Cross country up and running

Eli Wildman, Staff Reporter

runners on a track
Runners dart down the track during a morning practice.  (Photo courtesy of Jeff Buck)

With fall sports pushed back to the spring, it seems strange to see a team of runners on the track of George Mason high school training, but the cross country team is already up and running (no pun intended) before the start of the VHSL season.  

Back in August, the cross country team began to hold practice twice a week, running workouts on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  Unfortunately, these practices ended when the VHSL postponed fall sports, leading to a loss of motivation for fall athletes, but these runners won’t let the loss of a usual season put them down.

Senior David Meade said, “After being on the younger side of the team for a few years, it stings not to have a conventional season. Even though all of us seniors would rather have a regular season, we’re going to use this as motivation, and we’re still going to try our best to step up as leaders for the grades below us in these uncertain times.”

These track only practices started back up in early September, shortly after school started, with the boys team meeting on Wednesdays and the girls team meeting on Mondays. As the teams do not have clearance to run through the city, they have to do these preseason practices in the morning on the track when no one else is on it.  A normally hectic beginning to practice is now strictly organized with athletes trickling in, masked, at six foot increments for temperature checks and health screenings.  Even in these uncertain time, athletes feel safe in the practice process.  “With all the precautions taken, cross country remains a safe environment,”  junior Jackson Pierce said.

After the screening, the athletes are sent to the middle of the field where a grid of spaced-apart cones are situated, with each athlete ending up at a cone.  The runners are then dismissed for the warm-up in rows, usually in groups of five.  After a couple of warm-up laps, runners are spaced apart on the track to do dynamic stretches and then on the large center circle to complete static ones. 

During the workout, athletes are split into groups and sent off on opposite ends of the track and sent off at intervals.  Once the workout itself ends, the runners end up back at their cones where the coaches might lead them in a strength or flexibility drill.  Once this is all over, the athletes put their masks back on and trickle out, signaling the end of practice.

Team members are very excited to be back practicing.  Senior Jack Brown commented on the practices, saying, “With this year filled with uncertainty, I am grateful to be able to practice with the cross country team and connect with the younger runners.”  The sentiment echoes throughout the team, with most of the team just excited to be back.