Although this is the first year that LASA has had split athletic departments from LBJ and COVID-19 posed changes throughout the season, the girls cross country team has pulled through to win the UIL Region 3-5A championships as a team and qualify for the state meet.
Senior and girls varsity captain Abby Goff believes that through the tumultuous season, the girls found confidence in each other which allowed them to stay focused and committed. According to Goff, the team also found comfort and stability in being able to run with the team everyday.
“We still work very hard as a team, which is what the sport is about,” Goff said. “There is a slightly strained social aspect because of the pandemic, obviously, but we work well together and have gotten ourselves far. I’m grateful we got to run this year.”
The threat of COVID-19 and rising cases over the summer presented the question of whether the cross country season would be held at all. After that, the question became how to train and race together safely, a concern which has evolved over the season.
“I remember in the summer, all the seniors were really worried because we knew that this would be our last season, and if it was cancelled, that would’ve been very sad,” Goff said. “I believe UIL finally said we were good to go, and then we were worried about how to keep everyone as safe as possible and make sure we followed every guideline AISD and the CDC recommended.”
According to senior and boys varsity captain Philip Metcalf, not only did COVID-19 force the team to be more cautious, it also caused a great deal of uncertainty in practices and races during the season. According to him, with cases rising daily and new information discovered constantly, races became a constantly-changing playing field.
“This year, specifically, there was just that added stress of if something goes wrong at any time, they could just shut us down, and everything could end,” Metcalf said.
According to Metcalf, the constant changes that brought instability made for some mental challenges that the athletes had to grapple with along with their hard training. The runners agree that it was difficult to balance training hard and training safe.
“We’re training hard basically every day in the morning, which we always do, so there’s obviously the physical and athletic side of it, but just this year, trying to balance training well and training safely was really hard to do,” Metcalf said. “You’re always trying to chase the person in front of you, but this year we were trying to distance ourselves from each other. It’s really hard to do sometimes.”
The team has worked very hard to follow COVID-19 guidelines and stay as safe as possible. Freshman and girls varsity runner Sheridan Wallace has come into a season where everything has to be thought over several times to properly address safety precautions.
“We have to wear masks, obviously, when we’re running or just standing around,” Wallace said. “When we get to practice, we have a screening where we fill out the AISD health form, and our coach takes our temperature with an electric thermometer. We also socially distance as much as we can when we run.”
According to Metcalf, the girls team, specifically, was more dedicated than ever amongst the many changes to the season. Outside of school practices, the girls run an additional 4-5 days a week with the Born To Run track club under coach Paul Carrozza.
“The dedication is really there on the girls team, and I mean on the guys team as well, but you can see it more on the girls, who just won region,” Metcalf said. “They all just really committed to taking it really seriously, which is awesome.”
After winning regionals on Nov. 9, the girls cross country team ran the state meet on Nov. 23. This comes after the team also qualified for state last year by placing third at the regional meet.
“Our girls team last year really set themselves up to be really successful this year,” Metcalf said. “We could tell last year because they went to state last year as well, so we knew going into the season this was gonna be a big one for them, where it all came together. It’s really cool that it has.”
The girls team has been training hard 6-7 days a week since March for the cross country season after pivoting from track when the outdoor track season was cancelled last spring. Goff said meet postponements at the beginning of the cross country season and lack of a track season created an unusually long cross country season that tested each athlete’s mental and physical stamina.
“The season started early,” Goff said. “Corona pushed back the start of school, so we had been training in the summer, and it got more intense then, and we have been training basically six days a week at least since early August.”
The whole girls varsity team and the majority of the boys varsity team began training with the Born to Run track club in 2018. Since then, workouts have intensified, mileage has increased and dedication has only built up.
“We changed the way we train a couple of years ago, and I think we are really seeing the payoff of that now,” Goff said.
According to Goff, having an outside club team to practice with and another coach to rely on is what pushed the girls team to another level this year. Both Goff and Metcalf agree: it’s one thing to train two times a week at LASA over the fall, but to come together and dedicate almost every morning for more than six months is what helped the team win regionals and advance to state.
“For the team as a whole, we meet two days a week and train in the morning from 6:30 to 7:30, but with the club, we do workouts six or seven days a week and work really hard,” Metcalf said. “I think that a lot of the actual improvement came from really taking it seriously on our own time.”