By LUCAS BEDNAREK
For The News-Letter
Hopkins cross country exhibited yet another impressive showing from both the men’s and women’s teams at Saturday’s Centennial Conference championships. The women’s team, continuing a season characterized by consistent victory, placed first, while the men’s team finished second overall in their race.
While the Jays are excited about these performances, they continue to train and maintain focus on the upcoming regional and national championships.
Their second-place finish fell slightly short of the conference championship goal that the men’s team has been looking toward, but they upheld their confidence and composure.
“As a team, we are content with our second place finish at conference,” senior captain Ryan Schwartz said. “One of our major goals this season was to take back that conference title so it is obviously a little frustrating to fall short of that. I am still very proud of everyone on this team and how hard they fought regardless.”
The men’s team was led in this race by sophomore Louis Levine, who has placed first for Hopkins in many of their recent races. Levine placed fourth overall, finishing the 8k race at 25:23. In this season his performances have often been representative of returning runners stepping up to carry the team.
“Louis had an incredible race and it was amazing to see him finish so well in the conference,” Schwartz said. “Both Louis and I were in the open race last year, so moving up to the varsity squad and finishing all-conference was a great reward for the hard work and training we put in during the off-season to make that big step up.”
However, much of what held the team from a conference title on Saturday was their loose spread. The spread from the first to fifth runners for Hopkins was over a minute, far larger than what we have seen this team exhibit at points in the season.
“Going forward into regionals and nationals where there are many more runners in the race, it will be incredibly important to diminish that gap and have all of our top five within 20 seconds of each other,” Schwartz said. “We train and work out together every day and I know how tough and talented everyone on this team is. We can run much tighter as a pack and that’s how we will able to hit our goals going forward.”
With a tighter pack in addition to continued excellence from individual runners, this men’s team should be capable of impressive things, a reality the team is well-aware of.
“At regionals, the top two teams automatically qualify for nationals,” Schwartz said. “But with how strong this team is and how much potential we still have, there is no reason to only shoot for second place. We are still looking to reclaim that regional championship that we won for the first time two years ago. If we are able to pack up well up front and maintain our position through the back hills of the course, that regional title can be ours.”
The women’s team, on the other hand, heads into the remainder of the postseason accustomed to victory. They are excited about this title but remain focused on upcoming meets.
“We’re all really proud of our collective accomplishment this year at conferences,” senior captain Courtney Kelley said. “We raced in a very tight pack and it was really great training/preparation for how we will race at Nationals.”
Now that it is late in the season, the team is narrowing in on their goal of winning another consecutive national championship, which they have been working towards all season.
“We think about nationals the second the previous nationals is over,” senior captain Hannah Oneda said.
In a way this race provided them with a taste of what is yet to come, further helping them prepare for nationals.
“We pushed the first mile more than we usually do — we started at a 5:30 pace,” Kelly said. “We usually go out a full 10 seconds slower on the first mile, which is rather substantial. This training was important for the Nationals race because that race usually goes out quick as well.”
At this point in the season the team has already put in the work to build endurance and be able to execute race strategy. Now the time is coming to simply get in a Nationals mindset and understand that they have the ability to take another title.
“We just need to continue to stay mentally positive throughout the races, which I think we have been doing a great job collectively this entire season,” Kelly said. “We have really already put all the preparation in for regionals. The entire year we have been preparing for nationals. Now we’re just making sure we’re sleeping enough, eating right, and we are starting to taper.”