Last Wednesday, the Cedar Ridge High School Red Wolves and Orange High School Panthers took to the rolling Northwood cross country course in the challenging Conference meet. Unlike previous years, where teams were automatically entered the Regional race, the Conference meet is a qualifier for Regionals — where the top three teams and the top four individuals not on a qualifying team, provided they place in the top 12 overall, advance.
The Orange boys team was narrowly knocked out of third place by five points, but secured the Conference Sportsmanship Award. While the Red Wolf and Panther teams won’t advance to Regionals, Orange junior Spencer Hampton will represent the Panthers as an individual, placing 11th overall.
“We’ve run Northwood’s course a lot in previous years, so going into it, I would have thought I’d be more comfortable,” Spencer Hampton said. “But when you’ve only come into this race having run two meets or so, there’s a lot of inexperience and questions about how we will perform. In this meet, we showed that we do still have what it takes.”
For some, the race was all about having fun and running for each other.
“My strategy was to stick with one of my teammates, because I really wanted to make sure she finished the meet,” Orange junior, Maggie Saunders, said. “It was more important to me that we had a fun time than it was for me to set a personal record.”
Northwood’s course is very hilly, making it challenging to run a personal best time. Because of this, races at Northwood are competitive and all about teamwork.
“My strategy was to stay with the chase pack through the first mile,” Cedar Ridge senior, Jill Myler, said. “I did that and then fell back. The hills were pretty difficult.”
“I try to pinpoint someone, pick people off, and work my way up,” Orange senior, Abby Dease, said.
COVID has placed restrictions on this year’s cross country season, like masks, social distancing, spectator bans, and limited availability of races. Despite this, athletes are grateful for the chance to compete.
“It’s really nice to have cross country as an escape, instead of being stuck inside all day. It’s definitely great for mental health,” Cedar Ridge senior, Harrison Park, said.
“It’s a good opportunity because the other sports that I play, soccer and basketball, have a lot of contact, so I feel blessed that I’m able-bodied and can play a distanced outdoor sport,” Maggie Saunders said.
“I’m competing because I like being on the team,” Abby Dease said. “My teammates are awesome, and cross country means a lot to me, even if we have to be distanced and wear masks. It’s still one of my favorite sports.”