Running in the Dark: Why I Joined Cross Country

SalyerAt the beginning of the school year, my mom and I walked around the Tiger Café at the Junior High orientation, looking at all the clubs, activities and sports that Holy Trinity offers. “Do you want to play softball?” she asked. “How about knitting? Archery? Art club? Basketball?”  I walked around looking at all the offerings and told her, “I think I want to do cross country.”

If my mom had been sitting down she might have fallen out of her chair. She knows I don’t like to get up early and I LOVE my bed. Going to bed early, then getting up at 5 a.m. to be at school by 5:45 a.m. was not something she ever imagined me doing. It was not something I ever imagined me doing!

Last year, some of the cross country runners came to the Lower School to encourage the sixth graders to join. They said they were like a family and that you could make a lot of close friends on the team. They talked about team dinners and riding on the bus to away meets. It sounded like fun, but I wasn’t ready to commit. But once I found out my class schedule and realized that I didn’t have a lot of my old friends in my classes, joining the cross country team and making new friends sounded like a good idea.

At my first meet, I was the only person on the Holy Trinity team who was running in the middle school race. Even though it was only two miles instead of three, I was really nervous. All my JV and varsity teammates had already finished their races and were hanging out under the tent. The coach told me it was time to line up, so my parents started to walk me to the starting line.

Salyer 3As we were walking over, I looked over my shoulder and saw that some of the Holy Trinity girls were following us. We thought they must be going to get drinks or go to the bathroom. But when I got to the starting line, they said, “We came over to pray with you and cheer you on.” Even though I had only been on the team for two weeks, I recognized the faces around me. These were the fastest girls on the team, some of the same ones who were later named some of the best cross country runners in Brevard County. It felt really good that they came over there just for me. That’s when I realized, “This really is like a family.”

Later in my race, another varsity runner ran to the far side of the course to cheer for me. At the finish line, Coach Baker and parents who I didn’t even know were cheering for me and calling my name.

Sometimes my teammates are a little too supportive. During practices when I want to take a walk break, there is always someone running up alongside me who says, “Finish strong!” or “You got this, you can do it.” So of course, I have to start running again.

Getting up at 5 a.m. isn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I look forward to my morning run and to hanging out with the other girls in the locker room. In a few weeks, I’ve noticed that I can run a little longer and a little faster than I could when I started. Before the season is over, I hope to run my first 5K race as part of the JV team. In a few years, I’ll be one of the fast girls who welcomes other new runners into the family.

by Gabby Salyer

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