Free State cross country team boasts largest numbers in Free State’s history


Christina Craig

Senior Chris Blevins, freshman Trey Melvin, junior Sid Lin and senior Bret Carey run during an after school cross country practice. they are team members o the largest cross country team in school history. The number of team members has been steadily increasing for past years.

From the long, sweaty runs in the hot August sun, the yearly team campout and helping out at the state meet, senior Hayley Boden has had countless memorable moments during her time on the cross country team.

Boden started running casually four years ago, but soon realized she loved being on the team.

“I used to run, like freshman year, to keep me in shape for soccer, but now I would say it’s because I like the team and the overall environment,” Boden said.

Boden says that with the largest cross country team in school history, it’s more difficult for her to see all of her teammates at practice and meets. The team totals nearly 120 people this year.

“With more people on the team, I don’t see everyone every day,” Boden said. “I’ll see someone at school and ask why they aren’t doing cross country this year and they’ll say they are; we just haven’t seen each other at all because of the number of people (at practice) every day.”

Assistant cross country coach Jordan Rose believes the large team is a combination of the bigger freshman class and more kids who want to run to stay in shape.

“There is a large freshman class, and so not only do we have more kids out but we also pick up some kids who decide to run with us after trying out for other sports,” Rose said.

Senior Tanner Hockenbury agrees that a few changes come with the increased amount of runners.

We have a lot of newcomers, so it’s a learning experience for them. There are a lot of upperclassmen teaching freshmen and being role models, so that’s definitely a big change.

— senior Tanner Hockenbury

“We have a lot of newcomers, so it’s a learning experience for them,” Hockenbury said. “There are a lot of upperclassmen teaching freshmen and being role models, so that’s definitely a big change.”

Braving the 103 degree weather, Hockenbury says he spends roughly 10 hours a week running.

“It’s really hard,” Hockenbury said. “It’s mentally tough and physically tough … definitely not a sport for everyone.”

Even with the hours spent practicing and competing, being on the team is worth it for Boden.

“My favorite thing about running is the way I feel afterward … it gives me a break in the day from everything stressing me out,” Boden said.

Last year, Hockenbury used his time spent running to bond with his teammates as well.

“[I] definitely had a lot of good memories with last year’s senior class,” he said. “I pretty much spent every day of my high school life with them; we did a lot of adventure runs … [and other] silly things, stupid things together.”

Hockenbury is hoping to build on last season by earning another spot at state this year.

“I’m ready to compete … [and] get some more college recognition,” Hockenbury said. “I’ve been looking at colleges and they’ve been contacting me so hopefully soon this winter I’ll have signed somewhere.”

Even though cross country is the largest fall sport, their success at state is not guaranteed. Runners must work together to achieve such accomplishments.

“As the team has grown, athletes have learned that being part of the team is more like a family and that they are only as successful individually as we are as a team,” Rose said. “Even if an individual is having a rough day at practice or at a meet, there is always someone else to encourage and lift up.”