Cross country runners go extra mile

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Photo by Ben Wrightsman
Boys from the Stillwater cross country run tirelessly after school, outside on the new track during the fall season.

Thirty-five years ago, in 1983, a major player in the school’s athletic history was just beginning his journey in leading the Ponies in running the distance; boys cross country. Since then, it would be hard to tabulate exactly how many miles this team has cumulatively run over the years, but they have certainly run the distance all under the leadership of head coach, Scott Christensen.

Since the beginning, the team has ranked eight times in the national top ten. A highlight of the team has been their celebration of the 1997 High School National Championship title. The team has also gone on to win many Minnesota State Championships.

“You really want to put forward the commitment because you’re going to be putting in the time,” remarked junior Peter Grace.

Even after they leave school grounds, Christensen’s players have continued to go the extra mile. Graduates have broken the 4:00 marker in running the mile. Ben Blankenship  (2007 alumnus) qualified for the 2016 Rio Olympics in the 1,500 meter race and placed eighth in the finals.

Current members of the team attest to the dedication and moral of the other runners around them. While cross country appears to be a solo sport, it is the team that supports and encourages each other as they run on and on.

“[Cross country] teaches people life lessons, find their passion and balance in their life,” commented Ryan Miller, assistant coach and social studies teacher.

Many of the team members are also active with their academics and in other extra-curricular activities. The coaching staff recognizes that the boys work hard in all areas, but see cross country as a place where they can achieve and succeed outside of the classroom.

It’s very nice and it’s a great atmosphere and honestly, the way Scott [Christensen] handles things. He’s the perfect balance between wanting to win and wanting to be very successful but also not being too overbearing.”

— Peter Grace

Many of the players go the “extra mile” when it comes to all aspects of their school and social lives.

“I have to manage my time more effectively. Because in addition to cross country, I also do jazz and other activities as well as homework… I’ve definitely met a lot of friends [at cross country] and like to hang out with people from the team,”  Grace said.

Cross country running is extremely positive for the body and mind. Running has been shown to boost confidence levels, relieve stress and can even eliminate depression. The endorphins that are released during a run improves mood and leaves the athlete energized and happy.

“I run because I enjoy the feeling you get after you get after you are done with the run and its fun and is a good atmosphere,” junior Owen Kiser commented.

Boys cross country is always looking for new team members.

“It’s very nice and it’s a great atmosphere and honestly, the way Scott [Christensen] handles things. He’s the perfect balance between wanting to win and wanting to be very successful but also not being too overbearing,” Grace said.

The team is currently competing in the 2018 season and they are running towards a win.

“We’re doing pretty good overall and we have been a team that has dominated the state meet for a while. We have tried to step up and take that place. It hasn’t worked out necessarily like we wanted it to, but I think everyone is in the right place,” Grace said.

There are a lot of miles and distance that has to be covered this season.

“I hope to continue a really successful tradition of strong performances. That every competition that we go to we are always competitive,” said Miller.