Niles explains why this season, in particular, his teammates are playing with urgency and hustle.
By Alina Irvine '21
When I joined Pingry cross country my freshman year, I immediately grew fond of the team. I always love to tell the story of how I fractured my foot during my last race freshman year because I think it reveals the commitment I have to "PGXC." When I fractured my foot, I experienced the worst shooting pain imaginable. However, with still about half of our Meet of Champions race left, I continued to run. When I finished the race, my dad and brother carried me away from the finish line, and I did not walk for another three weeks. While I personally had nothing to gain from running until I literally could not run anymore, I felt that I needed to finish that race for my team. We qualified as a team, and I wanted us to finish as a team.
That was my first season with Pingry, and my commitment to running and the team has only grown since then. While I'm not encouraging my teammates to run with fractured bones, I want to inspire the same commitment to PGXC that I have in my teammates.
Sparking this commitment in my teammates begins with developing a team bond. Last year, as Coach Grant told me, was the closest the team has been, and we accomplished that by passing down team traditions, along with creating new bonding activities. Some of our pre-race traditions include touching everyone's nose on the starting line. While at first it may seem a little weird to bop your teammate on the nose, this tradition is meant to spiritually connect the team before a race.
In addition, along with many other sports teams, PGXC participates in "Secret Psych." Each girl is assigned a teammate that she will write letters to and give snacks to before each race. While getting candy is quite exciting, each runner finds the letter to be the most important part. Some words of encouragement go a long way as they help everyone get "psyched" for the race, while also calming some nerves.
Another important tradition is Halloween! Every year, the team dresses up in a group costume (last year we were hippies), and in lieu of practice, we go trick-or-treating. It is so important for the team to bond outside of the running environment, and I feel that trick-or-treating does exactly that. The team gets the chance to laugh together as we indulge in far too much chocolate.
Apart from these PGXC traditions, last year, we introduced additional team bonding activities. My personal favorite was our trip to Rhode Island. The trip each way is about seven hours, so we got to spend a lot of time together. On the bus, we filmed team Tik Toks together, where we would dance to short music videos. I can fondly remember laughing and smiling with the team for all 14 hours of our bus ride.
With all of these team bonding activities, I am saddened that most of these activities will not happen due to COVID-19. We can't touch each other's noses, give each other food, go trick-or-treating, or travel to Rhode Island. This is the challenge that a pandemic presents. How will the team bond if we can't do these activities? The other PGXC captain, Molly Parker '22, and I are challenged to come up with new and safe ways for the team to bond. For starters, we are having conversations with every girl on the team to get to know who they are and what they are passionate about. We are also coming up with a Secret Psych alternative, where we will send emails to each other with the same, encouraging messages as before.
This year, our preseason and regular season have been shortened. During preseason, we were not allowed to hold official captain's practices, which, in the past, were great for training and for getting to know new runners. We would normally go out to lunch together or go swimming for some post-practice fun. All of these activities were curtailed due the pandemic. Also, due to state guidelines, the team had a mandatory two-week break prior to the start of the school year, disrupting our training and team bonding. In addition, many of our exciting invitational meets have been cancelled.
Nonetheless, my goal for the team is that everyone can see an improvement in their personal times. It is also my goal to foster a team environment in which everyone supports each other. While it is always important to strive for individual success, nothing is more exciting than when a teammate runs a blazing fast race. One runner's success is inspirational to the rest of the team because it shows what hard work and determination can do. It is an honor for me to be leading this team, and I am optimistic that the team this year will finish strong, especially in spirit.
Photo: Alina (center) warming up for the team's first dual meet of the season against Bernards on October 1.
Contact: Andrea Dawson, Senior Writer, email@example.com