Cross Country Primed for a Rebound Season

Young men arrive at 8:00 a.m., some earlier, and for some oversleeping individuals, a few minutes later. A few cars leave as young men exit their passenger doors, but most cars park with a young man exiting from the driver’s seat, after turning his car off. Where these men come from, when they get there, and how they got there, doesn’t matter. Because these men all have something in common: a white MBA cross country top, and short red shorts to go along with it. Not only that, but each man possesses possibly the same look on his face: dread for an ensuing workout, combined with slight joy at being reunited with his brothers.

It’s these Saturdays, as the coaches explain, that separate the good teams from the great ones. Each workout and run is an opportunity to get better, not a burden.

It’s hard to acknowledge and embrace the opportunity of a workout before it is completed, but nevertheless, the team takes in one stride at a time, and finishes the workout, hopefully getting better in the process.

What’s hard to understand from the outside about cross country is the teamwork involved. It appears to be a sport of the individual. Only one individual runner gets first place; only 5 runners score for the team; and only 7 runners even get to run in the varsity meet. Physically, no runner can help another runner improve his time.

But this year’s MBA cross country team is about so much more than one’s physical talent and work.

The cross country team, over the past several years, has developed a pack mentality when it comes to running. Run as a team, attempting to pass other teams as you do. It’s this group running that keeps everyone going on an hour and a half of a run, in a speed building exercise, and in the races.

As Coach Russ states about races, “Race as a group. Race. Don’t run.”

When the team races in groups, in packs, and practices with those packs, a mere team chemistry develops. This chemistry and teamwork to push each other produces better runners with better times- and better places in meets.

Sophomore JV runner Will McEvoy said of the team, “We’ve got a lot of potential with some new varsity runners. The rest of the team remains determined with a strong pack mentality.”

When asked to elaborate on that pack mentality, Will said, “The pack mentality is what gets us out of bed every morning and drives us to the trails in the cold and even snow. It is the sacred bond that allows us to push each other to our limits.”

With the same question, Kiran Peterson stated, “Through thunderstorms and scorching hot days, the unity of working hard together as a pack fuels the entire team forward.”

When asked about the pack mentality’s effect, Coach Bassett responded, “There’s an obvious camaraderie this year that gives the team further energy to achieve success.”

In terms of success, the team has been fortunate to pride themselves on great achievements thus far this fall.

In a meet in Knoxville, the team finished third of many for varsity and won the JV meet. Graham Ragsdale finished atop the varsity squad, and Jack Larish finished first overall in the JV meet.

The team is full of talented individuals who remain close together in their finishes. Junior Graham Ragsdale has served as the team’s fastest runner thus far. Following him include senior leaders Isaac Wills and Joseph Tarquine, who facilitate the teamwork and camaraderie surrounding the team. 

Team leader and veteran varsity runner Isaac Wills described the team this year: “The team has passed with flying colors thus far. I’ve been very impressed with the group running and the intra-squad competition. I’d say there are four or five guys who are contending for the last two spots on the varsity, and this competition has been a catalyst for massive PR’s and team success. This team has a lot of upside as well. Parker O’Neil and I, who were third and second in the team’s season-opening time trial respectively, have dealt with some injuries. While the two of us had mediocre performances at McCallie, we anticipate better races to come as we recover.

Notably, no seniors have scored in the top 5 at either race for the team. Juniors Parker O’Neal, William Barton, and Tillman Dean all contribute to a strong Junior squad, while Will Crawford and John Hyde represent the sophomores in their varsity running efforts. Additionally, freshman Luke Mryncza has made plenty of noise this season with incredible efforts to race with the fastest runners on the team, and has come out an impressive varsity runner.