On March 12 and 13, MSJ Boys and Girls Cross Country faced off against one of their long standing rivals, the Irvington High School Vikings. Despite the limited practices in a short seven-week season, the Warriors triumphed in the Frosh/Soph, Junior Varsity (JV), and Varsity divisions for both the Boys and Girls teams.
Girls Cross Country raced first on March 12, as many of the boys cheered them on from the sidelines. For all three girls divisions, the Vikings did not have the five player roster needed to officially compete, so the Warriors won by default. However, the Warriors still ran a competitive race against the Viking’s available runners, with Varsity Runner Junior Aneri Sheth having the fastest time: 19:49 for three miles.
The following day, Frosh/Soph Boys won with a score of 16-47, as MSJ runners secured the top four fastest times. Although the Vikings came in first and third place in the JV Boys race, the Warriors still ended up winning 25-34. Varsity Boys finished the last race of the meet with a 20-37 victory, as Sophomore Chinmay Naveen finished first and achieved a personal record of 16:44 for three miles.
After the win against the Vikings, Girls Cross Country advanced to a 6-0 record and Boys Cross Country advanced to a 5-1 record for all divisions. Despite their success thus far, though, the teams initially came into the season feeling uncertain of the new changes. With the pending status of sports seasons this year, many runners did not have the chance to train as much they would have in previous seasons. “With a normal fall season, we would’ve had four to five weeks before the first race, but this year, we only had a week before we started racing,” Girls Cross Country Captain Senior Clarise Han said.
COVID-19 has also posed challenges for the team throughout the season. Most athletes haven’t been able to keep up with their personal runs and weight rooms are no longer available to them during practice. “It’s been challenging to maintain the same rigor of athletic abilities when 40% of our time is spent in meets and 30% of our practice is spent checking people in,” Boys Cross Country Coach Edward Njoo said.
In spite of these challenges, however, the Warriors have still managed to perform exceptionally well. Han attributed the success of the team to Njoo and Girls Cross Country Coach Linda Addison. “[Njoo and Addison] have really been doing an amazing job designing workouts for us and making sure that we’re staying healthy and not getting injured,” Han said.
This year’s team is younger and smaller than previous years’, with only four seniors on the team of 47 members. Nonetheless, the returning athletes have stepped up to welcome the new members. “The older athletes have really embraced the newer ones coming in; they’ve really been supportive and have shared a lot of their experience,” Addison said.
Boys Cross Country Co-Captain Senior Yusuf Rasheed has leveraged this season’s obstacles as a source of motivation. “I like to look at it as a challenge to break my previous times even though I’m wearing a mask,” Rasheed said.
Moving forward, Rasheed hopes that the team focuses more on self-reflection as a means to improve. “The key is always doing a mental reflection after each race, identifying new points that need to be improved on, and putting that into action,” Rasheed said.