By Lucy Hoffman
The Harbinger (Prairie Village, Kansas)
I’m surrounded by my 20-person event group and we’re in the middle of our form drills. We’re all waiting for Coach Tricia to begin the day’s workout. Together, we feel the weight of 100 elephants leave our legs when she says it’s going to be an easy jog.
Cut sports that have tryouts cause too much stress and create unneeded competition between teammates who would otherwise be friends. With no cut sports, instead of having a week of brutal tryouts, we get to spend five extra days forming friendships and laughing about who has the best high-knee skip or backwards run.
Sports that divide athletes into separate teams for practice make it difficult for athletes to form any sort of relationship between the varsity and the C-team. I never would have gotten to know my JV friends through running if I hadn’t stopped with them when my legs wouldn’t keep me up with Varsity.
I’ve never had to endure the cruelty of refreshing the team website every five minutes to find out if I made if I even have the opportunity to play or not. Thanks to the no-cut mentality that comes with running, athletes get to bond over all the times when they’re supposed to be running, but are actually walk-shuffling. Sorry coach, it’s a tradition to walk through the park.
It might seem that being on a team with so many people would limit the quality of the relationships you could create. But when you can feel comfortable cry-running through a field while your friends cheer you on, it’s impossible to not become close with so many different people.
Starting out as a freshman with no idea about any of the rules, it was comforting knowing that I could easily befriend upperclassmen and teammates that already knew all of the routes and drills. My friendships with freshmen that need help with their warm-up skip may vary from the friendships I have with runners my age, but we all laugh at the same classic Chaffee jokes.
If you were to glance at our full team practices, you wouldn’t be able to tell who was on what team, or what kids are the best in their events. But, you could see hurdlers and distance runners helping each other in partner leg swings.
You would also see all of the more experienced teammates explaining workouts and how to divide up the track. With JV and Varsity getting ready in the locker rooms and enduring road runs together gives more opportunities to reach out for help if you’re new, and time to take the lead and mentor if you’re a returning veteran. The shift from relying on advice from my senior friends about when I should put in my final kick to being able to offer my own tips to younger athletes was when I knew the sport was a major part of my life.
In cross country, being at the same meets with the whole team means you get to support your friends in different competition levels while they run their races, and vice versa. With a small team playing a game, there aren’t as many teammates left to cheer, but with cross country, nothing beats having 100 of them yell your name (amongst other not-so-appropriate words) all throughout the three-mile course to motivate you. Because your teammates have already run the course that day, they know the best Rim Rock hill to motivate you at –– the second one, if you were wondering–– and where you’ll most need the support.
When I missed state by milliseconds, JV and varsity runners were both at the finish to comfort me. And when I got my personal best, they were there to keep me from fainting and to congratulate me on my win.
I may not know the feeling of winning a singular game with your teammates, but thanks to running, I know what it’s like to have a celebratory feast in Lawrence after the last meet of the season with my 200 friends or congratulate them on qualifying for relays.