Cross Country: Running to the finish line

Camri Anderson, Staff Writer

The JHS Cross Country team had its final race Saturday, October, 27; however, the girls’ team did not advance to the State competition. The girls’ team finished 5th place out of 12 teams in their Regional race the previous Saturday, October 20 and made it to Decatur MacArthur Sectional as a team. The boys’ team did not advance, placing 8th out of 12 teams, but some individuals were recognized at the Sectional meet including juniors Christian Solterman and James Miller.  

The Cross Country team had a total of 36 runners this year. The girls finished the regular season with a record of 2-1, while the boys finished their regular season with a record of 4-0. The team only has two meets that are quadrangulars and all the other meets are invitationals. The best invitational that the Cross Country team had was at the Edwardsville Invite; where the girls finished 8th out of 15 teams and the boys finished 7th out of 19 teams. The conference meet determines the team standings in the Central State 8 Conference. Both teams finished in 6th place at the conference meet.

The top finisher for the girls was Jaelyn Whitaker who finished in 59th place out of the 139 runners with a time of 20:32.  Jaelyn is a senior this year and has been running for four years with the JHS Cross Country team but has been running Cross Country for five years. “Cross Country has been a part of my life for five years now. It has become a big part of my life, as part of something I’m committed to now. We’re more than a team, when it comes down to it. We’re a family. Even though only nine runners ran at the Sectional race on Saturday, almost the whole team was there to cheer us on. It’s always amazing to hear someone yell your name during a race. I feel we all ran really well, even for a tough Sectional.”

Christian Soltermann, another Sectional qualifier with a time of 16:57, was the top scoring boy for the team at the Sectional meet. He has bigger and better plans for the next year. “My favorite part of the season was going on long runs and the bus rides. James Miller and I both individually qualified for Sectionals, but neither of us qualified for the State meet. We both plan on working our hardest to make it to the State meet next year.”

James Miller, the other Sectional qualifier, with a run time of 17:00, was eager to get back to the grind and will remember to hydrate before his next race. “Well, I didn’t do my best because I was so dehydrated. I forgot to drink water the night before my race and even that morning. Sectionals was not my best race, but I am ready to improve for next year. Sectionals was fun, even if I didn’t race my best.”

Coach Breck Van Bebber is always looking for new people to add to the “real family atmosphere” that Cross Country brings. “I think there are two things that set cross country apart. The first is that cross country has a real family atmosphere. I think that is partly due to the fact that it’s the only program where the girls and boys are together. It’s a different dynamic and the kids really care about each other. We also have pasta parties most Friday nights prior to Saturday meets which also helps to build the family atmosphere. The other thing that sets cross country apart is the fact that athletes are competing against themselves while at the same time competing against others and for their team. Kids can see their progress because they know how their time compares to how they did the previous meet or on that same course last year. Most other sports’ athletes are just competing against the opponent but not necessarily against themselves.”

The only area needing improvement that Coach Van Bebber sees is the lack of participants on the team due to many leaving in the next two years. “In order to improve for next year, we need to continue to add our numbers. We will lose three seniors from this year’s team, but we will have about twenty seniors on next year’s team, so we need to get a good group of freshman added to the program each of the next two years.”

Adam Schumacher, a senior runner this year and a participant for all four years, loves the community that cross country brings. “I love the community that cross country provides. The people care about you and what’s going on in your life. It’s truly a second family.”

His sister, Abby Schumacher, a junior runner for three years said, “We overcame a lot of adversity this year and still made it to Sectionals, which is a huge accomplishment.”

If you love pasta parties, a loving-family environment, and running, I highly suggest joining Cross Country. Congratulations on an excellent season, Cross Country. You make us all very proud.