Cross Country: One Hill of a Sport

Fort Atkinson cross country team takes on a season like never before.

Brenda Reed captures 5 runners at the halfway point at a home dual meet.

Kaitlyn Burke, Sports Editor

During the 2020-21 school year, students and staff are thriving on all aspects of uncertainty as it seems to flood the Fort Atkinson High School. However, athletes in cross country seem to be climbing in their boats, resisting this flood of uncertainty as it deepens. The current guides the 2020-2021 cross country athletes through a season full of surprises, and The Signal takes an inside look at how these athletes seem to be handling this white river rafting excursion of a year.

Many cross country athletes, such as senior varsity runner Cory Pfeifer, feared that the season wouldn’t even happen. The fear of all the hard work and dedication they put in during the summer became a seemingly insurmountable struggle. “As the season was approaching, I was very anxious about not having a season. I had worked really hard in the summer to try and get better, so I really didn’t want to see that work go to waste,” Pfeifer explains. When news spread mid-August that the 2020 cross country season would commence, relief began to spill among the athletes. 

The season would come with many prices to pay, and some big challenges would be faced by the team. The team is filled with resilient, strong-minded athletes, so things such as masks, social distancing, and lack of season “norms” wouldn’t stop them from striving for greatness. “I didn’t really care how the season looked. As long as we have opportunities to race, I’m happy,” Pfefer says. Sometimes, the opportunity to race even looked different. Pfiefer describes the racing environment following Covid-19 guidelines; “The main and easily most dramatic difference for me is the changes to our meets. In the two meets we’ve had so far, we only went against one other team each time. Generally, our meets have closer to 10-15 teams, so it was so weird having so few people at our meets.” Despite the challenges that have ever so suddenly been thrown at these groups of talented individuals, they fail to let it set them back.

If the already drastic changes weren’t enough, the pandemic seemed to swipe away their last bit of hope. On Sept. 21, 2020, the Fort Atkinson School District announced its transition to virtual learning. This forbade all contact, and school-related meet-ups of students, staff, and athletes on school grounds. Runners faced their biggest challenge of not knowing whether or not the season would proceed. Given that the team is full of adaptable athletes, there was nothing that would stop them from the struggles that lied ahead. 

Cross country is a sport defined by its friendly nature, and Pfeifer explains how that is one of the main things that kept them closely strung. “In a season where almost everything feels unusual, the one constant has been the support of my teammates. The main reason why I love cross country is the incredible bond between all of us.” Considering this, it’s no wonder the team didn’t hesitate to make the best of the situation. Much of the team met up with each other to still get group runs in, all while attending a team zoom led by 4 of their coaches, Coach Westby, Coach Reed, Coach Hoffman, and Coach Agnew. 

Even though the sport was faced with challenges like never before, the coaches and athletes paddled along the rocky river ahead. Eventually, their luck began to turn, and the opportunity to partake in a sub-sectional, sectional, and state meet stood available. The coaches took it without hesitation, and they will be taking the top seven boys, and the top seven girls to the sub-sectional meet on Tuesday, October 20. 

Would you ever give Cross Country a try?

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