Cross country has continuously drifted along the sidelines of Franklin High School sports without much recognition; the hard-earned achievements of Franklin’s dedicated cross country runners are hardly noticed by their fellow students. Now that this year’s running season has ended, some major kudos are in order.
During the season, it is commonplace to see students leaving their final classes anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes early every day in order to attend practice or one of the season’s 10 races. Cross country by nature is a very simple sport. Much like soccer, the teams are gendered and based on running level. In races, there are seven runners representing each competing school. Whichever rank the runner finishes is equal to the number of points they bring in for their school’s overall score. Only the first five runners from each school collect points. The team that has the lowest total collective score wins. Unlike track and field, cross country is a team sport. Runners aim to rank highly not only for their own personal achievement, but to bring in the least amount of points possible for their team.
Team dynamic is incredibly important for any cross country team to be able to succeed. Every member of the team has to be comfortable with their fellow runners and able to trust them and work together. Franklin’s cross country Coach Jacob Michaels says that this year’s women’s team is “by far the most high-functioning team [he’s] ever coached.” He believes that it is up to the team and the runners to decide how good they’re going to be, and his job is simply to guide them and tell them what it takes to make it. The rest is up to the team because when it comes down to it, they’re the ones running the race. The women’s team this year is an exemplary display of the independence, enthusiasm, and motivation that every sports team strives for. They took initiative in their training and did what they needed to do, while still having fun. Group runs turn what could be boring conditioning into a fun jog with friends. Their determination to stay focused, exceptional comradery, and expert coaching were all this team needed to make it to the district and statewide level meets.
Once at state, both the men’s and women’s teams performed incredibly well. In the men’s 6A race, the fastest and most advanced level, two Franklin students placed in the top ten runners out of over ten different schools. Aidan Palmer (11) finished in second place, behind by a single second. The men’s team collectively ranked 4th place in the entire state. The women’s team placed 6th in the state.
Despite the intense competitive energy of state level races, meets are always filled with positivity and sportsmanship. “This is why I go to cross county meets, people just get so happy and everyone is so nice to each other!” exclaimed Franklin runner Helena Guerrero-Sullivan (11) while the team was waiting for the final scores. Students from separate teams smiled and shook hands, wishing each other the best of luck.
Private schools such as Summit High School are able to recruit students specifically for their sports abilities, and as a result tend to have more powerful teams overall. Summit is the number one cross country team in the nation at the high school level, and the fifth runner on the women’s team from Summit finished right before and after two of Franklin’s runners. According to Michaels, many Franklin runners either have or will be approached by prestigious colleges with full ride scholarship opportunities.
After graduating college, some alumni return to the Franklin running community as volunteer assistant coaches. The team gladly accepts any extra support in addition to the two paid coaches. Head coaches put in at least four hours a day, five days a week of work including coaching and paperwork. Assistant coaches help to lighten the load and can do anything from actual coaching to carrying water coolers. Everyone involved with the sport works hard all year round, even in the off-season. During summer break, there are two organized group runs every single day at Clinton Park. Most practices happen in the park as well. Cross country training is based on conditioning, and they run every day. Practices include strength training and balance exercises twice a week, at most. The majority of their routine consists of repetitive running either in Clinton Park or on Mt. Tabor, accompanied by lots of productive joking around and having a good time. This year’s team now has the experience of running in a state level race, and with nearly every person returning next year they will be starting off strong, and in the perfect position to expand their potential even further. Both the men and women’s teams have laid out the building blocks for great possibilities to both literally, and figuratively, run the extra mile.