The Girls’ Cross Country team finished their 2020 season off with a bang, placing third in their conference, just behind Natick and Brookline. Although their season was shortened from twelve weeks to seven, fewer races did not stop Wellesley from performing their best.
In September, coaches and athletes did not know what to expect for the 2020 fall season, with new COVID-19 protocols in place and the uncertainty about if their sport was going to be moved to the Fall II season, which takes place February 22, to April 25, or if all races would be virtual. Additionally, coaches were left with one major question: If there is going to be a season, what would it look like?
The MIAA announced that cross country would happen. Shortly after, strict social distancing guidelines were put in place, such as wearing masks at all times, locker rooms were limited to 50 percent capacity, and team huddles were prohibited. The high school added a rule that said every runner could only run within a group of four to ten people in order to limit the potential spread of COVID-19 and enable contact tracing if necessary.
At the beginning of the season, coaches and players noticed that the guidelines were easy to follow, but the team spirit was lacking.
“As a coach, I want everyone to grow as an athlete, and it is not just our top seven runners, it is much more of a team aspect. So aside from the mask running and having to breathe in a mask, we lost that team camaraderie because we couldn’t be together all the time,” said Cassandra Short, head coach of the girls’ varsity team.
Most of the important social events were canceled this year, which is a big part of the season for every athlete. These events included team breakfasts and dinners, the banquet, and long bus rides listening to music with teammates.
The Wellesley Cross Country Boosters hosted a virtual, end-of-season Banquet and Awards night on Zoom. Instead of all the athletes celebrating their work with their teammates at the high school with endless amounts of catered food and laughter, they watched it virtually from the safety of their own home.
Leigh Einbinder ’22, like every team member, watched the banquet from her home. This is her second year participating in cross country.
“The banquet was one of the things I did miss, even though I am not a huge part of it, it is still fun to look back on the season and celebrate; it is a little bit of an award for all the work you put in. It was kinda sad this year, mostly not being able to say goodbye to seniors, or the coaches. Although, I think they did a good job putting it together because it went really well, ” said Einbinder.
To compensate for the loss of several cross country meets, Short and the other coaches had time trials on Wednesday, the team’s typical meet day. The coaches and captains wanted the time trials to have the same energy as a meet.
“Many girls dressed up in either all black or all red. It was so fun to watch and contribute to the excitement and it was the first time during the season when it felt similar to the past years,” said one of the girls cross country captains, Katja Wagner ’21.
Overall, everyone on the team enjoyed the unique season and felt that although they could not be physically closer together, they could come together in other ways.
Though it is often intimidating racing other and often bigger teams, this year, the team did not have to stand up against a sometimes intimidating opponent. The team hopes that in the future when the season is back to normal, that they can keep the good energy going forward and take the stress off of racing other teams.
“You didn’t have to stress over beating all these big teams because we only raced four or five other teams, which is crazy. It took us a step back from being so competitive in other towns and focused more on training hard and running as a team, which I thought was pretty cool,” said Short.