Racing into the new season: 2017 Cross Country team increases numbers and prepares for first meet

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Photos by Alexandra Lopez (10), Madeline Schell (12), and Ahna Stewart (11).

The first cross country meet of the season for the Ann Richards team was originally held on Saturday, August 26, 2017. Due to Hurricane Harvey’s strong wind and rain, the meet was cancelled. The next meet, an AISD Invitational for only high school runners, is scheduled for Friday, September 1, 2017.

It is important for all eligible runners to race in the AISD Invitational this Friday because Austin Independent School District is paying attention to the numbers. Coach Lora Tilson says that in the past AISD has been super critical – last year, the district gave a warning and said the team did not have enough people for a second coach, so if numbers did not increase this year, the team would definitely not get a second coach. The number of runners has not yet been an issue this season, as the team has well over the fifty runners the district requires.

“I think we have a lot more runners this year because we really pushed to get a lot of different people to come out,” Cross Country Coach Laura Tilson said. “We have a lot more seniors who’ve never run before.”

A lot of the seniors that got cut from volleyball are staying in shape by running, along with band students who now realize that band will not interfere with the running schedule.

“We’ve got a lot of people who are running for basketball, people who are running for soccer, and just to get in shape,” Coach Tilson said. “Obviously we want everybody to run in the races, because it’s kind of an exciting experience for us to be there, and the team bonding, and all that. We’re definitely saying it’s mandatory to run in the ones that the district is going to be paying attention to our roster.”

The importance of high schoolers participating in the meets is stressed quite heavily. If people practice but don’t participate in races, it is district policy to cut back a number of coaches to a number they see fit. This year, seniors Maggie Saucedo and Emmaline Jeansonne have stepped up as team captains to support and lead the girls through this new season.

Everyone at cross country practice learns the pre-race chant together. Photo by Alejandra Wait (12).

“It’s been a lot of fun with the new team captains,” Anne Katula (10) said. “It’s hard work, but it’s worth it because varsity gets a lot of cool equipment and we can see our improvement because the running is so intense. Coach Tilson is really good about communication and is really organized, and Coach Welser has been pushing us in great ways. Emmaline and Maggie (the 2017-2018 team captains) are really on top of things, and planned out the whole summer schedule of running.”

Running can take a toll on the body, especially when training intensely. Before each run, the team does a “Lunge Matrix” to strengthen and warm up the legs. According to Coach Tilson, often times the injuries come from people not lunging deep enough during the warm up. In the event of an injury, the damage is assessed: sometimes the runner can work through it, but sometimes the injury is so severe the runner needs to take a break.

“We’ve got a freshman who, because she’s just getting into running, her muscles and calves haven’t quite formed yet,” Coach Tilson said. ”She’s running and she’s getting a little bit of pull on the tendons that are around the knee.”

Sammie Seamon (11) is currently rehabilitating due to a strained muscle she sustained while running downhill with separate running group Gilbert’s Gazelles. Seamon will avoid running until she is fully healed so that she will be ready to compete in the district races.

The team gathers around team captain Maggie Saucedo (12) to learn the team cheer. Photo by Alejandra Wait (12).

Another student, Alexandra Lopez (10), has a condition in her knees called Tendonitis. Tendonitis is when the muscle in your body begins to tear away from the bone, and can cause some students like her to not be able to run in meets or even everyday practices.

“It’s been really hard for me because I like running, obviously, and I like being part of the team a lot,” Alexandra Lopez (10) said. “When I can’t run, or it hurts to run, I have to take a break and do different workouts. It’s been really hard because I still need to train and I really want to, but it’s tough to just be on the sidelines.” Alexandra said.

Anne Katula is a sophomore who has run with the Varsity Cross Country team since freshman year. While the team grows in numbers, Katula is setting her own goals for the season.

“This year I want to break 21 minutes for my 5k,” Katula said. “I want our team to win districts this year.”

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