A Fresh Start To A Season

Niya Brandon pushing it for her last lap on the new rubber track.

Liam Christianson

Niya Brandon pushing it for her last lap on the new rubber track.

With the kick off of a new season, Conifer High School has begun to get into the Cross Country program for the pandemic year of 2020. 

“I know that Cross Country could be over at any moment, because if one person gets Covid-19 that would be over for Cross Country. We’re trying to enjoy every race we get, and when school opens that could be a big risk for the team,” senior Topi Alahuhta said.

Alahuhta has been running most of the summer and believes that this year could be a good year for the team if they don’t take any unnecessary risks. 

“I know that there are some girls that are freaking out about the whole pandemic and how everything feels off, because now we can’t meet at anyone’s house any more and we can’t meet as much as we did last year. Even though with all this pressure going around the team we are already bonding again so fast and it feels like the Cross Country that I’ve known over the years,” senior Niya Brandon said.

With the end of the boys race sophomore Patrick Doty placed third in the race, and was only behind some of the top racers who have been on the team for years.                                       

“This race went really well. I got 17 minutes this first race, and for my first race this year it’s a really good time,” Doty said.

Even though the cross country team had gotten no notice that the course changed due to COVID-19 not allowing big meets, Patrick made a fantastic P.R. for his second race of the season.

“Where I can improve on is my tempo, it’s a little slower and mentally I’m a little weak, but once I break that barrier I will be able to correct everything,” he said.

During the start of the downhill meet on August 28 at Conifer High, 8-12 of the leading varsity runners took a wrong turn, which forced them to run back up a difficult hill on the course.

Audrey Vanwestrienen, who is starting her first year on the team as a Freshman placed highly in the race.

“For my second race of the season I thought I did really well. I know that we had to go down and back up the hill which was annoying, but for what happened I think it didn’t affect my performance as much,” Vanwestrienen. 

Brain Stotts set up the Cross Country meet at Conifer and the original track for the players. Stotts is also a teacher at Conifer High School who teaches English Language Arts.

“I mean, it’s just a lot of smaller meets. There will probably be slower courses this year because we’re not going to do big mega meets because of this whole thing going on. I think those will be the two main things that are affected this year,” Stotts said. “It’s more work to be a coach this year because I have to do most of the planning of the races myself and do all this stuff I normally wouldn’t have to do.”

During the summer while COVID-19 was becoming a bigger issue, the star player of the boy’s Cross Country team, Zack Gacnik, was injured.

“In my foot I had stress reactions, and now it’s just an overuse injury that I applied to myself. I had been running a lot of miles the past six months, my body just couldn’t take it anymore,” Gacnick said, “To get back in shape for track I have been upper body lifting and also using a stationary bike to get some of the run mojo back.”

Even though Zack Gacnik is out for the count this year in cross country, it isn’t going to stop him from his top real passion. Running.

“Everyone’s got to run it like it’s their last because you know it can be taken away like that, so yeah you just got to live in the moment and take what you get and run every race like it’s your last one,” Gacnik said.