by Molly Schiltz, STAFF WRITER
14 November 2017
Sophomore Emma McKillip leads the pack in an inter-squad meet. Photo by Colleen Olsen.
The Oswego East girls’ cross country team just did something no other team has ever done in school history: they ran as a team at the state meet.
The road leading to state was not an easy one, with long and arduous practices, injuries, and confidence to build up before the girls were ready to race. However the team knew from the beginning what their goals were and what they hoped to accomplish.
“[You] always have a little doubt, but we knew for sure we could make it. It feels surreal we made it to state,” senior varsity runner Isabella Gyori said.
The journey was a long one, but with everyone committed to the team and to what they could learn from the experience, they were able to go far.
The learning process was so successful thanks to the focus and mindset the sport has taught the girls.
This focus and drive is useful to each athlete not only while working towards a state title, but also in their school careers.
Some of the attributes learned and refined through cross country are also reflected in the classroom. The focus and discipline one needs to run in a race comes in handy when trying to focus in class or study for a test.
Gyori described the practices as routine, but intense. On a typical day the girls might go on a warm-up run, conduct drills then strides, followed by a workout, anything from mile repeats to speed work, followed then by a cool down, stretching, and then still a workout in the weightroom. She also described the benefits of hard work both inside and outside the classroom.
“If we don’t warm up right, you might get injured. In class and at practice I try my hardest to show what I can do, [because if] you don’t do your homework, you won’t do well on a test,” Gyori said.
The work the girls put in on their own time to improve translates over to the classroom. Because cross country is such a mental sport, once this process is refined and perfected, athletes can become better students through their attention to detail.
“Everything is mental, you have to be strong mentally,” sophomore varsity runner Kara Webb said.
Motivation is another key component in the girls’ process to achieving success, Webb added.
There is much to be said about staying motivated and working one’s hardest. Cross country is an excellent example of a sport that forces someone to practice bettering him or herself.
“Taking more rigorous classes and working harder at concepts I don’t understand has stemmed from my motivation to get better at running and better myself as a person,” sophomore varsity runner Morgan Ede said. “Homework is also something I lack motivation in, so cross country has really helped me to understand that if you work hard the outcome will be so rewarding.”
Cross country has also taught many of the girls the value of opportunity in what can be achieved in and out of the sport.
For Gyori, running has taught her the importance of hard work in all aspects of her life. She carries this mindset with her to the classroom environment, and realizes the importance of staying focused to accomplish her goals.
[It’s about taking] every opportunity, giving everything my all to show what I can do,” Gyori said.
This mindset helps the athletes replicate the success they have found in running in their classes as well. They continue to push themselves and strive to reach their utmost potential in all aspects of their lives.
“In the classroom you end up trying to go above the standards because that’s how you are as an athlete where you’re trying to work better at things,” Webb said.
Mindset is key in cross country, so while many of the girls had a good control over their focus they were always looking for ways to do better.
The runners were able to refine their abilities through the support system the girls found in one another. The bond of sisterhood that developed throughout the season as the girls helped one another struggle through difficult workouts was an incredibly strong one.
“By having a group of girls around each other and our coaches running with us and cheering us on, this strengthens each individual mentally and physically,” Gyori said. “[Without] my teammates, I wouldn’t have been able to push myself as much as I learned how to.”
This bond between the runners worked wonders, allowing them the opportunity to push one another to work harder and faster while cheering each other on every step of the way.
“I can honestly say it is the coolest feeling ever having 26 best friends that you can talk about anything with and open up to,” sophomore varsity runner Morgan Ede said.
The whole team trained the entire season with their eyes on the prize, hoping to qualify to run at state. They knew they had the potential, it was just the work they had to put in to get there that would be difficult.
“For most of them this was a major goal they’ve had for years,” Head Coach Lisa Cook said. With this goal in mind, the girls got to work.
In order to accomplish their goals, the girl’s team had to dedicate and focus large amounts of their time and energy to running in order to see the improvements they wished to make.
“We don’t get a lot of breaks,” Webb said. “We see [our teammates] more then we see our family. They’re like our second family.”
Ede agreed and also described an intense practice schedule.
“We’re there all the time,” she said.
The bond that develops between these girls through the shared hours of hard work became all the more strengthened once the girls established that they had the common goal of state in mind.
In order to help, newly implemented this year were the Core Values, designed by Coach Cook and Assistant Coach Steven Ideran to help the team focus on their goals. Those Core Values–Confidence, Discipline, Joy, Rhythm, Risk, Self-Improvement, and Trust–were values the girls would try to combine with a belief in themselves in order to see the best results in their runs.
Confidence played a big role in the success of the team as the girls gained more and more confidence in themselves as the season progressed. They had to realize that they were one of the best teams in the state. Coach Cook mentioned one of the biggest switches in mentality to be at the Richard Springs Invite, where the girls team placed fourth out of 64 teams, and in doing so beat at least 10 3A ranked teams.
It was at the Richard Springs Invite that the girls finally realized how good they were, which motivated them to keep working hard and accomplish those goals they set for themselves.
“If the group comes together at the right time, qualifying for the state meet is not as impossible as it may seem,” Coach Cook said.
This is a mentality the coaches and team will certainly carry over into the next season as they try to keep their streak of success alive. Although many seniors are graduating, leaving behind a great legacy, the under classmen still have hope to set the bar higher next time.
“I’m only a sophomore, so there are more goals ahead,” Ede said.
The freshmen will also be able to come in and try their best to live up to the high standards of Oswego East Running as the team strives to continue improving its performance.
However this season and all of the time and effort put into it, as well as all that was accomplished during it, will not be forgotten.
“I think they’ll look back twenty years from now and still be proud,” Coach Cook said. “They’ll be able to look back and say: This is what we started.”
Oswego East placed 21st out of 25 teams at state.
Molly Schiltz is a student journalist for Oswego East High School’s online news magazine the HOWL