Twice-Told Tale

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Twice-Told Tale

Cross Country Sets the Pace

Eva Tenghoff
(Above, left to right) Part of the Lake Highland Varsity Girls’ Cross Country team: Sadie D’Andrea, Kate Buckley, Frances Yong, Serena Young, Sofia Tenghoff, Simoni Kyriakou, Emma Larson, Kolbe Madden, and Annabella Tomasic. They are about to begin their race at the Cecil Field Classic in Jacksonville, Florida. Behind them are the tents of the other cross country teams at the meet. The Varsity race began at 6:15, and the Elite race began at 7:15.

This fall, LHP’s Cross Country team is getting ready for a great and perhaps unusual season. Practices started on July 31, 2023, giving runners nearly a month to prepare for the first meet on August 25 at the Cecil Field Classic in Jacksonville, with both the boys’ and girls’ teams competing. The race is an invitational and will begin at 4:00 P.M. However, this season, the Girls’ Cross Country Team has many more new freshmen than usual. When the Varsity Head Coach of the Girls’ Cross Country Team, Mr. Gerard Spring, was asked about new Freshman members, he said, “Eight so far” have joined the team. The introduction of so many new runners is intriguing given the fact that last season there was only one Freshman on the girls’ team. In comparison, the boys’ team only has two Freshmen this year.

It is important to note that many of these athletes are new to Junior Varsity Cross Country. Lake Highland’s Middle School Cross Country Team only practices three days a week, whereas Junior Varsity practices five to six days a week, with more vigorous and demanding runs. Varsity Cross Country runner Kate Buckley, grade 11, said, “We start [practice] at about 6:30 A.M. to beat the heat and then run for about 45 minutes to an hour depending on how far we go. Our runs can range from three to eight miles depending on the day.” For former Middle School runners, some of whom may soon be moved to the varsity team, this new schedule and practice schedule will likely be very demanding. However, these new runners will have the expert coaching of Coach Spring and the Lake Highland athletic trainers to help them. The athletic trainers are located near the Holloway Track, making them easily accessible to runners who get injured or suspect an injury. With good coaching and trainers to support them, the new runners will be gradually introduced to this new level of training without much difficulty.

Attendances to practice also signify a promising start to the season. Many of the Freshman girls have been showing up to 6:30. A.M. practices since July 31. Even those who did not begin so early have stayed very committed to their sport, with most showing up to practices consistently, indicating a determined and optimistic mindset. It can be inferred that the Freshman runners on the boys’ team will adapt in the same way, although they may receive more individualistic coaching due to the lower number of new athletes to an advanced team. According to Kai Meffe, grade 11, a Varsity Boys’ Cross Country runner, “Sometimes [they] do 6-10 miles or run mile repeats or 5-mile tempo runs,” during practice. This level of training, although highly intense, is typical for LHP’s cross country runners, who have a history of doing well and ranking highly at district meets.

This season’s district meet will occur at Wickham Park on November 2, against dozens of other schools. If the runners do well enough at the meet, they will qualify for regionals on November 9, and then the State Championship on November 17. The State Championship will take place at Apalachee Regional Park, closing off the 2023 Cross Country season. If Lake Highland makes it to the State Championship, it will reflect very well on the school’s overall athletic record. Last season, the Girls’ Cross Country team ranked, “24 in the state, 3 in the district, and 5 in the region,” according to Coach Spring. When asked about his expectations for the team this season, he said that he hopes, “To win district and region and qualify for the state meet.”

He is not alone in this hope. Buckley said, “This year our team is full of really dedicated girls who really enjoy running. I am super excited to see how the season goes with all of the new runners.” She also says she, “Wants to compete in States this year,” and that her personal record for the 5k is, “23:09.” Runner Kai Meffe said his personal record for the 5k is, “16:52,” but that, “[His] personal goal this season is to break 16 minutes in a 5k.” With this level of optimism and such fast running speeds, Lake Highland’s Cross Country teams are more likely than ever to accomplish their goals and qualify for the State Meet this season.

Another asset that may increase Lake Highland’s chances of reaching its goals this season is new varsity runner Annabella Tomasic, grade 7. She is widely known in the running community in and around Lake Highland for her incredible speed at a young age and has had the honor of being sponsored by Track Shack, a running-shoe store, in the past. During the 2023 Track and Field season, she ran 1600 meters in 5 minutes and 10 seconds, and Coach Spring says he is looking forward, “To see our new 7th grader Anabella Tomasic run in varsity meets.”

However, it isn’t just times and rankings that the team is excited about this year. Cross country practices are intense and demanding, but having a kind, supportive team to run with can make practices much more enjoyable. Varsity Girls’ Cross Country runner Serena Young, grade 12, said, “I joined Cross Country mainly to keep active. But then in doing so, I discovered the wonderful group of girls who make up the team. I’m super grateful to run with such supportive and fun people.” Kai Meffe said he is, “Looking forward to racing with my teammates and hype post-race bus rides.” Often times, runners ride Lake Highland school buses to and from Cross Country meets, and when the meets go well, runners often have a great time bonding with their teammates on the bus ride back home. 

It is evident that although Cross Country is a difficult and competitive sport, Lake Highland has a friendly and supportive team. They have had spectacular seasons in past years, and will no doubt have a wonderful season again.  With a notable distribution of Freshmen, Sophomores, Juniors, and Seniors on the team, along with such a cooperative and optimistic mindset from both the runners and the coaches, the team is ready to run fast and work together to achieve their goals for the 2023 Cross Country season.

(Above) [From left to right] Serena Young, Emma Larson, and Sadie D’Andrea on the Lake Highland school bus. They are currently on their way to the Cecil Field Classic Cross Country meet in Jacksonville. They were dismissed from school early so that they would have time for the three-hour bus ride from Orlando to Jacksonville. This race took place on Friday, August 25. (Sofia Tenghoff)
(Above) Varsity Girls’ Cross Country Runners from various schools in Florida line up at the starting line for the Cecil Field race in Jacksonville. They lined up ten minutes before the start of the race at 6:15, after which they ran 5 kilometers to the finish line. Hundreds of runners were in the race, and hundreds of people cheered them on from the side. Schools in this race included Trinity Prep, Bishop Moore, and Lake Highland Preparatory School. (Sofia Tenghoff)
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About the Contributor
Sofia Tenghoff
Sofia Tenghoff is a staff member of Lake Highland Preparatory School's Upper School newspaper Twice-Told Tale. She is also a staff member of the school's literary magazine By Any Other Name. Tenghoff's favorite hobby is creative writing, and she has published a personal essay in Teen Ink and won the Middle School First Page Story Contest in grade 8. She is now a Junior in high school. When Tenghoff isn't writing, she enjoys running, reading, drawing, and computer programming.

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