Lane Tech Cross Country: An Inside Look at the Atmosphere and Experience


The boys varsity cross country team poses with their runner up plaque after city championships. (Photo courtesy of Tommy Stecz)

By Saskia McDonogh Mooney, Features Editor

To those who are not a part of the cross country team, running may seem like a brutal experience, one that very often leaves students mystified as to why the runners continue to put themselves through the grueling sport. However, those who do decide to join often discover that there is a lot more to the program than meets the eye.

Freshman Sadie La Prairie, Div. 565, joined because she was told cross country was social and low commitment, and while it turned out not to be the latter, she still had a great time.

“I mean it’s kind of cool because there’s such a wide range of levels that it’s chill if you’re not a super fast runner,” La Prairie said.

Due to cross country being a no-cut sport, anyone can be a part of the team.

“We have all different abilities, kids who can barely run to Hunter Whitney, who’s one of the top runners in the state,” said Head Coach Kristopher Roof.

In terms of the practices and managing all of the skill levels, the coaches have to balance business and pleasure.

“We want to keep running as an outlet,” Roof said. “We don’t want it to feel like a job. Having said that, there are times and moments where it has to be serious to get the benefits out of the training.” 

Considering they have 250 runners, Roof said that they have to be very organized in order to reap those benefits.

“It all comes down to the day-of organization,” Roof said. “We have to group everybody and so a lot of the workouts, we depend on the kids or the group leaders to facilitate the workouts. And so for us, the coaches usually bounce around and just coach as best as we can.”

For the meets, it is a little bit different.

“Throughout the season we go to different meets,” Roof said. “So like last night [10/6] was probably our most competitive meet, Naperville Twilight. And we only brought one bus load, and we have about five or six buses of kids. And so I only brought the most competitive kids for that meet. Today [10/7], we have a meet here, and it will be everyone else, up to 200 runners, Lane Tech runners, not including our fastest kids.”` `

The atmosphere of the team is unique as a result of the internal competition, yet support, within the team.

“It is hard — it’s a sport that hurts and hurts all the time,” Roof said. “So it’s unlike other team sports. A similar sport would probably be swimming. But the kids have to handle a high level of mental and physical pain tolerance to get through it and not defeat themselves and to be positive.”

Varsity runner Tommy Stecz, Div. 352, said his internal drive to keep him going is what helps him to work through this pain.

“Honestly just overall growth [helps me], and it’s great to see your times get faster, and it’s just a great way to stay in shape,” Stecz said. “And yeah, my coaches motivate me, just getting us through the workouts and giving us different goals to achieve.” 

Roof echoes this when talking about what it takes to push through the pain. 

“It takes those well-rounded, driven people — student-athletes,” Roof said. “They kind of have that ability to balance everything well, and to keep everything in perspective, and that kind of translates to the daily practices and for sure the meets, they put themselves through a lot during the race.” 

Besides internal drive and passion for running, the atmosphere also helps the runners.

“It’s a really good atmosphere, everyone supports one another, and everybody kind of makes up a team,” Stecz said. “So we’ve got a great team atmosphere, that’s for sure.” 

The positive outlook and atmosphere seems to be felt by more than just the varsity runners.

Over the past few months, La Prairie says that she has enjoyed her time on the team and made many friends. As well as that, she genuinely enjoys the sport.

“I mean I really like running and I’ve improved,” La Prairie said.

And Stecz, who has been running cross country for 10 years, enthusiastically recommends people to join the sport as well.

“A lot of people will say it’s not a team sport, but it really is. Just because you have so many people pushing each other and trying to get better mutually,” said Stecz.

So while many will never understand the love the team has for running, those that are a part of the program find support and shared appreciation of the sport, constant pain and all, and, according to Stecz, it truly is a communal experience.

“I would definitely recommend it, especially if you want to make a lot of new friends while also being healthy,” Stecz said. “I would definitely recommend it.”