Donagh Palmer and Lev Michaels on the final 200 meter stretch at the 2022 6A Cross Country State Championship. Photo via Abi Crowe.

Franklin Men’s and Women’s Cross Country continued the tradition of competing at the state meet in Eugene, Ore., placing fourth for the men’s team and eighth for the women’s team on Saturday Nov. 5. This year marked 18 times for the women’s team and 17 times for the men’s team that Franklin has competed at state since the year 2000. Sophomore Brennan McEwen on the men’s team led the pack, placing in spot 20 with a time of 16:02 minutes, and the rest of the team took places 24, 25, 26, 35, 39, and 46, all with times under 16:24. On the women’s team, sophomore Emily Robertson came in first for Franklin, in spot 23 with 19:13 minutes; the rest of the team took places 25, 34, 51, 80, 95, and 105 all with times under 22:06. Freshman Liv Fraser’s standout race at districts, running 19:16, secured her place as the fastest freshman in PIL (Portland Interscholastic League) this year. 

This season, both teams had to overcome adversity to advance to state. The first obstacle was the fall heat wave and smokey conditions, and because of that, PRs (Personal Records) were few and far between until the cooler, and clearer, weather. Another challenge was injuries, with Varsity Captain, senior Donagh Palmer, out for most of the season; the state meet was only his second race. The women’s team also faced this with Varsity Captain, junior Gigi Bareilles and senior Abigail Crowe out due to injuries at state. 

The effort that these teams put in is never in doubt. “Almost every single day for the past four, three and a half years, I’ve run with the guys in my senior class and that’s what’s really allowed us to get to this level,” explained Palmer. “Talent or not, the amount of hard work that was put into getting where we are today has allowed us all to excel.” He adds that he doesn’t think he has ever “gone home right after school all of high school [because of practice].” Cross Country and Track and Field Coach Jacob Michaels adds that the team had “15 women and 15 men who were absolutely committed to team and training and [they all] ran at a varsity level.”

While cross country may seem like an individual sport, both teams emphasize the importance of their teammates. “You need your team to go to state,” explains Varsity Captain, senior Avani Stevens-Rose. “It’s so important to support your teammates.” Coach Michaels included that the “cohesion was amazing this year” and that the team “love[s] to run together and be social together.”

The teams highlight having fun and staying loose when you run. “If you want to run at a high level and you wanna do it well, you have to love it and you have to focus on loving as the reason you’re doing it,” added Bareilles. “When you put the pressures on yourself of time or placement of winning or losing you lose sight of the reason you’re doing things [running].”

Bareilles explains that cross country has helped her become a more resilient person: “every race is a time when we got through something hard and taking that mentality with you can help you get through anything. It can help you get through a math test to be like ‘I’ve done so many hard things and I’ve practiced for them and I’ve gotten through them and I’ve come out strong’…running can be a reason to keep going and a reminder of how strong we are.”

The varsity captains advise aspiring distance runners to stay consistent with their training and make the decision to commit to putting in the time and effort to work hard. “Trust in your training, that you’re able to push through and do more and take the hurt,” said Varsity Captain, senior Lev Michaels. That every race is just gaining more experience and focusing on enjoying the sport were also big takeaways for the team. 

“The key to the success of both teams is consistency year round and to make the team running [a] social [event],” explained Coach Michaels. “Everyone improves with consistency.”

For the cross country team, State was not the end of the season. The team continued to race at invitational meets throughout the offseason, including NXR (Nike Cross Country Regionals); as senior captain Michaels says, “running never stops.” During the winter, the team will train for the Track and Field season in the spring.