The lady Royals cross country team earned a fifth-place finish at the State meet this past Saturday. However, every team member would agree that the journey to State taught them more than the final destination itself.
Sophomore Lilly Patrick was motivated by the thought that nothing was ever guaranteed. A demanding practice schedule throughout the summer and early mornings during the school year is not just for anyone. Following a fifth-place podium finish last season, it was evident that the Royals kept their eye on this year’s final finish line through the tough workouts in order to obtain their next medal.
“This season was full of dedication, teamwork, and grit. Each meet was like a stepping stone to our goal of making it to State. We had trained diligently with our amazing coaches who told us to be comfortable being uncomfortable and made us feel like we were a part of something bigger that State itself,” Patrick said.
The Royals were influenced by their motto of “spark”, because they believed they were “igniting their potential”. Senior Lilly Cummins was inspired by this word that she kept with her, as well as the rest of the team, for the season.
“I’ve ran with the same people since fifth grade, and cross country was never necessarily a sport, but something I looked forward to every day. It became natural for me just to go out and run, and these girls truly became my second family,” Cummins said.
The girls remained a consistent threat throughout the season, as they never placed lower than the top five at any meet. Senior Lulu Black believed semi-state was the most important race during the season. A qualification out of semi-state—the last meet before State– would get a team into the State lineup. The Royals placed second.
“We ended up having one of our best races as a team to eventually qualify for State and attempt to stand on the podium as a team once again,” Black says.
When people think of cross country, it often comes across as an individual sport. But the team aspect is rooted deeply in the values of HSE cross country, as it comes easy to the team. Black credits their success to not only the efforts of every member individually, but their ability to work in unity.
Black said, “I think the thing that my team and I emphasized the most, was that we weren’t just racing for ourselves. We were racing for each other. After our 5th place finish on the podium last season, our goal was to return to the podium again, and the only way we knew we were going to do that was if we trusted each other and each did our own part.”
Black will continue her running career at North Carolina State University, while Cummins will pursue running at the University of Southern Indiana. These two seniors and the others not on the state roster have made their mark on the program, serving as role models for their younger teammates.
But what can Royals fans expect to see next season?
With the loss of these two vital competitors, Patrick still sees potential in the remaining group of girls and believes that they will be able to fill in those gaps.
“We have some great people on the team who have what it takes to push us forward as a group. There are many girls who will be given the chance to prove themselves next year, which is very exciting,” Patrick said. “I know that we can get on the podium again next year if we step it up and put forth the same dedication that we did with the class of 2019.”
Story by Raegan Walsh