Another State Trophy for Girls’ Cross Country

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The fourth state championship trophy in five years for Girls Cross Country.

On a cold Saturday morning on November 10, the girls’ cross country team gathered at Great Meadows in Plains, Virginia. After months of training, the cross country state championship had arrived. As the returning champions, their goal was set and clear in mind: to win their fourth state championship trophy.

Three weeks earlier at the Potomac District meet on October 24, the team’s top runner, senior Ava Hassebrock, was unable to race with a sprained ankle, and the team came in 3rd place. However, at the Regional meet on November 1, they came back, re-ran the course, and won the title. “Getting third at districts made me even more determined to do well at regionals. The team got together to figure out what went wrong and worked together to fix it,” said junior Katie West.  

At the state meet, the girls ended up on the top of the podium again, with 79 points over Deep Run High School, who finished with 106 points. The Huskies top five scoring runners all placed in the top 35, led by Hassebrock’s All-State seventh place finish. The rest of the team was rounded out by juniors West and Emma Hunt, seniors Sarah Gould, Kati Russell, and Amber Douglas, and freshman Callie Lashey.

The course conditions were less than optimal and brought many difficulties. “There was sustained 20 mph wind that dropped the temperature to the mid 30’s. In addition, they had to modify the course due to the large amount of rain that occurred a few days prior. The rain left the course muddy and slick. “How our kids dealt with those elements provided the most uncertainty during the race,” said Coach Troy Harry. However, the hardest part of racing for Gould was the mental obstacle. “From the start of the race, I had doubts that were mentally tiring, but I learned to overcome these doubts,” she said.

From the beginning of the season, the team had their sights on another win. “Even immediately after winning states last year, all the varsity girls had the mindset that states was the goal for the next year. “Each workout and each run is used to prepare ourselves for the state championship race and ensure that we perform at the best of our abilities,” said Gould.

Harry shared a similar outlook about how the team prepares for the season. “Every year, we start the season with the expectation that we will be competing for a State Championship. After track ends, the girls know that they’ll take a few days to rest and recover, then use the summer to build up a solid base of mileage for cross country. They hold each other accountable in an atmosphere that’s challenging, fun and with the goal of having a deep run in the postseason,” he said.

Having won four State Championships in the past five years, high expectations define the atmosphere every season. “With the legacy left by past seniors and our past state championships, my team understands the expectations and our true capability,” said Gould.

Coach Rebecca Puterio relayed a similar outlook. “I think that being state champions several times has helped develop a strong climate at Tuscarora. The successes have made the team more competitive and driven overall. The runners approach each season with specific goals in mind, and the expectations are always set high, which makes the entire season exciting, and the end result extremely rewarding,” she said.

While the team was the returning champions, they still knew it would be difficult to win again. “We knew that we were physically capable, but it’s never easy to get there because there’s always a team that pops up that we have to really compete with to win, but that just pushes us to do better,” said Hunt. Another challenge the Huskies dealt with is learning to work as a team. “Some difficulties we deal with is definitely working together in the race. Many people are worried about their times as an individual, but the success of the team is more important,” said Russell.

Another difficulty Harry mentioned was keeping the runners healthy throughout their long season. “The challenge is always keeping the girls healthy and limiting the amount of injuries. Last year, we had 5 of our top 7 dealing with a variety of ailments. We were able to limit many of these issues this year by incorporating injury prevention stretches and drills into our practice regimen,” he said.

Although winning another State Championship is exciting, the runners and coaches love their sport for what it is. “My absolute favorite part about coaching cross country is the time I get to spend with all of the kids, and the relationships that are built,” said Puterio. Gould shared a similar feeling from her four years on the team. “My favorite part of cross country is forever the team. My teammates and the relationships I’ve made have made any terrible workout or bad race worth it. Everyone supports each other and makes it feel like a family, not just a team,” she said.