot to be said about what was overcome this year during the season.
The last time the girls team made it to the state meet before this year was my Freshman year. I went to watch the meet at Michigan International Speedway and aspired to run there ever since, like the varsity girls I looked up to on the team did that year; they won the Regional championship and placed eighth in the state.
I ended up putting more miles in throughout the course of the next year, trusted the process and improved enough to be on varsity. However, no matter the level of confidence we built as a team leading up to the Regional meet, both my sophomore and junior year we were humbled by defeat. My sophomore year we placed 6th, as ranked, and, personally, I lost my shoe in the first 100 meters of the 3.1 mile race and ran the rest of the race without it. My junior year we placed 4th and missed the chance to run at the state meet by 1 point to our rival team. I ran number 1 on the team most of the year, but I came in 7th out of 7 (first 5 score) that meet with a stress fracture that I battled hard to run again without pain for eight months after that day.
This season, we went into the Regional with a good chance of winning it after taking home the Pre-Regional victory, but that didn’t make it any less scary knowing it was my last chance to be on a team that runs at the state meet. Finishing that race in good standings and winning the championship as a team meant more to me than any other race ever has. That day served as closure to the challenges we faced at that meet the last few years and marked the end to the most challenging 12 months I have ever faced. There is no other team I would have rather shared it with.
Though the state meet wasn’t as big as it normally is due to Covid-19 restrictions, like no tents or spectators on the course, it was still the most fun I have had in a cross country race. There was no pressure, and it was a great opportunity to see what we could do. It didn’t hit me until the end of the long walk back from the finish with one of my fellow senior captains that I had ran my last high school cross country race, and the tears didn’t come until one of my teammates reminded me and my coach came towards me with smiling eyes above her mask exclaiming we got 7th place when we were ranked 13th.
My four years of high school cross country are up, but all the friendships formed, memories made and lessons learned in the past four years will stick with me forever. Being a part of this team has made me not only a better runner, but also a better person. I can write an entire essay on the impact of my cross country career at Chelsea and all the lessons I have learned, but to be brief: getting to the starting line is much more of an accomplishment than whatever the finish shows, anything can happen through hard work and dedication, life doesn’t go as planned, mental strength is just as important as physical strength, trying new things is always worth it, I’m going to be a runner as long as I can be, the finish line comes faster than you think, I am stronger than I think, and my favorite part of success is sharing it.
Thank you for everything Chelsea Cross Country. I am excited to see all that happens in the years to come.