by Anna Morokutti (’23) | March 29, 2021
As vaccines are starting to be rolled out and COVID-19 infection rates are slowing down, Santa Clara County is moving into less restrictive safety tiers. The county’s progress has allowed them to authorize meets, games, and other competitions for high school sports. In alignment with the county guidelines, the Saint Francis Cross Country team has recently begun participating in meets with added safety measures to ensure the well-being and protection of all those involved. With masks, social distancing, fewer competitors, and fewer, if any, spectators, the environment of meets has definitely shifted. Still, the ability to compete resoundingly triumphs over the challenging adjustments.
The Lancer had the opportunity to speak with runners from the varsity, junior varsity, and freshman cross country teams. Members described how, initially, getting into the “race mentality” was tough. With fewer people, the big pre-meet rush of adrenaline has been less intense. Additionally, spectators often have not been able to cheer on runners at the end of their race to give them a final push towards the finish line. The combination of these factors has caused a shift in the racing environment. Cross country coach, Mr. Philip Pompei, affirmed these sentiments. “You don’t have that same race day buzz in the atmosphere,” he shared. However, he added, “I think we’ve gotten over that quickly.”
Erika Eichler, mom of varsity runner Kurt Johnston (’21), elaborated: “Pre-COVID, there were a lot more runners and spectators. We would move from point to point to be able to watch the runners. I miss the energy of those meets.”
Runners also shared that it has been hard being unable to watch other team’s races. A sophomore runner summed this feeling up by sharing, “The most challenging aspect of competing again is [not] being able to watch each other race.” Team members expressed a desire to be able to support fellow runners because they say that the team truly feels like a family. Johnston noted that even with all the new guidelines, the cross country team is a really special family that is incredibly rewarding to be a part of. Eichler shared similar sentiments, mentioning that one of the best parts of going to meets again is “watching the team camaraderie.”
Many cross country runners also noted that they found a new appreciation for the sport. By not being able to compete, and more notably, not being able to see their teammates and coaches, runners attested to appreciating the sport more.
While running may be an individual sport, the Saint Francis community truly makes it a team activity by fostering a positive and welcoming environment. Although the race day environment has changed, the cross country team has not let this stop them from coming together and competing. They continue to endure and push towards the finish line of the Coronavirus. Coach Pompei concluded, “We’re happy with what we’ve been given. That has been all positive!” He added, “Just to see the hard work that we put into training pay off in these race performances has been huge from the coaching perspective.”
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