Friendship takes first place


Sarah Nash

art by Sarah Nash

Ryleigh Palmer, features writer

She sprints across the finish line and although she is tired, makes it to the end of the first cross-country race of the 2018 season. Olivia Matthews, sophomore, finishes strong, and gladly accepts praise from a couple teammates who had already completed the race. Out of breath, she goes to meet the team manager and junior, Anna Smith. Smith brings Matthews a water and congratulates her on her accomplishment.

Matthews joined the cross-country team as a freshman during the 2017 season and will continue to run through her sophomore year. She met Smith in elementary school, but they said they grew closer during Matthews’ first year on the team because of daily practices.

“If it wasn’t for cross-country [Anna and I] wouldn’t have even started talking,” Matthews said. “Cross-country holds [our friendship] together.”

According to Matthews, she has found herself making friends she never would have expected to make. Her cross-country friendships have pushed her to run more often and enjoy the sport more.

“Cross-country makes me try my best because I feel like I need to uphold the standards of my team,” Matthews said. “It’s a great group of girls, and I don’t want to let them down.”

Matthews team inspires her to be the best she can. She feels as though the team pushes her to succeed not only in races, but in her daily life.

“A benefit of [cross-country] is the friendships from the team,” Smith said. “My freshman year I started in the lowest group, then I moved up. I met so many people because I was moving through [the different groups].”

Smith balances schoolwork and managing the cross-country team throughout the school year. She keeps times for runners, drives around with the coaches to make sure girls don’t get lost on the routes and makes sure girls are doing what they are supposed to be doing during practices.

“I was on the [cross-country] team freshman year, then sophomore year I was swimming a ton and I couldn’t fit it in my schedule to run and swim,” Smith said. “Now I’m still a part of the [cross-country] team by managing this year.”

Katie Rudolph, junior, has no trouble balancing friendships and cross-country. She has gotten a lot closer with her teammates through the sport, and plans on continuing to run through high school. Rudolph also finds running with friends to be helpful in encouraging her to try her best, and finds that the unity of the team pushes her to be a faster, more motivated runner.  Her friendships on the team positively affect her running.

“In the end, you want to make each other better runners,” Rudolph said.  “You want to beat your times and run faster.”