After almost two full years, the cross-country teams return to racing.
Every sport at St. Andrew’s has missed competitions and been impacted because of COVID-19 the past two years. Most sports have been able to return to some sort of competition late last year or this fall, but one sport has had to wait the longest. The boys and girls cross-country teams were entering their 23rd month of not racing in a meet. That ended this past Saturday (October 2) at Brandywine State Creek Park.
It has been a long road to the starting line with the runners on both teams trying to stay in race shape for the past two years. “St. Andrew’s being about three sports kept me busy and in shape. Lots of crew and time on the erg,” Alec Finch ‘22 shared. His co-captain Gavin Frazer ‘22 also appreciated St. Andrew’s work to keep teams together last year, ““Even though last year we weren’t racing, we were still together and running.” Emma Hopkins ‘23 ramped up her running during the pandemic, “I have always been a swimmer, so it was rough for me when Covid first began because everything was closed. I started training and focusing really on running for the first time. I quickly added distance all the way up to a half marathon completing the virtual New York Half Marathon last spring.” “I also ran a half marathon!” Emily Murphy ‘22 piped in, while both were talking, and she shared her experience, “I had more time with classes being shorter last year. I had four hours to kill in the afternoon, so I would run for an hour or two. I always wanted to run a half marathon and after adding miles, I was in shape and able to do it.”
The week leading into race day can be stressful for any runner, add on that it is the first race in two years and emotions can be all over the place. The Saints runners found ways to relax and distract themselves before the race. Emily said, “I had a lot of work the days before and I knew this was a hard course, so I went into it not focused on times but enjoying the race.” Alec and Emma distracted themselves with a different stresser by taking the SAT the morning of the race. “I had just taken the SAT and was not as focused on the race. Once I got in the van, I knew it was going to be a fun day. I had forgotten what race day was like and that it’s just a fun 3-4 hours out of my Friday or Saturday to go out with everybody and cheer everyone on. I just loved being back!” Alec said. Emma had a similar experience, “I had taken the SAT that morning and knew it would be a full day. I told myself not to be stressed, which worked until I stepped up to the start line and felt the pre-race emotions.” Lily Murphy ‘23 was looking forward to it all week, “I was more excited than anything and I love to race. It was hard to find motivation having time off from racing.”
Once they arrived at Brandywine the excitement and emotions all came back. They knew the pre-race nerves would return but there were a lot of enjoyable moments during race day they had forgotten about. Emma was excited about returning to the start line, “I told myself not to be stressed, which worked until I stepped up to the start line and felt the pre-race emotions. As soon as the gun went off, everything went away and it’s beautiful and powerful watching everyone run off in a swarm, especially after two years of running without the motivation to train for the race.” Gavin, Alec, and Lily had missed the feeling of finishing a race. “I had missed just finishing with everyone and being really happy and proud of myself,” Lily said. Gavin had missed the small parts of the race, “For me it was about all the little things. You can do time trials and hard workouts on our courses and practices, but getting to meet the guys you were sprinting with for 200 meters after the finishline and fist bumping each other are the cool moments you miss not racing.” Same with Alec, “The post race feeling is the best feeling I get all week. You are congratulating not only your teammates but the opposing runners because you have been pushing each other all race.”
Not only did the teams return to racing, they had a lot of success. The girls team had an impressive start to the season with Lily finishing 3rd overall (21:22.60) and Leah Horgan ‘25 finishing 6th overall (21:54.70). Their great finishes lead the team to a 2nd overall finish, and a lot of excitement for the rest of the season. Emily lit up thinking about it, “We’re really optimistic and excited about the season.” “Everyone thought the race was really hard and we surprised ourselves,” Emma added.
The boys team finished 4th overall. The top finishers for St. Andrew’s were Zach Ataley ‘23 with a 15th place finish (19:42:80) and Alec with a 17th place finish (19:48.90). The scores for the top 5 finishers for St. Andrew’s and Wilmington Friend were tied at 152 after the race (lowest score wins), which meant it came down to each team’s 6th runner finish. Shawn Li ‘24, in his first race for St. Andrew’s, was the deciding runner who finished ahead of Wilmington Friend’s 6th runner. Alec has a lot of optimism for the remainder of the season, “This bodes so well for the rest of the season. I am so happy to get fourth (overall) and it came down to our 6th man, Shawn Li, finishing ahead of Friends. We have a lot of new guys on the team, it was a great experience for them and now know what it is like on race day. Everyone is looking forward to the next race in two weeks.”