Cross country team comes together by practicing in the off-season


Addie Gleason

During Red and Blue night on August 27 the boys’ Cross country team came together for their first race of the season. Before racing against each other, the team captains divided the teammates into red, white and blue teams. “My teammates definitely motivate me to get better, whether it’s through giving encouragement or making plans to train together,” senior Dawson Ren said. “I’m really glad to have such awesome teammates, and I’ve grown really close to them. Racing with them is another joy, because we can spur each other on during competition.”

Waking up with the sun, athletes on the boys and girls cross country teams unite at 6 a.m. to begin their weekly practices in hopes of improving for the upcoming fall season.

“The thing about running during the offseason is how well it prepares you for the regular season,” senior captain Emma Caplinger said. “Working hard is something you have to choose to do, and you get to see results while getting a really good chance to connect with your team and make sure that they are going to stay committed too.”    

Three days a week, the boys’ team ran on roads or in nearby parks designed to improve endurance and promote better recovery between hard workouts. In the evenings, the boys ran high intensity workouts and lifted in the weight room, sometimes practicing as late as 9:30 p.m. The girls’ team practiced on Tuesday and Thursday mornings at 6 a.m., running both recovery and speed workouts to cover all aspects of training techniques.

“Not practicing at all over the summer is pretty noticeable, and it really lets the team down if you haven’t been doing your part,” senior captain Dawson Ren said. “Obviously, you won’t run as fast if you don’t practice, but when someone does practice you can tell, and that’s my favorite part of coming back from summer.” 

In order to keep track of their activity, the teams created a spreadsheet where everyone would record how many miles they ran over the summer. 

“It’s up to us to log them, and we trust each other to be truthful,” Ren said. “If someone isn’t running as many miles or hasn’t logged for a couple of days, the captains make sure to check on them. I think it’s a great way to keep each other accountable.”

Many athletes put in a lot of effort over the summer, including seniors Jonah Yates, Vincent Malpoker, Ryan Caton, junior Thomas Andersen, sophomore Ben Taylor and Ren who ran more than 500 miles. On the girls’ team, freshman Kennedy Whitaker, sophomore Kate Yates, juniors Emily Sipp and Anna Butler and Caplinger ran more than 200 miles. 

Quinn Berry
Sophomore Kate Yates and junior Emily Sipp compete in time trials Aug. 31.

“There’s definitely a sense of achievement that comes from completing a really tough workout, and a sense of disappointment when you’re not able to meet your goals,” Ren said.  “I think it’s more healthy to get your morale and motivation from inside, however, and not let those setbacks get you down. The mind controls the body, so if you stay positive even during difficulty, you’re destined for great things.”

Boys cross country coach Kevin John incentivized students to run at least 200 miles by offering a float trip as a reward. 

“After completing the 200 miles that summer, the times I was running in races were times that I could only have imagined running as a freshman, and it opened my eyes to the differences that off-season training makes,” Malpoker said. “From there, I was inspired by the major improvements I made and strived to improve even further.”

 Along with building their skills, the teammates also developed long lasting relationships.

“Thinking back on all the miles I have run and all the hours spent with some of my best friends developing great relationships, I feel happy that I chose to do cross country, and I wouldn’t spend my summer in any other way,” Taylor said. “Most of the workouts went really well, which certainly boosted my morale. It was showing me that the extra training I was doing was paying off.” 

Similarly, since the girls’ team has a lot of new faces this year, junior Anna Butler thinks that summer practices were a great chance to continue their success. 

Since our team has so much new depth this year, I’m confident we can be just as good as we were last year,” Butler said.  “We have a lot of potential. For the future of the team, I want the girls to keep consistently working hard and using each other to get better and push each other as a team. The more we are prepared for the season, the better we will compete.”

Ashlyn Gillespie
The girls cross country team gathers in a huddle during Red and Blue Night.

Charlie Cutelli, who is the head coach for the girls’ team, is known for his competitive coaching style and wants to continue the team’s recent success. 

“It has been fun to be able to design and build my own program. I’m feeling confident about the group of girls we have this year. We have a lot of girls that worked hard. We lost some people to graduation that were really talented, but it’s an opportunity for some younger girls to step up to fill the void,” Cutelli said. “We like it when we go to meets and other teams are like, ‘oh great, Parkway West is here,’ so we want to continue that tradition of being competitive.”

All the coaches in the program influenced students’ success at achieving their goals and improving. 

“I couldn’t express how much I appreciate their dedication to the sport. It really makes practice and the entire cross country experience a joy,” Taylor said. “The guidance they provide, the lessons we learn on and off the course and the memories I will keep forever from this sport are priceless.”

Both teams are optimistic for the fall season, and will use their summer training to reach their goals.

“I know both the girls’ team and the boys’ team put in a lot of hard work this summer, and as a team we have a lot of trust in the idea that we do what we do and that will bring us success,” Caplinger said. “I can’t wait to see where this season takes us.”