THS Cross Country teams excel at State

THS Cross Country teams excel at State
Posted on 11/17/2022

Triumph Over Challenges: Tahoma’s Cross Country Teams Excel at State Championships

“Make others around you better!” That’s the motto lived and breathed by the student-athletes on Tahoma’s Cross Country teams.

Both Girls and Boys Cross Country teams had a remarkable 2022 season, finishing out the year with impressive results: the Girls team won first place in the state championships, and the Boys team took fifth place. 

Girls Team Poses on Podium at State Championships

But how did these Tahoma teams get to a place to be competitive at the state level? It all comes down to the team’s motto: Make others around you better.

“It’s really important to have a bunch of people around you that you know are working just as hard as you are,” said senior Daniel Castelluccio. “It adds to workouts and races when you are not just doing it for yourself, but for the benefit of the full team.”

If you aren’t familiar with how cross country is scored, each runner on a team receives points based on the place they finish in the race. For example, the first place finisher of a race could receive one point, the fifth place finisher could receive five points, and so on. The team with the lowest total number of points wins the event.

Kate Sanders at the state meet

“In cross country, everyone runs their own times, but it really is a team sport,” said senior Kate Sanders. “If we don’t work together and run for each other, we won’t be successful.”

The state championships were a great example of how important teamwork is in winning a cross country race—the teams with the two fastest runners at the Girls event did not place in the top 10 teams overall. Tahoma’s Girls team, on the other hand, did not have any runners in the top 10 fastest single times at the event. However, the team’s average of their lowest five times was faster than any other team’s average, and the spread between their fastest time and their fifth fastest time was only 33 seconds.

“Having team chemistry is so important because every time we step up to the start line to compete, we have to run for each other,” said senior Julia Stuard. “This would be impossible if not for the bond that we have built through practices, XC camp and so many other activities. This bond motivates each girl on the team to run to the best of her ability, not because she wants it for herself, but because the team needs her.”

Boys team on the podium

This Tahoma team—both Boys and Girls— is a story of grit in the face of challenge, and perseverance in the face of adversity.

“This year, we had one of the bigger groups of seniors that we’ve had in a long time,” said Coach Jeff Brady. “They have overcome a lot, especially with the impact of COVID-19 the past two years. They really stepped up to be leaders and to bring our teams back to being one of the top programs in the state.”

And aside from pandemic-related challenges, for runners, injuries are more of a “when” than an “if.” 

“This season, one of our best girls got injured during summer training, and she battled the aftermath of that injury throughout the season,” Julia Stuard said. “But through determination, she overcame that challenge at the state meet, where we became state champions through a tie-breaker, all because of our number six runner, the very girl who had battled her injury all season.”

The Boys cross country team is no stranger to injuries, either. Top runner Ryan Lewis unfortunately became familiar with the struggle early on in the season. “The injury lasted a month. It was a strange tear within the tendon between my calf and achilles,” Lewis said. “To overcome this challenge, I had to do some cross training. I’d bike pretty much every day and do weight training.” 

Ryan Lewis at the state meet

Ryan Lewis ended up placing third at the 4A state meet, finishing with a personal record 5K time of 15:53, even against strong winds the day of the race. 

And if that wasn’t enough, in the weeks leading up to the state championship, our region experienced unhealthy air quality levels due to wildfire smoke.

“There was a period of time during our training when the air was not safe to run outside,” said Kate Sanders. “We continued to work hard, and the coaches directed us to treadmills and bikes where we could complete the workouts together safely.”

But through the challenges, the Boys and Girls teams persevered to have one of the best cross country seasons in recent school history.

“Our motto, ‘Make others around you better,’ encourages our athletes to think beyond themselves,” said Coach Brady. “To see the elation on their faces after a great race and to be able to celebrate both individual and team successes is very motivating.”

“I love being part of a sport that our athletes can continue throughout their lives,” Brady continued. “I know the lessons learned through pushing through challenges will benefit them in the future.”

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