Beginning with the sharp shriek of a megaphone, cross country runners launched into the collegiate 2016 cross country season on Saturday, September 3. With hundreds of practice miles behind them, the Union University cross country team competed against both private and public universities, exemplifying both humble confidence and endurance. Before the start of the season, head coach Gary Johnson was very confident about readiness of his athletes, and expected this season to be a success.
“Both teams look to be stronger than last year,” Johnson said. “We have some returning runners who have worked really hard since last Spring to be ready to contribute more to our success. We also have some great freshmen runners that should be able to compete for scoring positions immediately.”
Over the summer, Johnson encouraged the Union Cross Country team to run, gradually increasing the number of miles each week in order to prepare for the upcoming season. Training as a team began the day after all athletes moved on campus. Alex Russell, sophomore digital media communications major, described how cross country practice occurs.
“We have practice Monday through Friday at 5 a.m. On these days, we run as a team,” Russell said, “but the distances vary by the day. When we are working on endurance, we run seven to eight miles. On other days we focus on speed by performing different exercises.”
As a result of the extensive training, the cross country team is well prepared for their meets. Amy McKelvey, junior elementary education major echoed this sentiment.
“If you look at the times from today, we are off to a phenomenal start to our season” McKelvey said after the Memphis Twilight Classic on Saturday. The Lady Bulldogs finished tenth out of 25 teams and the men finished eighteenth out of 25. Most of the returning Lady Bulldogs had a faster time this year than they did at the same race last season.
In addition to anticipating a year of excellent athletic exploits, the team draws closer to each other.
“Through the early morning practices and intense physical exertion, we, as a team, have bonded with one another” Sarah Fickley, junior accounting major, said. “We have five new girls this year and I am quickly becoming close with them.”
Union’s team initiated the 2016 season with success and expects to continue to maintain that trend as the year progresses.