Girls cross country team displays genuine comradery

Millie Ortega | Staff Writer

The girls cross country team is breaking both records and stereotypes.

Running for fun sounds like an oxymoron, but for over one hundred and fifty girls on the MHS Cross Country team, the mental and physical challenge is what they love most.

The objective of the sport seems simple: run as far and as fast as you can, setting the stigma that cross country is centered solely around the individual success of each runner.

But, senior Emily Smit, who has been running cross country for all four years of high school, says she would never had made it all the way to this year without the constant push from her teammates.

“We’ll be in seven mile runs when the temperature is 90º and you just think to yourself, ‘why do I do this?’ but then you go to team dinners and meets and get the spirit wear and do the prayers and cheers and you realize that is why you do it,” Smith said. “The team aspect really keeps you going.”

Perhaps the companionship, and not just coach Chip Dobson’s incredibly efficient runners, is what has helped the Comets bring home seven consecutive Greater Miami Conference championships.

“The team is so close that you don’t really want to miss out. You want to go to practice and you want to stay together because that’s how you keep your friendships,” Smith said. “And even though it is such a large team, we’re all good friends and you can name all 150 girls half way through the season because we’re that close.”

Smith not only runs for the school, but also in her free time with her friends Mckayla Peebles, Lily Thieken, and Grace Reckers. The running quartet was training to run the Flying Pig half marathon this past spring, until a wrong move during a soccer practice caused Reckers to fall during a drill and tear her ACL.

“We were all very upset because [the marathon] was something we all wanted to do together and then she couldn’t. We then right away thought ‘what is going to happen with cross country?” Smith said. “We were really stressed because it’s senior year and it’s a big deal and she really wanted to run.”

Throughout the summer, Reckers attended almost every single practice and assisted coach Chip Dobson with attendance to ensure she could still interact with the girls and be an active teammate in preparation for the slim chance that her doctor would allow her to run in at least one race.

“I met some of my greatest friends from cross country and with it being senior year, I didn’t want to just give it up” Reckers said. “I was doing really well in my physical therapy and so [my doctors] told me that maybe it could happen so that propelled me forward to keep working really hard.”

After months of playing team manager and watching her friends sweat in the hot sun during runs while she hung back to do stretches for physical therapy, Grace’s doctor gave her permission and a new brace that allowed her to run in the Cedarville ‘Friendship Race’.

“I had no idea how I was going to run during the race,” Reckers said. “I figured it was going to be slow but I didn’t think it was going to be so difficult.”

Within the first half mile of the 5K Reckers was ready to quit, until Smith lingered back to Reckers’ pace and decided to stick with her for the rest of the race.

“The whole time that I was running I was crying and hyperventilating because I literally had no energy in me,” Reckers said. “But Emily was calming me down the whole time and telling me I was going to be okay and we were going to finish the race. She sacrificed her race so that I could finish mine.”

“In my mind the whole time I was thinking ‘my friend is more important than any time’,” Smith said. “This time had no impact on my life but helping my friend is what really matters. I would run ahead and then circle back around to her and run backwards and say ‘Come on you can do this!’ and she would tell me that she wanted to stop and I would tell her that no matter what, we were going to finish.”

Smith’s tough love attitude and words of encouragement towards Reckers led them to the finish line. Tears poured from the eyes of fellow teammates, parents, and coaches as the duo crossed the finish line with every last ounce of energy in them.

“We finished in thirty one minutes which is the worst the both of us had ever done,” Reckers said. “But I didn’t care about the time because I didn’t even think I was going to get to run a race my senior year, and I only finished this one because Emily helped me.”

Reckers and Smith took the meaning behind the ‘Friendship Race’ to heart as they made their run more about the journey, rather than the destination.

“The next day at practice Dobson recognized me for running with Grace during the race and he said it was the best team relationship he had ever seen,” Smith said. “It was nice that he could see that sometimes the friendship is more important than the time.”