Five teams assemble in the shade of trees near the tennis courts. A buzz circulates among both the spectators and the players as they distinguish what path the competitors will run at North’s first home cross country meet.
The crowd was a hodgepodge of supporters, ranging from friends to parents and siblings, to teammates and even former teammates, who gathered to follow the runners and catch glimpses as they passed various points on the three mile stretch. The finish line was packed with cheering supporters, excited to see the runners finish the race.
Although it was North’s first time hosting a regular dual meet, the idea didn’t come out of the blue. North used to host an annual two-mile invitational meet that was generally well-received by other teams and fans.
Most schools don’t have their own courses, and simply find paths around their schools to practice on, but North is hoping to start a trend in creating official paths at schools for cross country teams to have meets on. So when the usual competition space in Hamilton was occupied, coaches Brian Gould and Monica Biro were excited to plan and mark a three-mile course at home. The two marked out arrows on the grass to lead the runners three times around a mile-long path (used daily for practices), and end along the back fence of the baseball field.
“Our kids were definitely excited to host it because we run here,” said Biro. The students generally run one of three three-mile courses during their own practices, so they know the twists and turns. But both coaches agreed that although, in the words of coach Gould, “a lot of people who ran that day had personal bests,” there is no true home-field advantage in cross country.
In fact, senior captain,Jessica Nguyen said, “The home meet was actually intimidating.” She explains that because North’s runners practice on it every day, they’ve seen many triumphs as well as disappointments on the course, and weren’t sure which to expect at the meet. “I didn’t think it would be my best race,” Nguyen said, “even though we had the home advantage.”
But at the end of the day, cross country came out with a relatively strong record. The boys beat Hightstown and Hopewell and lost to Robbinsville, while the girls defeated Hightstown and lost to Robbinsville and Hopewell. “I thought we raced really hard,” said Nguyen, “both guys and girls.”
Seeing how great it was to have so many more spectators, to have other teams on North’s turf, and to see the athletes work in a new way in an old environment, was definitely worth it to the coaches. “I think that atmosphere helped everyone,” said Gould. It was definitely a meet to be proud of, and is definitely an option they hope to explore again in the future.