What’s the Catch about Cross Country?


Kelsey Purcell, Staff Writer

To many people, running is viewed as uninteresting and some may not even consider it a sport. Other teams run as conditioning or as punishment and work on other skills needed for their sport. But in cross country you put everything you have into running.

Cross country is often times confused with track. Coach Hunkovic, a Victor Cross Country coach says, “a lot of people don’t even know the difference between cross country and track, even some of my colleagues will say ‘how’s track going?’ in the middle of October. I think that our culture pushes more of the ball sports. So I just think that cross country has more of a unique audience.”

As a runner, it’s evident that people don’t know what cross country is. Often, when I tell people that I run cross country, they ask what we actually do. At the high school level, athletes run a 5k, which is about 3.1 miles on marked course, which is usually at a school or park. During practices, we go on different types of runs, complete workouts, hill repeats or interval training, followed by core or lifting. 

Hannah Fields in control at the Midlakes Invitational

Cross country is both an individual and a team sport. Individuals run and improve their own times, but they also contribute to the team. Our team pushes and encourages each other. During workouts and meets, others on the team cheer you on. Compared to other sports, cross country is very different. 

Scoring is distinct in cross country. The first five runners across the finish line for each team get a number that corresponds with what place they came in. Then those points are added up for each team, resulting in a score. The team with the lowest score wins the meet.

Running takes a lot of mental strength. Coach Hunkovick adds, “the cross country runner is unique in that their perseverance and the ability to push themselves for such a long period of time separates them from some of the other sports that are more of a short burst or work really hard and then take a break. There are no breaks in a 5k.” Not only do runners face other opponents during races but they are also battling with themselves to continue on.

But we build mental toughness and fight through the urge to give up. Adam Barbato, a captain on the cross country team says, “It’s only you, there’s nobody to blame but yourself if things don’t go well. So you have all of the control. It’s a hard sport in general. You have to push your body as hard as you can to make the most out of it. Its less tactics and more doing it. In order to be successful during a race, you need to be self-motivated.

Adam Barbato taking charge at Pre-Sectionals

We also have to tackle the elements. During summer training, and at the beginning of the season it’ll be 85 degrees and sunny out. It is extremely hard and uncomfortable to run a hill workout when it is very hot outside, but that it something that cross country runners expect.  

In the middle of the season, around the end of September, the temperature drops and it rains a lot. Races do not get cancelled due to rain, unless there is thunder and lightning. We run through mud and puddles of water in the grass. Sometimes people lose shoes in the mud, which is hard and uncomfortable to run through. We get soaked and socks and shoes are drenched.

 By the end of the season, it can be snowing and 30 degrees outside. We have to be prepared with hats, gloves and extra layers. Races continue through the snow and freezing rain. 

Athletes are ready to face these harsh conditions. Adam uses the weather to his advantage, “I like the change in the weather, everybody else complains about the bad weather, but then if you think, it influences the way their race will go. If they think they won’t do well because of the weather then you have to opportunity to step up.”

Cross country takes a lot of mental and physical strength. Every member of the team contributes to its success. Cross country is a unique sport, but it is a sport nonetheless.