Varsity Cross Country performs strong at first seasonal meet

Sarah Sheikh, Editor


    Their day starts at 6 in the morning: aching legs, shortness of breath, an adrenaline high, and satisfaction. You probably see them at school completely casual about their morning, but just a few hours earlier they were running past roads, neighborhoods, schools, shopping plazas and whatever else one may find. Seniors Alan Elbanna and Rich Saenz, and sophomores Sophie Atkinson and Heidi Nielson continued this routine throughout the summer, landing them impressive times in their first 2018 – 2019 seasonal meet.

    These athletes participated in a relay which resulted in all four runners receiving medals for their accomplishments. The pairs led their teams in the relay, trading off runners between each mile.

  “Our teamwork was evident in this event,” Saenz said. “We each ran a mile while the other rested, and kept it going strong until the race was over.”

   This event was just a highlight for the beginning of this season. These athletes are hard workers all year around since they compete in both cross country and track.

  “We’re up every morning at 6 a.m. and it can be draining, but I always tell myself that I can be improving,” Atkinson said. “This really motivates me to think strategically about my runs, so I can make sure I’m doing everything possible to get better. It’s really the little details that add up to a great run.”

   Three out of four of the athletes have been running since their early secondary school years, but Elbanna’s talent stands out as his journey for competitive running began much later in high school, and resulted in immense progress.

   “I started out my athletic career in basketball, but when that didn’t work out, track and cross country were where I began to concentrate my focus,” Elbanna said. “Coach Beasley had just come up to me one day letting me know he saw potential in my long distance times. I tried it out and have been doing it ever since.”

    Although the majority of these athletes started out with the pursuit of another sport, Neilson pursued every sport in junior high. That is until high school guided her to her passion for running.

   “I played basketball, volleyball, soccer, and track in junior high,” Neilson said. “I was serious about basketball. I played for Katy Youth Basketball until my freshmen year, but soon chose to concentrate on cross country and track instead.”

    Elbanna and Saenz share many similarities leading up to their standing today. The most prominent one being a record mile time of 4:22, and traditional school experiences with running in the past. They both topped the bull dog and coyote mile, respectively for Beck Junior High and Cinco Ranch Junior High, with record breaking timings for their age group. Their success has been self evident from the start.

    All of the runners talked about how long distance running is very challenging, so mastering it from a competitive sports standpoint holds value. All four athletes hold a spot on Varsity this year, but for Atkinson and Saenz, obstacles have hindered their previous stamina. Recently, freshmen Atkinson and former sophomore Saenz both broke their toe while running and had to come back into the season stronger in order to make up for lost time.

    “When running, it’s really easy to lose progress, even for a day,” Atkinson said. “Even though I got to compete in regionals, I was out for eight weeks. I have to work even harder to get back to where I was.”

Saenz had a similar outcome his sophomore year when he had to sit out the whole season due to his injury.

    “It felt terrible,” Saenz said. “I watched all of my friends practice and get better, while I could do nothing about my diminishing progress. I had to hold on to the thought that I would try my hardest to regain my stamina and reclaim my position on varsity for the next season.”

    Being focused is a major part of their running. Knowing where to be at what time is crucial to keep on pace. Even though they use running as an outlet, on meets and districts, they say the focus is directed at themselves alone.

   “I’m very competitive, and to maintain my focus, I know exactly what I have to do,” Elbanna said. “On meets I control my feelings because I need to remain steady. That means not getting over excited or discouraged. My attention is on one thing only and that is knowing where I have to be and what I have to accomplish.”

    For this group, families and coaches stand out as their main supporters.

    “My dad is the one who got me started on running,” Neilson said. “He’s my number one motivator. He always gets into my runs, and knows my workouts well so can tell what I’m doing.”

    As these students propel through their last years of highschool, they begin thinking of the future.

    “It’s definitely a possibility to run in college,” Elbanna says. “I love running, but don’t plan on making it a lifelong pursuit. I will always want to be capable to run. I consider it a blessing to be able to do so now, and for the future it’s a great way to stay in shape.”

    Running cross country and track is a serious commitment, but these athletes are definitely driven by success and improvement to fulfill their responsibilities to the team and their own personal goals.

    “Coach says a lot of interesting things,” Saenz said. “The one time that stands out to me is ‘If you feel good run great. If you feel great run really great’.”