“Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we must be saved by love.” --Reinhold Niebuhr
On Saturday we took the line at Sectionals with a team composed entirely of seniors. Although our program has gradually evolved to rely on upperclassmen, it was remarkable to look at the meet results and see the uniformity of the class column. Perhaps no NVXC lineup had ever run more miles together. It was a race four years in the making. RESULTS
What’s remarkable about those four years--for us, for all cross country teams-- is what happens over all of those miles. Men witness extraordinary feats of athleticism, courage, discipline, and defiance in one another. They also see each other at their weakest, bowed by their most pathetic or shameful failure. They bond over shared suffering of tough workouts, hammered together in the forge of intervals. When one of them is injured, they all feel it, for the pack is made thinner, and the vacancy reminds the running how vulnerable they are. A collective memory is generated, events and races that only they know about, that defines their time. You don’t have to agree with or even like all of your teammates. But you were there, together. You did something meaningful. It’s a sort of marriage, a unique fraternal love.
Running Waubonsie’s course for the second time in three weeks proved advantageous, as six of the seven P.R.ed from their conference mark. As they have all season, Michael Madiol (15:01) and Chris Keeley (15:01) led the way. Michael O’Connor (15:27) ran a gutsy race, and Matt Jett (15:29) proved as stubborn as gum on the bottom of a shoe. Nick Drechsler (15:59) finished next, sealing a second place team finish. Spencer Teske (16:07) and Jack Orengo (16:19) were the last two Wildcats over the hill, the second best sixth and seventh men in the field.
After the race, the runners were joined by their senior teammates, celebrating the results and talking excitedly about the race one week in their future. Left unsaid-- but felt-- was the approaching conclusion to so many storylines, each sharing the same theme. Matt Jett was talented but struggled as a sophomore; he had to overcome injury and doubt. He did so running miles with his teammates. Michael Madiol and Chris Keeley were always prodigiously talented, but each had his own mental vulnerability; they overcame them together. Jack Orengo and Nick Drechsler had to learn to forget results and learn to run their own race; they knew they could do so because they could trust the other seniors. O’Connor has only made it through a couple of workouts without incident. It doesn’t matter. He has his brothers.
The race is too big for any one man. Each of us comes to the sport incomplete. But if we’re lucky, we find others to help us carry the miles.