Freshmen dominate cross country team

Lane Riggs

When the starting gun fires, the girls are looking so far ahead through the shimmering air that they can almost see the finish line.

For freshmen Sara Smith and Alex Pearcy, cross country meets aren’t new experiences, and that can also be said for their team — almost half of which is freshmen, freshmen who have been running in the 3-mile competition since they were freshmen in high school.

With such a young team, the girls said there is a higher level of competition to prove that they are as experienced as others in their event.

The cross country team had its first meet Sept. 5 at the Big Green Soccer Complex in Lawton, Oklahoma against Science and Arts (Okla.). Senior Gabby Ruiz, with a time of 19:25, finished first, only one place ahead of freshman Bridget Reilly. And on Sept. 10, the girls won the Strohman Dental/MSU Stampede run at Lake Wichita Park, finishing with a score of 19.

Smith said she enjoys practicing in the early morning because she is able to jump start the day by training hard in preparation for the first 6K run that is this weekend.

“We get up every morning and work as hard as we can,” Smith said. “We have strength in numbers, and we’re focused on making it past conference to regionals or nationals. It’s important to stay positive.”

While Pearcy said she shares Smith’s dream of Nationals, she does find herself daunted by MSU’s previous record, having won five Lone Star Conference championships.

“MSU has such a good record, and because we’re a young team, people automatically think we will get second at conference,” she said. “We want to prove ourselves to the campus. Freshmen do just as well.”

The environment that the girls set for themselves and the representation of their campus at meets is proof that even though 11 members (eight freshmen, three transfer juniors) of the team are new to MSU, their goal is one and the same.

“I’ve never been a part of a positive team before,” Reilly said. “We’re already like sisters. It’s nice to have someone cheering and racing against you at the same time.”

Junior Brandi Hobson, a transfer student from Hartnell College in California, who has been running all her life, agrees that the close-knit team helps to pick up each other up and provides encouragement to those new members to try harder at every practice and meet.

“We want to get better together. I’m chasing Bridget around during practice because she’s faster than me,” Hobson said. “We want other students to witness this too, we want people to know that we’re just as serious as football and basketball players.”

The cross country team gets its fair share of attention, too.

Coach Koby Styles said he believes that the positivity coming from the students on campus rallies the mindset of the team to win.

“There’s a level of expectations year in and year out, and that’s to win,” Styles said. “We’re MSU and we expect to win.”

The team has just that in mind for the run this weekend. Although Hobson and the freshmen girls are nervous since this is their first 6K run, there is still an energetic and supportive environment during practice.

“The group team chemistry is truly remarkable. Being able to have each other’s backs is worth more than any hard workout I could give them,” Styles said. “That’s what’s important in the middle of the race, when things are getting tough.”

The team is forming relationships with each other during races and practice, and even though every new member has a different personality, the team is prospering since every girl has something different to bring to the table.

“Everyone is so outgoing, but we’ve meshed as a team,” Senior Brittany Adams said. “This weekend is the first race where the whole team gets to race, with real competition, and I think that with every race, there will be different top runners. We’ll be a super team.”

The team’s next meet is Sept. 19 in Canyon, Texas at the West Texas A&M Invitational.