Running isn’t always easy, but for the kids that make up McLean Middle School’s cross country team, the effort and miles are worthwhile.
“It’s just a whole team aspect that helps encourage people and build each other up,” said Aimee Ebeling, a seventh grader on the team. “It’s so much fun because after you run you feel so happy. It’s a really joyous thing to do.”
The team meets six days a week and runs up to five miles each day.
Ebeling said her desire to improve motivates her to wake up early every morning and run.
“If you love to do something and you want to get better at it, you have to practice,” she said. “If you don’t practice, you’ll never improve.”
The team’s coach, Alisha Walker, said she works to build the team’s bond by bringing the students together for team meals. The team meets up at restaurants such as IHOP or Smoothie King after their practices.
“If all I did was just have them get up and run, it’s monotonous,” Walker said. “So changing it up and adding in the breakfast and dinners, that helps the team camaraderie aspect.”
That sense of camaraderie encourages the students when they’re running, said Walker.
“When they’re interacting they’re typically motivating each other,” she said. “They’re pushing each other. So it’s really fostering their friendships that help drive the team.”
Walker said seeing her students improve is the most rewarding part of being a coach.
“Running for a lot of people in general is just hard,” she said. “Every year I have someone who might be at the end of the pack, but they come back as an eighth grader and they are stars because they are so motivated that they continue to work all year. That’s what helps us know that what we’re doing is right.”
Although cross country season is almost over, Coach Walker said she plans to keep her students active through a running club.