Photograph by Allyn Suzuki

The cross country season has started again and Berkeley High School’s runners are off to a great start. The entire team is already extremely close and dedicated, with practice held six days a week, including three or four hours on Saturday. Senior Emily Beckman, who is on track to become an eight-season athlete, can’t help but stress the amount of pride she feels running on a team where she has “found [her] people.” The team’s relationship can be seen during practice, where you can’t help but notice how positive and supportive the community is.

Unity is one of the team’s core values, which Head Coach Brad Johnson preaches religiously. Returning cross country team member senior Sam Battles, acknowledged the importance of unity,  saying, “It is important that we work as a team. That is something that we have been very good at; we try to emphasize the role of the team, supporting each other at competitions, but also everyday at practices and workouts.”  Personally, Battles aims to “make every practice and meet this year and improve my times from last year.”

Johnson is very optimistic about the upcoming season. This year one of Johnson’s goals for the team is improving the team’s league standings. The girls are looking to place fourth at the varsity level and the boys hope to place second this year and move up one rank from last year. They hope to take individual girls to state and would like the boys to run as a team in the postseason. Last year, the boy’s team was one rank away from running as a team in state.

This goal is not out of reach, as the cross country team has displayed greatness within the first few months of the season. The early success on the team can be credited to their “very strong core of freshman” according to Johnson. The freshman boys placed very highly at their first race and one runner won overall. Johnson says they will do “better on the girls’ side later on because … [they] had some initial injuries at the start of the season.”

The team’s confidence can also be credited to the upperclassmen’s dedication, who have been training for the cross country season since June. Although several  of the senior girls are injured in one way or another, that doesn’t mean they aren’t showing up to practices, doing what they can, and being supportive.

When asked about the social dynamic of the team, Beckman said that she “found the best friends [she’s] ever had in [her] life” on the cross country team. Beckman and her team mates would “definitely recommend the sport to anyone who is looking for a funny, unique, and supportive community of athletes. Especially if that person has some extra time on their hands.” But Battles emphasized “track and field is a big commitment.” In the long run, this dedication pays off in the form of personal success through improving their time, team success through team points, and communal success through creating a family. You can catch the team on campus training every day of the school week, and most of the team will be back again in the spring semester for track and field.