Back of the pack: Spotlighting the unsung heroes of cross country


Staff photo

Members of the boys cross country team celebrate after their region meet on October 27. Both the varsity and JV teams placed second. While some of the runners lead the pack and have aspirations to run in college or set a school record, others simply enjoy being part of a team and proving something to themselves regardless of their finish times.

Elizabeth Hong, Co-Editor

Many athletes agree that running is not their favorite part of their sport; running in the grueling Atlanta heat doesn’t excite many people. So why do students consistently sign up for cross country, a sport where the only thing you do is run? Furthermore, for those not at the front of the pack, what’s the appeal? 

For some, cross country comes naturally; they’re born runners who have been running 5Ks since kindergarten. But for many others, the task is more challenging. These runners have to be persistent, working hard for improvement, but they usually go without recognition. 

However, these runners still enjoy cross country. Junior Andy Swartz recalls his favorite memory of cross-country camp this summer. 

“I was the slowest one there,” Swartz said. “I didn’t even finish one of the runs but it was fun.”

Recently Swartz was promoted to the varsity team after his performance at Great American in North Carolina, a reward of his hard work. 

From an outside perspective, the sport can sound tortuous, but the athletes find ways to make it fun and enjoy themselves. For many runners, cross country is a way to relax and find friends; a break from the hustle and bustle of the day in between school and homework. Endorphins from physical exercise can ease the mind, and like most sports, friends are found readily. 

Junior Elena Wiseman found a family among the cross country team, noting how many friends she has made in her time on the team. 

“Everyone’s really friendly and it’s nice to meet a lot of new people,” Wiseman said. “I’ve made friends with people from different grades.”

In addition to his social benefits, many students do cross country for its core purpose; to run. Even though they may never set a school record or earn first place, these runners work hard to improve and to stay in shape.  

“I joined cross country to stay in shape,” said senior Emalyn Yantis who’s been on the team since freshman year. “I’ve also made a bunch of friends.”

The cross country coaches also encourage everyone to join, no matter their skill level. 

“The best thing about running is everyone can improve as long as they commit to trying,” assistant coach Mary Pat Martin said. “Running is not for everyone, but everyone can do it! You just have to commit and listen to the coaches.”

The unsung heroes of this sport are the athletes that stick with it and have fun, even when the odds are against them.