For many Swarthmore athletes, one season is enough. With daily practices, weekly games, and a full course schedule, the season can certainly be a grueling time. That being said there are many advantages to not being in-season time, namely a much freer schedule and the chance to catch up on work. Most athletes that play a fall sport finish their season by the end of November and do not start formal practices again until March. There is, however, one exception.
The men and women’s cross country team, like every fall sports team, returns to campus two weeks before the start of classes for a brutal preseason consisting of multiple practices a day. While in season, they have practices every day, running on the track or throughout the Crum, training for their next meet. Their season culminates in the Centennial Conference Championship, and then if they qualify, runners are invited to the NCAA Regional Championship. This year both the men’s and women’s team placed fourth. Overall, Haverford’s men won the meet, as did Johns Hopkins’s women.
Once their season concludes, almost all 40 runners jump straight back into a new season, indoor track and field. Okay, ‘straight back into’ is a bit of an overstatement.
According to cross country and track runner, Sierra Sweeney ’21, “most runners take two or three days off before starting back up again.”
Supposedly, ‘two to three days’ is more than enough time to rest, catch up with schoolwork, and prepare for another season. And sure enough, as far as academics are concerned, this is more than enough time. The men’s team had the third-highest GPA in Division III, averaging 3.73, while the women recorded the thirteenth highest with 3.72.
As the events for indoor track are not strictly limited to running multiple kilometers in every weather condition imaginable, more athletes are included. Each team will have around 35-40 members once sprinters, throwers, and huddlers are thrown into the mix.
This particular season goes from November through late February and most indoor track athletes, like the swimmers or basketball players, cut their winter breaks short and return to Swarthmore before the second semester starts. Although most runners return early, it is not mandatory and for especially the cross country runners, winter break is the only time of the year they are able to return home.
After winter break, the teams continue practicing on a daily basis, getting ready for the championship meet. This season, both the women’s and men’s teams once again had a great season, placing 2nd and 3rd respectively. The conference championship in February officially marks the end of the indoor season. But, as I am sure you guessed, there is yet another season succeeding indoor track and field season — outdoor track and field! This season goes through the end of the spring semester.
The outdoor track and field season is currently ongoing and the team is looking to replicate their success in the winter. In their most recent meet, each team competed in the Chester Quarry Classic against Eastern, Haverford, Winder, and West Chester. Swarthmore’s Adil Belgaumi ’20 led the way for the Garnet, finishing first in the 100-meter dash. His teammates followed suit as Robert Eppley ’19, Graham Doskoch ’20, and Alex Flowers ’21 placed second in their individual events. The women’s team led by Kayla Camacho ’19 and Clay Conley ’20 placed first in their events — the 100 meter dash and the discus throw. Rachel Vresilovic ’20, Sayaka Vaules ’20, and the 4×100 — meter team consisting of, Camacho, Vaules, Simran Khanna ’19, and Lauren Holt ’21 all placed second in their respective events.
For Camacho and Conley, this success is nothing new. Last season, Camacho was named on the All-Centennial Conference First Team, while Conley won the shot put and weight throw at the 2019 indoor centennial conference championship and went onto compete at nationals.
Swarthmore’s cross country and track teams have maintained a consistent level of success both on and off the track over the years. The teams are as cohesive a group as any, and despite the daily trainings and meals over the year, the teams still can be seen filing into sharples together. According to Sweeney, although the men’s and women’s teams compete separately, they are still one team. Their cohesion has been integral to their continued success and makes being on the team a meaningful experience.
Apparently this cohesion is not just specific to our teams, and more so speaks to the nature of running. Running as a sport is physically and mentally exhausting. And despite the individualistic nature of the sport, it is not as competitive as some might think. Sweeney says that running with and against other people is a shared experience — each runner recognizing and appreciating the work of the fellow runners besides them.
“Compared to other sports, running has really good people who are kind and welcoming,” Sweeney said.
This is not completely surprising seeing that running, unlike soccer or football, is not a contact sport. This allows fewer opportunities to cheat or purposely injury other players. Soccer players simulate fouls to get to calls from the referee, while one of football’s main objectives is to hit the opposing player as hard as possible. Running however, is a competition against yourself and the clock. There are no shortcuts or easy ways out. ’
Jean-Baptiste Robert ’21, a sprinter, also recognizes the camaraderie amongst runners, but claims that sprinting is a little different. Unlike distance runners who wish their opponents luck before a race, he says sprinters tend to be much less amiable and more focused on winning. As an indoor track and field athlete, Robert noted the huge time commitment that he and his fellow teammates as the one downside of the sport. He does however understand things could be worse as he noted the 30 or so cross country runners who are in-season every season.
With the Centennial Conference Finals taking place on May 3, the Garnet only have a few more weeks of practices and meets. The Garney will compete in the Widener Invitational, Larry Ellis Invite, Penn Relays, Lion Invite, and University of Delaware Open. In these remaining five meets, the Garnet athletes will look to improve on their times in the hopes of breaking personal records, finishing higher at Conferences, and qualifying for the National Championships.