The MBA Cross Country team did not quite finish the season as hoped. Injuries plagued a talented team that had a lot of inexperience.
At the JV finale and Metro Championship, the JV squad finished first overall, with an impressive triumph over Father Ryan and every other local schools. Will Crawford finished first overall in a slew of MBA medal winners. The Varsity squad finished second in a close contest against Father Ryan. Graham Ragsdale finished first for the team, as he consistently did this season. Unfortunately, varsity runner Parker O’Neal went down with a hamstring injury on a bad fall down Steeplechase’s most infamous hill. While the team was not satisfied with second, the runners definitely showed out and put on a productive performance.
The State Championship arrived a few weeks later on an unluckily warm Saturday. While Parker O’Neal made his return from injury, he unfortunately went down with the same hamstring bothering him and was unable to finish the race. In the final stretch of the 5K, Tillman Dean collapsed from hypothermia and was also unable to finish the race. The result was the finish of only 5 runners, all of whom scored: Graham Ragsdale, Luke Mryncza, Jack Larish, John Hyde, and Isaac Wills. The team finished in 6th place, just behind Father Ryan once again. Graham Ragsdale did earn his first all-state cross country recognition.
Coach Russ described the team’s general frustration following the state meet: “I was disappointed with the team’s result at State, less because sixth place is bad and more because our performance at State did not match what we are capable of doing if we run well. It is frustrating to have people work hard for months and then not run well in the race that the whole training program is designed for.”
While the season’s finish was unfortunate and disheartening, it doesn’t paint the whole picture of this year’s overall cross country season. The team shared great moments of triumph in both races and practices, and enjoyed constant camaraderie and brotherhood through heat, rain, and early mornings.
Coach Russ said of the team culture: “I cannot remember a team that has laughed together so much or enjoyed being around each other so much. Small groups of guys always get close through running together day after day. This team is somewhat unusual in the the way it bonded across grade levels and running abilities.”
Jack Sullivan described his four year tenure on the team and its impact on him: “Cross country has been a formative experience for me throughout high school. When I showed up as a little chub freshman year, the team welcomed me to the high school and made me feel included, especially the seniors...Senior year for me was great because I came back running the fastest I had ever run. I worked my way up to be a consistent scorer for the JV team. One difference was that I got to run in a group for the first time. In years past I had been alone in most of my races, but this year I was consistently with the same group of four or five guys during races. I also won a second Tour de Pants title, awarded to the winner of a week long team competition topped off with an ultimate frisbee tournament. As a senior, I got to take on more of a leadership role on the team as well.”
When asked about his take on the team atmosphere, Sullivan replied: “The team has been great. Working hard together draws us closer, and we all have grown to enjoy spending time together. There’s something about getting out on a run and just letting loose with your teammates. You grow really close through it all. And of course the team has some pretty great people on it, which really makes it a fun environment.”
Another senior leader and the class of 2018’s representative in the varsity race, Isaac Wills, stated, “It has been an auspicious pleasure running with the MBA cross country team as I have learned skills of dedication, toughness, and teamwork that will long outlast any of the external achievements of my career. This past season has been a particular joy because it was one filled with laughs and pleasant memories. While the State result was certainly disappointing, I know that the young and talented squad will bounce back, and I anticipate tremendous success next year. The state result also gives me and the rest of the team all the more reason to get excited about spring Track & Field.”
Even only looking at the Varsity squad, it is evident that this team has a bright future. Of the Varsity runners, there was a senior, three juniors, two sophomores, and a freshman. Further, the JV team’s top finisher was a sophomore, and several freshmen rose up the ranks this year. Finally, Hall Griffith became the first 8th grader in recent memory to earn a varsity letter for cross country. The youth on this team shows that it will be formidable for years to come.
Coach Russ said of the team’s youth: “Clearly, we are excited about the future. The top thirteen guys at the end of the season include only one senior with multiple representatives from the junior, sophomore, and freshman classes, plus one eighth grader.”
Coach Pruitt simply stated, “The future is bright for the Harriers.”
Finally, the most common sentiment gathered from this year’s season was simple: “It’s a good day to run.”