Cross Country Races Towards a Successful Season

The Phoenix cross country team trains everyday not only to have a successful season, but also to better themselves.


Mariam Abdelsayed

Seniors Tai Trieu, Tiernan Caulfield, and other athletes skip as a warmup before their practice run. ¨It’s been great to have a season in-person because last year we did not have one, and it’s been a great experience to be with the team again,¨ Caulfield said.

Since August, the cross country team has been practicing up to six times a week– after school for two and a half hours, and early Saturday mornings. 

The long hours spent together build a bond within the team. 

 “Everyday is an inspirational moment; everyday we come out and we work hard and we run hard. We´re all there to support each other every step of the way,” senior Tiernan Caulfield said. 

Seniors Tai Trieu and Tiernan Caulfield stretch along the fence preparing after doing multiple workouts. ¨Our first invitation of the season, I got the guys together and we had a pep talk, you know, hyping each other up for the race,¨ Trieu said. ¨It was honestly really great being able to come back to something like that after having so many issues [with COVID-19].¨ (Mariam Abdelsayed)

The team has workouts that balance longer runs around the school and easier runs on the track. They also have workouts that vary based on if they are racing or doing a meet that week. The workouts are interval based and get shorter as a way to make the athletes go faster. In addition, practices may include weight training and motivational visuals. 

In past years, cross country, like any other sport, had a full season, meets, competitions, practices, and training. However, due to the COVID-19 outbreak in the 2020-2021 school year, there wasn’t much of a season for cross country athletes.

“Last year [cross country] was during COVID-19 season, so everything was very different and shorter, and this year has been much longer,” junior Ainhoa Johnson-Diaz said.

At the end of the workouts, junior Ainhoa Johnson-Diaz does one last stretch before a run around the school. ¨I am hoping that next race is the best, because I’ve been training harder these past two weeks since our last one.¨ Johnson-Diaz said (Mariam Abdelsayed)

After the limits imposed on the previous season, such as not being able to train for a long period of time, senior Tai Trieu said they are now able to do it all again. 

 “It’s been nice; it’s been a return to normalcy,” Trieu said.  “It’s better than last season, which was shortened, so we didn’t have that much time to train, but this season, we’ve been able to do a preseason, get actual training, and go to a lot of meets, so it’s been a lot of fun,” Trieu said.

Trieu is looking forward to improving on his pre-COVID times. 

 “My sophomore year I did really well, I got a 19:28 on my 5K, but last year I was struggling a little bit because of COVID-19 and all those situations, so this year I would like to get back to my time and beat it,” Trieu said. 

Another change this season is the increased number of students joining the team. 

“Since I joined the team late, it was great to see so many people on the team — way more than I was expecting,” sophomore Eunice Makassi said.

The return to normalcy does come with its disadvantages. The hardest parts of the sport were “injuries and shin splints,” senior Janinna George said, along with “the mental challenges of staying positive, having a positive mindset during the race.”

Senior Janinna George runs on the track preparing for the next round of runs. ¨I feel like i’ve progressed a lot compared to at the start of the season,¨ George said. (Mariam Abdelsayed)

The athletes’ mindsets matter on and off the track. “With the season getting harder, coach is making sure we stay in check with our grades, our health, and even our eating plans to avoid any holdbacks,” sophomore Ayush Marwaha said.

With mentorship and teamwork, the injuries and challenges don’t keep the athletes away.  “It’s something that we enjoy, it’s something that we all want to do, so we come out and we work hard everyday,” Caulfield said. 

The season is coming to a close for JV and underclassmen, but the varsity athletes continue. The athletes who are in the top ten will continue to regionals, and the last invitational is in Winchester. 

Cross Country athletes walk and stretch around the track, before starting their practice run all together. ¨It’s been really good, especially when you have a stressful day at school, to go, to practice, and then meet your team,¨ Pillai said. ¨All of us are very supportive of one another, no matter how slow or fast you are, it’s still nice to be in a team that’s very inclusive. I think that’s the best part of cross country.” (Mariam Abdelsayed)

The fall season is followed by the indoor track season in the winter and the regular track and field season in the spring. Many of the same student athletes compete in both cross country and track.

¨Even if I have a bad day, cross country makes it better¨ senior Shritha Paillai said.