SENIOR SZN: Cross Country



Vyolet Weissman

Boys Cross Country runs past the starting line at their last Lane Meet.

It is the flood.

A sea of crooked jerseys are crouched, awaiting the gun pop to unleash tidal waves of adrenaline and sweat. It’s been building up since the twenty minutes before warm-ups. Anxious treading along the starting line. And here, now, in the silence between the start of the end and the end of the start, miscellaneous cries of names cheer on Lane’s eldest cross country runners as they burst through the arc to begin their last home race of the season.

For one senior in particular, this strikes a special chord.

“It’s the last time I’m going to be running a meet like this, over here at Lane,” Alex Delgado, a senior leader from Div. 050, said. “It feels kinda like the first time I ever ran cross country and just everyone’s here and everyone’s cheering on and just the feeling of it.”
For many of the senior runners, the nostalgic feeling remains. Watching the boys and girls run, it’s noticeable the rhythm in their movements, their breathing, that running like this is second nature over the course of many years they’ve run cross. Meets have become muscle memory. 

However, the most fondly relived memories of cross country have been about the bonds formed with teammates. 

“I just remember messing around, having a lot of fun last year cause we were freezing our asses off, and we were wearing like winter coats in October, and it’s like—even though it was kind of torturous we had to endure it, it was really fun to endure it with everyone else, just chilling and having fun with it,” Delgado said. He said that the city meet from Washington Park last year is his favorite memory.

This positive energy reflected in the team’s performance at Lane: after hitting the mat at the finish line and doing “cooldowns,” a gradual decline in exercise to help transition from high-intensity to low-intensity activity, runners received their time from a clock at the end with a victorious air. Many runners PR’ed. (A PR is a Personal Record, or a personal “high score” of a time to beat.) 

Delgado attributes the nature of this meet to his PR success. 

“I think thats part of the reason I pushed so hard this race,” Delgado said. “My goal was to keep up with Sam [Laughlin], but, I mean, just because everyone was cheering me on, I think that was the real reason why I was able to keep up with him.”

He asked me to take a photo of him and Laughlin. The sky was just beginning to turn behind him, bustles of leaves shying away from their branches to lean down and congratulate. They looked tired. But as they adjusted for my bad phone camera, giddiness seized every part of them: lips couldn’t stay in a single line, feet trotted step to step. I raised my phone as they placed their metals into their mouths – I’m certain it tasted the farthest from gold, but precious metal in spirit – and Laughlin put his arm around Delgado. They are laughing in a few of the photos before they compose their smiles. 

In the wake of the turmoil between the IHSA and CPS runners, the constant flip between whether or not athletes from schools on strike were able to compete at state was difficult to follow. Familiar faces flashed up on television screens from the meet. I even spoke to the front runner of the campaign to run long before any of the conflict started. But what I could follow was the turmoil of emotions amongst the athletes. It was evident that every part of their spirit ached, running state or not. 

When thinking about whether or not the kids could compete, a more metaphorical meaning arose – it was less about running state, as great as that is on its own, but more about what it represents. For many seniors, a last hurrah. While sitting in my living room checking my phone on updates, the photos of Delgado and Laughlin came to mind, and all the energy from the night of the interview swelled back too.

I am not a part of the athletic community. I don’t believe you have to be. But the feeling of hitting the mat, of stretching, of holding hands and bowing into the light, lifting the brush away from a painting, releasing the bow from the strings, letting your feet fly in front of one another – that feeling is universal.

And the last go deserves all the sweat and tears and love you can muster.