How Cross Country Shaped My High School Experience


Nate Lewis '25, Staff Writer

I remember going to the first day of cross country pre-season.  It was a hot summer evening in August, and my dad took me to Waveny Park.  As our car rounded the corner, I saw all of these unknown faces talking and laughing with each other. I felt nervous butterflies in my stomach, worried I would not fit in. I wished my dad would drive right past them, and back home.  Despite my fear and anxiety, I grabbed my green hydro flask and got out of the car.  This was all getting a little too real.  

When I interviewed Keilan Rosow, an SLS senior, he said, “I first started cross country in sophomore year, and at first I was a little hesitant. However, not only has cross country helped me become a better runner, but it also inspired me to appreciate running and have something to look forward to after school. Cross country helped me meet more people at St. Luke’s that I wouldn’t have met if I hadn’t joined the team.”    

Waveny Park is a very woodsy area that has large open fields with hills. When I got there, there were 26 kids and a coach standing around a big oak tree.  The sun was beaming on everything; the humidity was sticky. Some kids looked out of place, not knowing what to do.  Most kids were talking to each other.  We had almost the whole park to ourselves.  

We started with a three-mile run.  I’d never run that far.  I sucked.  Kids were zooming past me.  But after that ordeal, I started to feel better. The moment I realized this was the right place for me was when we were stretching after the run.  We were all in a circle touching our toes and stretching our legs when one of the captains named Will Winalski said he felt the stretch all along his back.  Another senior shouted, “You’re not supposed to feel it there!” Everyone laughed, and from that moment on, I knew that this team would be a place where I could be myself and not be judged.  

When I asked Winalski what he will miss most about this team when he graduates, he said, “I will miss the community within the team. Everyone on the team is so supportive and accepting, and as the season progressed, everyone became great friends with each other. Finding a community that is strong is hard to find and even harder to replicate.” Will’s quote reminded me of some cross country moments that I still laugh about today.  

During my third week on the team, it was my first time running to get ice cream.   It was four miles from St. Luke’s to where the ice cream shop was. My friend and I took forever to get there. We were both in a lot of pain and very tired. I did not like how long the run was and how hot it was outside.   Nearing the last half mile, we both had running cramps so we were grabbing our stomachs.  As the ice cream shop came into view, we saw Ms. Spencer waiting for us at the bottom of the hill.  Mrs. Spencer was trying not to laugh as she told us we looked like we were wounded at battle.  Now, I, too, can look back and laugh.    

Will and Keilan also had similar experiences.  One of Will’s favorite memories with Ms. Spencer is a race where he tried a doomed strategy.  “My favorite moment with Ms. Spencer was after my final race when she told me how proud she was of me that I finished the race. Going out sprinting for the first 30 seconds is definitely not the move and you might feel heart/lung pain throughout the rest of the race. Sure enough, I finished with my personal worst, but I’m glad I was able to make all of my teammate’s smile.” 

Keilan also has many happy memories with Ms. Spencer. “When she chooses to run in pouring rain or freezing cold and makes it fun for the team; her dedication to running helped me become a better runner.” 

Cross-country enhanced my high school experience.  I had something to look forward to after school and I formed close bonds with my teammates. Even though we will miss the seniors next year, we will keep the tradition going for the new kids.