Freshman Heidi Johnson competes in the Bella Vista Bronco Invitational on Oct. 17. She finished 41st of 140 runners.

Cross country hurt by lack of members

Although the cross country team began with seven athletes, only two (sophomore Lea Gorny and freshman Heidi Johnson) have competed in meets.

Coach Nick Domich said many athletes  quit the team because they thought they were “attending a cocktail party instead of having to skip, jump, crawl and run five days a week.” The runners say they stopped for other reasons.

Senior Adam Ketchum, who has been one of the most consistent competitors in previous years, blames various tests (such as the ACT, SAT and SAT Subject Tests), and college visits and information sessions for his quitting the team.

Ketchum’s conflicts are similar to junior John Hansen’s. Hansen, also an avid runner in past years, isn’t on the team either.

 Hansen knew he wouldn’t have time to fully commit to the team this year because of APs, SAT,  Pre-Med Club responsibilities, and working to raise his GPA as he approaches senior year and college apps.

Seniors Elinor Hilton and Emma Belliveau quit after the season began because they were busy with schoolwork and college applications.

According to Hilton, sophomore year she went to all practices and meets, but junior year she was forced to lessen the amount of time she spent running because she was busy, and this year she decided to quit for the same reason.

“I just had a lot of other things going on, like college and homework, and I just didn’t enjoy cross country as much anymore,” Hilton said.

Belliveau said she was on the team last year and looked forward to doing it again, but she never got her athletic clearance forms and sports physical done, so technically she couldn’t attend anything. She did practice a couple times and worked out outside of school.

Sophomore Ulises Barajas quit during the season too because his family usually had other obligations on Saturdays, when the meets are held.

Junior Jaelan Trapp declined to comment on his decision not to participate.

Despite the recent decline in success and participation in the past few years, according to Domich, the SCDS team has had spurts of victory in past years.

During the seasons of 2009, 2010, and 2011, the girls’ team won league championships, and the boys’ won three years of section championships.

“I used to have 6-12 kids every Saturday running their hearts out,” Domich said, “The last couple years the team has been comprised of recreational runners who were neither physically nor mentally prepared to run hard for three miles, week in week out.”

Even new team members Gorny and Johnson say they’ve competed in only a few meets (Johnson has competed in five), because of busy schedules.

 Johnson believes cross country is a good sport for busy people.

“It’s a really flexible sport, and you can train on your own time,” she said. “I run at the river when I have time, whether it’s before or after homework, and if it’s a busy day then I’ll skip a run. A long run is only 40-60 minutes, whereas other sports’ practices are scheduled and generally two plus hours a day.

“It also helps that it’s so individualized and can compete with a one-person  team or a 50-person team.”

“Johnson has been a total professional as always,” Domich said.

While Johnson has been competing in cross country since middle school, this is Gorny’s first year.

 “I decided to do cross country because I had been running a lot over the summer, and I was really enjoying it,” Gorny said.

Gorny also stopped playing volleyball in order to run.

However, seven weeks into the season, she quit the team because she didn’t feel like she was a full participant and committed member of the team.

“I have been very busy, and it is very difficult for me to attend meets,” Gorny said.

There could be hope for a larger team in the future. Juniors Aidan Cunningham and Emil Erickson plan on joining next year because they will not have a fall sport to participate in when boys’ soccer moves to the winter next year, per a new CIF order.

As current three-sport athletes, they do not want to give up a trimester of physical activity, and cross country will be the only boys’ fall sport.

Johnson said she is excited about the possibility of soccer players joining the team because “most soccer players make great cross country runners since they already are in shape and run a lot anyways. My cousin was a soccer player, joined cross country her junior year and won state. “It will be awesome to have more people too!”

—By Alexa Mathisen

This update does not include results after Thursday, Oct. 22, as it was previously published in the print edition on Oct. 27.

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