Cross Country Triumphs Over COVID-19

     I came into my first cross country season this August expecting to have fun. Little did I know I was about to meet my brothers. I joined for the first time in a year with no gatherings after meets and social distancing at practice. For both the boys’ and girls’ cross-country teams, the ability to come together as a family seemed to be inherited. The question on everyone’s mind was how were the runners going to react to these extreme conditions when, at any moment, their season could be canceled? In typical Fenwick fashion, the cross country teams responded with personal records, team bonding and all-conference titles for the entire program. In what seems to be the theme of the whole school year, nothing stopped the Friars.

     As the school year and cross country season loomed on the horizon late last summer, both Coach Rill and Coach Roche knew that the seasons for their boys’ and girls’ cross country teams were going to be unique. Practices began, and each coach told their team that it was on the players to keep the season alive. “It’s instinctual for us as humans and teenagers to want to gather,” Mr. Roche said. “We coaches had to regularly remind them to go against that drive.” Both the girls’ and boys’ teams had to adjust, as the traditional Friday night team meals were cancelled. The chance to grow as a team seemed to be reduced, but, once more, that didn’t stop the Friars.

     The success both teams achieved cannot be overstated. After the girls’ last regular season meet, Mr. Roche summed up the girls’ successes, reporting that “everyone ran their personal or season-best, which was very cool. Julie Arjon, Sarah Zawacki, and Natalie Polezak found new levels of success this year, our freshmen are bonding, and we are fighting for a top-ten spot in the state.” At the conference meet on Saturday, October 17, the girls continued to fight and earned second in the conference. The team had seven all-conference athletes: Bella Daley, Maggie O’Malley, Katie Cahill, Mia Scharpf, Maddie Rogowski, Delaney Seligmann and Maria Quinn. Quinn, who is a senior, ended her high school career having achieved Girls Catholic Athletic Conference Honors for four years in a row.

     Additionally, the boys’ runners had a fantastic year. The season began with resounding wins for both JV and Varsity against Nazareth, with sophomore Grayden Rill winning the Varsity race and senior Logan Maue winning the JV race. The success carried on with the boys earning third at the CCL Championship on October 17. At that race, Grayden Rill, Zach Daley and Nate McKillop earned all-conference honors. All three runners will return next year. Coach Rill cannot wait to see what happens next. “Our future looks good!” he said.

     Through socially distanced gatherings and talks during long runs, the runners found a way to become close. Sophomore Grant Schleiter was happy to see this. “One thing I thought was amazing was how inclusive we were,” he said. “We were able to bond and still become a family. We worked so hard even though we didn’t know if we’d be able to finish the season.” That sense of urgency and the notion that any moment their season could end inspired the runners in Fenwick’s cross country program to leave it all out there. Their mentality was unmatched, and the success each team achieved and the friendships each runner made will make this season a memorable one.