Varsity Cross Country continued its winning streak Wednesday at Gann Academy, with five runners, three of them freshman, finishing in the top-nine. The Gators are hoping to carry this momentum to a third consecutive league championship next month.
Cross Country’s success has been a team effort; winners are determined by the sum of the place-finishes of a team top-five runners. “Most of the teams in our league, they usually have one stand out runner, we have about six,” says Ben Teixeira ’19, a first year runner. “And with team scoring you can’t have one stand out runner, you need six solid stand out runners.”
The Gators practices reflect this attitude. The team strives to work out as a cohesive unit, rarely dividing into more than two groups. “I think we’re the only sport that has 6th-through-12th graders on the team,” says Varsity Cross Country Coach Ted Barker-Hook, adding that his primary goal is to “make everyone feel like they are part of the team.” Barker-Hook believes this strong, inclusive culture drove the team to back-to-back league championships—and it’s also why they have an excellent shot at a third.
The Gators determination in practice, Teixeira says, is also key to their success. Every Friday, the Gators have their hardest and most intense workout of the week, which can include a tough hill workout, speed work or an hour-long boot camp in the gym.
“Every single practice we push each other,” Teixeira says. “We have to encourage each other before and after the race to go faster and run harder.”
Spurred by this success, the team’s numbers are growing. In fact, cross country has nearly tripled in size this season. “I think the sport is getting more popular,” says Liam Conklin ’19, another top runner. “People are realizing how successful we are.”
The Gators will look for another dominant performance Wednesday, in their last regular season race as they face off against Chapel-Hill Chauncy-Hall. Three-peat anyone?