Sequoyah cross country team members. (Barefoot Times staff)

Sequoyah High School’s cross country team finished their season with two Saturday meets. Tenth-grader Jean-Luc Lesaca, a second-year veteran, reflected on his experience, saying, “Cross country takes lots of pushing past your limit on a daily basis, so your body will be in major pain until you adjust.”

Another veteran runner, tenth-grader Harper McDowell, who in addition to the Sequoyah team participates on a private team as well, also felt the challenge this year, as he worked to correct errors in his technique, which had saddled him with knee injuries. “The more you push yourself at a steady pace,” he said, the more you “learn to take care of yourself, adjust, and normalize the fact that you will feel tired.” Despite the growing pains, both runners say they have enjoyed the sport.

The cross country team is led by coach Candice Richter, who did cross country in junior high, high school, and college. Richter attributes the difficulty of the sport not only to the “long distance,” but also the “terrain.” She said, “cross country is challenging physically and mentally,” but notes that both attitudes and performance have improved, on the team.

Lesaca also said there has been a large improvement since last year because there are more people on the team and more diversity. This year saw the addition of girls to the team.

The team’s work has resulted in more external signs of success this year as well. The team brought home multiple medals from the meets, and every member in cross country beat their personal records or goals set for them by Coach Richter.

For Lesaca, though, the major improvement has been in increased “team connection.” Coach Richter agreed, adding, “the coolest thing about cross country is how close our bonds within our team have gotten.” Richter’s goal for the cross country team was for the runners to leave with a closer group of friends and for them to be able to see that hard work truly pays off. “Cross country is not just fun and games,” she said. It is also “strict” and “based on our learning to respect authority, each other, and ourselves.”

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