With the new school year, many teams are just starting to compete. The women’s Cross Country team just had its first two races, The Salisbury Fall Classic and The Green Terror Invitational.
At the Fall Classic, SMCM finished 8th out of 11 teams in the race. A runner on the team, Junior Kaitlyn McGrath, commented on the importance of the Fall Classic in relation to it being the first race of the year, saying, “The fall classic is pretty big… it’s good to see where we are compared to other teams.” She also explained how the course was important for individual runners, saying, “It’s a really flat course and there aren’t a lot of hills, so it’s definitely a course that you will PR (get a Personal Record) on. You always want to go out really strong in that kind of race to see how your former training has gone, where you’re standing compared to previous years.”
Junior Katie Phipps was the first Seahawk to finish, followed by First-Years Michelle DeMenna and Sylviann Houck. This is impressive for the First-years considering McGrath’s words on the difference between high school and college Cross Country, saying, “For a lot of people, like freshmen or people who have never run Cross Country in college, they are used to running in 5Ks, but in college most races are 6Ks for the women and 8Ks for the men. It’s a huge jump, and it might not seem that big to people looking at the numbers, but as far as race strategy goes it’s a huge deal.”
The Green Terror, while being smaller in terms of the number of teams that go, is considered tougher because of the amount of hills there are. McGrath explained a strategy her team would try to use at the race as well as throughout the season in general, saying, “I think the big thing for the girls team is trying to run more as a pack. The way Cross Country is scored is like how golf is scored; the lower number is better…. So if you have one runner coming in early and another coming in late, and you add those two numbers together it’s not going to be as good.”
McGrath also wanted to highlight how teamwork is involved with the sport, saying, “Many times people think Cross Country is an individual sport, which to a degree it is, but at the same time you have that pack mentality of trying to stay together, trying to work together. If one person falls behind you try to push them and pick up the speed and get them to pick it up with you even though they aren’t feeling so good.”
Both men’s and women’s Cross Country have a new coach as well. Lynn O’Dell became the head coach for both teams. The director of Athletics and Recreation Scott Devine said, “Lynn brings a great mix of experiences to our head men’s and women’s Cross Country coach position. She is a former college student-athlete who has been an outstanding high school educator here in St. Mary’s County.”
Graff spoke positively of her new coach as well as expressed hope for the season, saying, “I think this year we’re going to do a lot better than we did in previous years. Even though we are a young team, we are only three years old, it seems like everyone’s working really hard this year.” She also expressed closeness to her team when she said, “I feel like our team feels more like a family this year, so I’m really excited for the season.”