Varsity Cross Country’s hard work pays off at Regis Invitational

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James Zaidman, Staff Writer

Last Saturday, 10 runners from the Boys and seven runners from the Girls Varsity Cross Country teams competed in the Regis Invitational, a cross country race at Van Cortlandt Park. The events consisted of 1.5-mile races for freshmen and 2.5-mile races for sophomores, juniors, and seniors.

Physical Education Teacher and Boys Varsity Cross Country Coach Jonathan Eshoo was happy with the results since two of his runners placed highly in their respective races: Spencer Kim (11) won first in the junior race and Sebastian Baxter (9) won second in the freshmen race.

The teams prepared in the week leading up to the race so they felt confident and ready, Jake Ziman (12) said. They worked in interval training in the Van Cortlandt Park flats, hill repeats, and weight training. On Friday, the teams completed a long, relaxed run at practice to loosen up before the meet.

All of the athletes made their own way to the park on Saturday and warmed up with dynamic stretches, which they do before every practice and meet, Clementine Bondor (12) said. To help the teams warm up in an orderly fashion, the seniors organize runners into lines, she said.

Then, they talked about strategies to “PR” the race, meaning to run a new personal record, Bonder said. “We always want this race to be the PR — at the same time, even if it’s not our best race, we’re in it together,,” she said. “We all made it out here first thing Saturday morning, which I count as an accomplishment.”

After warming up together, the athletes waited until it was time for their races. The teams had an encouraging level of morale during the whole event, Physical Education Teacher and Girls Varsity Cross Country Coach Meredith Cullen said. Her main goal was for everyone to do their best and feel happy with their results, so their positive attitudes added to her already high confidence in the team. Saturday’s nice weather along with family and friends who cheered on the runners helped to boost morale even more, Cullen said.

The boys races began first, so the girls team watched and supported them from the sidelines, Bondor said. She was excited to see them cross the finish line, since girls races usually start before the boys in other races, she said.

A few minutes before the races started, runners walked to the starting line, lined up, and did last-minute warm-ups so that they were fully ready, Cullen said.

Once the starting gun is fired, Ziman focuses on his pacing, he said. He considers many factors — if he is running too quickly, too slowly, or at the right speed. Another challenge team members face is ensuring they run as fast as possible while keeping up their pace until the finish line, he said.

Bondor blocks out all distractions while she runs and focuses on keeping her feet moving, she said. Before the race begins, she might think about making it to the finish line, setting a personal best, or beating last race’s time, but those thoughts are not priorities once she starts running.

Kim paid especially close attention to his surroundings after taking the lead, he said. Frequent team training on the uphill sections of the race allowed him to overtake three runners ahead of him during that stretch. Although at the end of the race the runner in second place almost caught up, Kim maintained his lead to the finish line.

Since runners are not allowed to use watches or people to pace them during the race, Bondor relies on her internal clock and rate of exertion, meaning how much effort she puts in, ranging from 0 to 100 percent, she said. “I’m trying to exert 75 percent of what I can possibly do, and then towards the end of the race, I’ll start cranking that dial up towards my maximum effort.”

Team members often run with each other during a meet, Ziman said. Since runners pace by how they are feeling, having another team member there helps them pace each other, he said. “I ran with Alex Ment (12) at Regis, and we pushed each other to run a time that we both felt good about.”

Kim was excited to have won his race at the meet, however he made sure to not get too caught up in the win, he said. Since this was his first time winning a race, he was happy to see that his training paid off, but he still plans to continue working hard throughout the season, Kim said. He also enjoyed watching the Seniors finish their race right after he won and cheering them on through the finish line, he said.

Cullen was very happy with the results after the race, she said. All of her runners performed well and she was excited to see an improvement from the last race, and for the rest of the season.

Bondor said that just finishing this race was a huge success. Since the team does not have many races on Saturdays, they enjoyed hanging out after the race. Spirits were also very high since the Regis Invitational is one of the biggest meets of the season with runners from many different schools around the city, she said.

Up next, the cross country teams have two Ivy Preparatory League Developmental meets. Until homecoming, the team plans to run their races at 80 percent exertion, which will allow runners to recover quickly, Ziman said. Their goal is to conserve their energy to perform exceptionally well at the last two races of the season: the Ivy Preparatory League and NYSAIS championships.