Freshmen Rise in the Ranks

Bela Torres

Following the departure of the second fastest girl of all time, the cross country team suffered a big loss. However, when the incoming freshmen arrived, it did not take long for them to prove that they had strong potential.

The girls’ head coach of 28 years, Jay Johnson, notes that this year’s group of six girls is the best freshman team he has ever coached. He has worked with them since middle school and continues to notice their improvements.

“Most of these girls were in the Snow Dog Program for two years in middle school. We met as a group all spring when track was cancelled to train everyday. This group of girls surprise me all the time, and they are still getting better every day,” said Johnson.

With the freshman girls comprising six out of seven spots on varsity, the team make-up is much different from previous years. The upperclassmen that run with the freshman, including junior Lauren Jermain, notice their persistence and are inspired by their hard work.

“Being on a team with freshmen seems like it would be weird and different, but we don’t really think of it that way. We’re all friends and we all work together like a team. I admire them and how hard they work to get better everyday. I get motivated by the freshman to keep pushing myself,” said Jermain.

Before coming into their first year of high school cross country, the freshman had previous experience running together. By having each other to lean on, they are able to accomplish their goals and hold each other accountable, while still making practices enjoyable. Freshman Isabel Chatfield, one of the triplets on the team, is glad to have a strong freshman group.

“It feels nice that there’s a big freshman group because we are really close with each other and we have been running together for a while. We run together everyday and make it fun. We have a lot of inside jokes,” said Chatfield.

Coach Johnson notices how close the freshmen girls are. Their bond provides them with the confidence that they can keep up with each other in races and during training.

“This group tries to do as much as possible with each other all of the time. Half of them are sisters, and the others act like they are sisters. The stronger ones encourage the others to stay in the group. When we do speed work, they try to stay side by side which is causing them all to get stronger,” said Johnson.

With the consistent training, the team has already improved from previous seasons. The team has a lot of depth within the top ten runners, which is a strength in cross country. The depth causes competition for a spot on varsity and faster times for the individual runners.

“This year’s varsity team is a lot faster than last years’. We have lots of very talented girls competing to get the next spot. We have to perform well or the next girls could take your place on varsity because we are all so close in time,” said Jermain.

Even with the tough competition, freshman Isabel Chatfield has found herself holding the fifth spot on varsity. Chatfield is surprised by her placement and handles the pressure in a positive manner.
“I was shocked about my placement on the team. I just relax and don’t think about the pressure,” said Chatfield.

As first year runners for high school, the freshmen notice a lot of differences from middle school cross country.

“I expected high school cross country to be a lot different because you get to travel and compete more, and the races and practices are longer,” said Chatfield.

The long practices and tough competition has caused the girls to be the top ranking freshman team in the state. Johnson sees this title as a major accomplishment for the freshmen, complimenting their training and race day efforts. Johnson expects a lot of success for the future of the team.

“I have high hopes for this group. I can see their freshman success causing them to work really hard in the off season, meaning that Ray-Pec is going to be a hard team to beat in the next three years,” said Johnson.

The freshman girls have already made their mark on the school’s cross country team. As they continue to work together and push each other, the future of the team looks to be a bright one.