COVID-19 Challenges Cross Country


Anna Yates

“I just have to keep pushing forward no matter what,” senior MacKenzie Bernhardt said at the beginning of the race in Searcy on Sept.19.

COVID-19 has officially taken its toll on the cross country team. The athletes will go into the conference meet (October 27 at Bryant) and the state meet (November 6 at Hot Springs) with much less experience. They’ve missed out on smaller meets that allow the team to improve their racing strategies, but the team has stayed positive.

“Most of us weren’t expecting a season in the first place, so we were excited to just have a few meets,” junior Christian Kasten said.

Missing out on the experience from meets and practices this cross country season will take a hit on the team. Lack of team bonding, practice intensity, confidence, and experience in general could affect them. 

“The lack of practice affects the team in different ways. One of them being the lack of bonding. Bonding on the bus rides, the meets, and at practice was one of the best things about cross country but now that we have had less meets and practice it is harder for us to do that,” senior MacKenzie Bernhardt said.

Different runners have varied opinions on how team bonding will affect the team. 

“This season was more about having fun mainly because of the high anticipation of a shorter season,” Kasten said “We definitely pushed each other, but we were more like a family than we were a team this year.”

During meets, masks are worn directly before and after races. However, the start of races have hundreds of surrounding runners without proper coverage for minutes before the race starts. 

“Everyone is crammed together, but as soon as the race starts it gets better because once people start running everyone spreads out because there is more room on the course,” captain and junior Nadia Denman said.

It is common for cross country runners to have improvements in their times as each race passes, so missing out on meets could slow times down for the team. With slower times, the team goes into bigger meets as underdogs, since other schools have been able to continue racing.  

“I think this season could have gone better, but I am glad that I had one at least,” Bernhardt said.

Junior Nadia Denman runs through the course in Searcy on Sept 19. “I think this season is definitely going to be one I remember in the future,” Denman said. (Anna Yates)
Junior Christian Kasten struggles while completing the front half of the course in Searcy on Sept 19. “The hills in this race were really challenging on a mental and physical level,” Kasten said. “I had been running on my own, but the racing strategy that coach usually talks about was definitely missing.” (Anna Yates)