Malden High Cross Country Crosses the Finish Line

Juliana Luong also contributed to this article

As the cross country season comes to an end the players and coaches reflect on their season as the players had different goals for themselves.

Cross country players left to right- Vincent Thai (in the back) and Ivan Wu (in the front) running. Photo taken by Carlos Aragon.

Sophomore Emma Spignese-Smolinsky described her goals to “better [herself] as a runner and cut down on [her] race time.” She explained that these goals were overall met this season. Nicholas Wong, a senior and one of five team captains, expressed that he was able to retrain his body after a loss of time due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Sophomore, Brian Vences, began the season with no initial goal but as the season progressed “[his] teammates and [himself]” pushed each other to create goals. Vences further explains “one of [their] best runners Nick Wong set a goal for him” to renew his record in their game against Chelsea.”.

The Captains of the team are Cindy Nguyen, Crystal Wang, Massi Lam, Marcos Ruiz, and Nicholas Wong. 

Many of the team members prepare for meets in similar ways. Both Vences and Wong make sure to eat “plenty” of carbs, such as pasta, before a meet or the day before. Wong further explains that he tries his best to “avoid” unhealthy foods, such as junk food and candy. Not only do they prepare with eating habits, but they also jog and do multiple types of workouts and stretches to prepare their bodies. Spignese-Smolinsky describes what their day before a meet looks like, a 20-30 minute run or jog. She comments that they incorporate leg and core workouts, but also do workouts geared towards endurance and speed, which Senior Captain Katrina Chang listed as the team’s “main” priority for this season. 

Wong adds that their training also includes training on inclined turfs and sprints. Spignese-Smolinksy says that the training has “definitely” changed from the beginning of the year, regarding how well the team reacts to new training and how well they are doing as a team overall. Chang explains their warm-up run is usually a mile or a half-mile. Team member, Samantha Huang, expressed that the practices were the “right amount of time” to acquire their daily needs of exercise. 

The runners have their own way of improving their past training, each setting goals. Wong’s focus was to get faster. During endurance training, he would occasionally run an extra hour and slowly increase his time. Wong did this in order to feel less tired when it came to a meet. After some time, he was able to put more of that energy into his speed.

 In addition to increasing his time, he started to attend the gym regularly to “boost his strength" and help him become stronger physically for the hard training he would endure with the team. Vences also expressed his focus on attempting to become faster. He goes into detail about his first meet against Everett, where he ran 29:12 for a 2.8-mile track. Following the meet, he became very “angry” with himself because he knew he could have surpassed that time. 

The following week, he “angrily ran” and did not let himself stop. Overall, he works to "never be slower than [he] was before." As of right now, his record is 26:07 and he plans to beat that in the next meet. As for Chang, she has been training consistently, but “not at her best.”

 The dynamic stretches are run by the captains, which Chang describes to be highly “prioritized “ even with the conversations that casually “break out” in-between. Coach Sean Weldon also includes that “[the team] has made it a point to do lots of work running hills to help prepare for [their] home meets” at Pine Banks.

Pine Banks is a frequent practice course for the cross country team. Weldon further explains, “[The team] has a new course mapped out at Pine Banks this season. The course consists of many hills and long inclined runs. [The team] has been working hard at improving [their] fitness on the hills, and have now become masters at running [their] course.” It is especially important for the team to know their home course well, Chang expressed. Adjusting to the new course was made possible through practice, she added.

The well-motivated practices and earned accomplishments are no surprise with this supportive team. Chang feels as though she has “gotten back into running" and has begun to like it the same way she did two years ago. Aside from that, she made it a point to focus on “mentality rather than physique” this season. One of her target goals was to overcome her fear of the hill, as well as the thought of a runner behind her catching up, or even potentially passing her. Chang gives credit to the boy captains for helping “keep her motivated “ when she doesn't want to run because they are extremely “passionate” about running and prioritize pacing together. 

However, she does not “forget” about her girl captains, who are super important to her and are just as successful in motivating her. She loves that running with the girls is “less tense.” When Wong doesn’t feel motivated, he thinks about how much the team means to each other. Grasping the “importance” of joining the practice and running instead of wasting time, “boosts” his motivation. He takes great pride in making use of the time that is given to him and his team. “ The team is ultimately his real motivation and the reason he enjoys showing up to practice and meets. 

Overall, Wong enjoys being able to see the “improvements'' he and his team have made through their dedication and continuous “hard work.” When Vences lacks motivation, his teammates help him gain it back. Vences describes his teammates to be “phenomenal.” Specifically Ruiz and Wong, they give him that “lift” of spirit, because of how “enthusiastic” they are. 

One of Chang’s favorite parts of cross country is how much the team “ influences” one another. This makes her want to continue because she knows the team has her back and she can run at the pace she is able to run at.

In cross country, runners score points individually (1st, 2nd, 3rd), but Chang communicates that you can still pace with your teammates and race each other once you reach the end. Chang believes that once a runner gets over their fears, whether it be the “terrain” (a stretch of land), the number of miles they must run, or their teammates, their legs are “lighter” leading to them being faster and at “their best.” That weight being “lifted” can only help the entire team in the long run.

The more you practice, the less you bleed in battle".- Coach Danae O’ Bryan

Coach Sean Weldon is very happy with how the season has gone. The Cross Country team ended with a record of 3-3. He is specifically proud of Ruiz and Wong for placing first and second place a number of times.  Ruiz, Wong, and Lam are the three seniors who he would consider to be “amazing leaders” for [their] team. Personally, he could not have requested a “better” group of seniors to lead the team. He has confidence that their great leadership has set valuable expectations for the underclassmen. Weldon is aware of the “huge shoes” that will need to be filled once the six seniors on the team graduate. He does, however, recognize the hard-working group of underclassmen they have.

Chang depicts how ”awesome“ her coaches really are, from Weldon to O’Bryan. The coaches became a part of the team, Not only are they exceptional coaches, but they also know how to have fun with [the team]. O’Bryan was the one who primarily “pushed [her]” to run in the first place. Even now, she continues to push her to run better. Chang is very grateful to have been given such great coaches, who truly care about the team.

Chang believes the season has overall been a successful one. She conveys how “sad” she is that the season is coming to an end once again. Chang “loves “ her team, especially her seniors. She was content with how many great runners they had this season, who had continued to make new records for themselves. She has much appreciation for the “perseverance” her teammates have continued to build and pass on to one another. As a whole, she is exceedingly pleased and proud of her team.

As for next year, the coaches continue to think ahead of how big the shoes are to fill from the seniors now. Weldon continues to explain “Marcos Ruiz and Nicholas Wong have placed first and second, multiple times in [the team] meets this season. Alongside Massi Lam, these three seniors have been amazing leaders for our team. [He] could not ask for a better group of seniors to set the expectations for underclassmen and lead by example.” 

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