No exclusions


photo courtesy of Malcolm Slaney

Runners on the girls’ varsity cross country team pose with coach Paul Jones. There are 52 athletes on the roster and many of them have a passion for running.

Hayley Poore and Reuben Kramer

Many people play a sport for one reason: they fall in love with the game.  Cross country, however, attracts runners for a variety of reasons.  While some do it because they enjoy running and want to stay in shape, others do it for the sole purpose of getting a prep.

Cross country does not require a person to have been running for years in order to be on the team, and it helps people stay in shape for other sports they are more committed to.

“I do cross country to stay in shape for other sports and improve my performance for specific areas that cross over between sports, such as stamina,” Tanner Newell (`17) wrote in an email to The Viking, along with all others quoted in this article.

Although everyone on the team is pushed to work hard, the ones who are training for another sport have even more motivation to put in effort.

“On the team, no matter who you are, you are constantly pushed to go farther and train harder…” Newell wrote. “Having a sport to train [for] improves your performance.”

Many see progress, and some people even develop a new passion for running after joining the team.

“This is actually my first season of cross country,” Maddie Feldmeier (‘17) wrote. “Last year I started track which is when I discovered my interest in running. I had a really fun season but wanted more diversity in my runs because running around the track got pretty boring.”

Many people also do cross country because it allows them to meet new people and socialize while doing something they love.

“It’s cool to hear people’s different views on cross country and work with so many people with different lives and personalities, but the majority of us do it because we love running and want to fill our free time with something that we love doing,” Natalie Maloney (`17) wrote. “Also, it’s really fun to be on a Paly sports team where you can converse and meet new people from all grades as well as spend time with your friends.”

Since freshmen and sophomores are forced to participate in physical education (P.E.) class unless they are on a Paly sports team, some underclassmen join the cross country team just to get out of P.E. The girls’ coach, Paul Jones, however, makes it clear that he expects everyone to work hard no matter their reason for joining the team.

“No one joins the team and advertises [getting a prep] is their reason for joining,” Jones wrote. “At our early practices and at our parent meeting at the beginning of the season, I emphasize that although it is a no-cut sport, improvement and competition is expected from all team members.”

Jones makes it clear that if an underclassman runner who is getting out of P.E. for being on the team does not show up for practices and meets, he will send them back to class.

“If they are getting P.E. credit, I let them know that missing [events] is going to lower their grade and limit their chances of getting P.E. credit for the semester,” Jones wrote. “I send them back to P.E. to avoid those issues.”

Every year there are people that try to get out of P.E. by joining the cross country team with the intention of not showing up. This year was no exception.

“Last year I sent back a half dozen or so,” Jones wrote.” “This year will be about the same.”

With the threat of being sent back to P.E., some underclassmen on the team refuse to share their reasons for joining the team.  Several underclassmen contacted about their reason for joining the team declined to be interviewed.

With a number of runners on the team not putting in their full effort, some of the more competitive and serious runners get irritated.

“Sometimes it gets annoying and quite discouraging that these people don’t put any effort into practice, and I feel that it’s a bit disrespectful to the people who work hard to run well,” Portia Barrientos (`16) wrote.

Others, however, that first joined the team to get a prep, ended up enjoying running and making it their primary sport.

“Freshman year I did cross country because I wanted to get a prep,” Barrientos wrote. “I discovered that I was decent at it and the captains were really sweet people and managed to get me really invested in the sport, which is why I continued to do it.”

Most runners enjoy being on such a diverse team because it brings people together that would otherwise not be friends.

“The captains and other runners have put a lot of time into doing things to unify our team, such as making t-shirts and organizing secret buddies,” Barrientos wrote. “Overall the diversity of people on the team is really rewarding because every year I meet people that I never would have talked to if I didn’t do cross country.”

Even with some students trying to beat the system by signing up for cross country to get out of P.E., Jones still thinks that the current policy works well.

“It is easy to contact the parents, runners and P.E. teachers regarding missed practices,” Jones wrote. “Generally there is a period at the beginning of the season before preps are earned where non-participation can be observed and students do not go on the list of those to be excused.”

With this policy in place, Jones believes that cross country should remain a no-cut sport to allow new runners to try it out and maybe find a new passion.

“I have had a large number of casual runners who have tried out and found that it works for them,” Jones wrote. “We have an alumni-run at Christmas break where past runners come to run for fun or fame. Several of them started as casual runners who have adopted running as part of their lifestyle.”

Overall, the majority of the runners put in the effort and have fun being on the team.

“I really enjoy running and like the challenge that each race presents,” Feldmeier wrote. “It has been a great way to meet new people and and learn to be mentally tough, especially during races.”

Even though the runners on the team all have different reasons for participating, they almost all have fun and gain something from being on the team.