Westminster cross country teams finish the 2016 season

First and second place finishes in state championships are almost expected with Westminster sports teams, and this year’s cross country teams were no exception. The girls’ team, led by head coach Amy Eubanks, went undefeated throughout the season and won State. The boys team, led by head coach Joe Tribble, dominated in the regular season and performed well in State but finished runner-up to East Jackson High School.

Despite the ultimate victory, the girls only beat Lovett by two points, a margin that in cross country, could be determined by how merely one runner ran. Lovett, with the AAA individual winter Serena Tripodi, was the Westminster’s main competition this season, but ultimately, Westminster’s strong and tenacious team won the hard-fought race. With a wild sprint to the finish, junior Bronte Bacchetta narrowly beat two Lovett runners to make Westminster the champions.

Eubanks, coaching her 26th year of cross country, thoroughly enjoys her job through the relationships she builds with her runners and believes that these strong relationships between her and her runners fuel their team success.

“I love seeing teams work together and having so many girls cheering each other on,” said Eubanks. “It’s all about the relationships.”

Sophomore runner Mikaela Sanders has nothing but praise for Eubanks.

“One of the things I love about Coach Eubanks is that she genuinely cares about each and every member of the team,” said Sanders. “Even though there are 120 girls on the team, she takes the time to get to know every person. She makes every girl feel like a valuable member to the team, even if we don’t actually score, and encourages us to run our fastest.”

Although Eubanks is their coach, she knows her girls are taking hard classes and have lots of school work.

“I try to be respectful of their time, to not keep them here any longer than necessary,” said Eubanks. “I encourage them to go to the football games, to try to have normal lives.”

Eubanks has been highly successful in her tenure as a cross country coach, and she does it through establishing a routine.

“For state, we maybe train a little bit harder, but it’s still the same routine,” said Eubanks. “We try to prepare for any challenges the course may bring us.”

Although cross country may seem like a pretty uniform sport, each course brings the team a different challenge.

“Of all the courses we run on, our home course is the one we run on the most,” said Sanders.  “Most of the team likes our course the best because we are so used to running it, but it is also pretty challenging because you have to run up a hill four times.”

Eubanks enjoys seeing her team gain a home course advantage on the many hills.

“We train for the hills really hard, and the girls don’t like it, but we consistently beat the other teams on the hills,” said Eubanks. “It really shows them how practice pays off.”

Although the team mostly runs on Westminster’s courses, another notable course is Carrollton, the location of the state meet.

“Carrollton is definitely the hardest course we run because there are three hills, and you have to run up each one twice,” said Sanders. “It is nearly impossible to PR on that course.”

Times are generally lower for flatter courses, as is the case with the Alexander course.

“My favorite course we run is Alexander,” said Sanders. “It’s completely flat the entire time, and I always get a PR when I run it. I particularly enjoyed it this season because I got a medal for being in the top twenty in my race.”

Although Alexander is very flat, it still has its challenges.

“I miss-estimated the end and started to sprint with over a mile left,” said sophomore Niama Turbes. “That’s why I love our home course. There’s something about knowing every turn and exactly how far you have run that encourages you to go faster when you’re tired.”

Along with coaching cross country, Eubanks tries to teach overarching lessons that will apply to their lives later.

“I’m a health teacher, so I teach them good habits,” said Eubanks. “I also teach them to balance their life. I tell them ‘more is not always better,’ sometimes you need to relax and trust yourself.”

One of the most recognizable facets of girl’s cross country is the “sisterhood.”

“My favorite part of cross country is the sisterhood,” said Sanders. “Over the course of the season, you build such a strong bond with people from every grade. It’s great to have so many people cheering you on and rooting for you during races.”

Turbes also enjoys being a part of the Sisterhood.

“I loved taking on a challenge everyday alongside my friends,” said Turbes. “Not only did I improve my running, but I grew closer to the entire team.”

The sisterhood best shows their support at the State meet. Although only seven of the girls ran in the team, the whole team still showed up.

“The highlight of our season was most definitely our state win,” said Turbes. “The right victory meant every single runner and cheerer mattered.”

Every year, three senior captains are appointed, and these three are who the team leans on. This year’s captains are seniors Gabby Bunnell, Florida Huff, and Klara Lou.

“Every team is different, but the captains really help bring everybody together,” said Eubanks. “If someone is having a bad day, the captains always cheer them up.”

While Eubanks is proud of her team’s physical accomplishments, she is also very proud of the way they support each other.

“I’m really proud of the progress they make as a team and as individual people,” said Eubanks. “Working with girls and really see them realize their potential and motivate each other makes my job truly special. I love my job.”

The boys’ team, which is led by senior captains Jack Powers, Mitchell Ostrow, and John Sheehan, had a great year, including first at the region race, but they disappointingly finished runner-up in the State to a stacked East Jackson team. Though the team placed two in the top ten, East Jackson had all of their top-five runners finish before all of Westminster’s top-five runners came in.

Despite the loss, individually, every runner on the team who ran in state had their best performance of the season. Powers and sophomore Will Wallace finished top ten in the race. The others, seniors Bradley Jones and Jack Schlafly, sophomores Peter Huff and William Foshee, and freshman Zach Roe, ran course personal records.  Coach Tribble prepares his teams so that they have their best performance in state.

“Coach Tribble is a great coach,” said sophomore runner Peter Huff. “He engineers our training perfectly so that we peak at state. I always worry that I’m too slow at the beginning of the season, but with coach’s guidance I always get the speed I need before the season ends. He motivates us in practice and during races and makes sure we are sleeping, drinking, and doing everything to stay in shape for practice and races.”

The boys team comes in every year with expectations to win state, as indicated by their slogan “victory.”

“In everything we do each season, the goal is to win,” said Powers. “Winning the Wendy’s Invitational was definitely the high point of the season. Coach Tribble really helps us with his vast running experience and knowledge that he is willing to share with the team.”

Sophomore Will Mills, a first year runner, enjoyed being a part of the team this year.

“I really admire how determined Coach Tribble is to train us to be better runners individually and push us closer together as a team,” said Mills. “I really enjoy the amount of determination to get faster by every member of the team.”

Although the team did not reach their lofty goals for the year, they nonetheless had high points that defined the season. The team won region for the first time in three years, beating neighborhood rivals Lovett and Pace, who placed second and third, respectively.

“One of the biggest high points was the region,” said Huff. “Our top seven all ran very well, with Wallace and Powers placing second and third, leading us to a commanding victory.”

But ultimately, the team lost to an East Jackson team which had more firepower. The team had Chase Kennedy, who has the fastest 5K time in the state and one of the fastest 5K times in the nation, along with several other runners who are among the fastest in the classification.

“The low point was state,” said Huff. “We were hoping to win and came up short. Even though we all ran well, East Jackson had a better race. We were not unhappy with the way we ran individually, but we were disappointed to lose.”

Although the boys team fell short this year Powers thinks next year’s team can redeem themselves.

“It was disappointing to lose this year, but we have some really fast young guys, and I think the team can win next year,” said Powers.

Next season, the boys team will return four of their top five runners and nine of their top twelve runners. In addition, this season’s captains will pass the reins to next season’s newly elected captains: juniors Rains Draper, Albert Zhang, Erik Montag, and Mason Arbery. With this leadership, internal improvement, and the graduation of strong senior runners of rival teams, the team has much hope and confidence to win state next season.

“I believe that we could be one of the top teams in the state, across all classifications next year,” said Zhang. “East Jackson and Lovett lose their best runners, and we return almost all of our best runners, so if we work hard enough to improve our times from last season, we can pull a victory at state next season.”