We have nearly completed another Cross Country season, excited about our third place finish in the Eastern independent League Championship and looking forward to the New England Championship on Saturday, November 10. Coaching Cross Country is one of the best parts of my job here at Dana. Athletics provides such powerful opportunities for growth, and no sport does this better than Cross Country. Am I biased? Of course I am! I’ve coached more than 40 seasons, nine different teams, in four sports at three schools; being a part of the athletic program at Dana is easily the most rewarding coaching experience of my career. The spirit of the athletes, the support of the community, and the leadership of the Athletic Department make it a privilege to coach Cross Country here, and I’m grateful for the opportunity.
Human beings are literally born to run — no other animal on earth is better evolved to be a distance runner. I believe that when we run, we are celebrating the essence of our humanity. Cross Country is the oldest and greatest sport in the world. In no other sport are results as closely linked to effort and investment on the part of the athlete. It is also fundamentally inclusive — everyone makes the team, everyone “plays the whole game,” and luck doesn’t affect the results. It is a sport that is wide open to all — indeed, the NEPSAC championships doesn’t even have a qualifier — just show up and get on the starting line.
Cross Country is also the toughest of sports — when competing, you are out on the course alone. Teammates can’t really help you, and the honesty of the stopwatch will always find you. It takes courage to get yourself on the starting line and challenge yourself every week. It takes as much effort and determination to win a race as it does to come in near the back of the pack — just getting yourself to the starting line is an achievement. The Cross Country runner has to battle rain, cold, fatigue and soreness every day so that they can then suffer through the intensity of an all out effort over 5 kilometers of rocky hills and uneven trails. Cross Country celebrates persistence and grit, rewarding the runner’s effort with an opportunity to test themselves not only against their competitors, but against themselves and the runner they were the week before.Cross Country is also the purest of sports — pure competition with both your opponent and, more importantly, yourself. What matters most is that you strive to run a race that honors your opponent, your team and the sport. Anyone who has attended a Cross Country race knows the spirit among teammates and among teams; indeed it is common to see runners cheering on their opponents. The sport presents a wonderful paradox for athletes; it is a totally independent sport, but it is also a truly complete team sport. One athlete can not carry the team — the fifth place runner on any team has as much of an impact on the results as the first place runner on the team, and on any given day, anybody on the team could be that fifth place runner. Cross Country embodies the best that sports has to teach us: that everybody has something to contribute — everybody counts, everybody matters.
I’m privileged to witness all of these things happening every day here at Dana. Our athletic program is vigorous, spirited and valuable. It provides our students real opportunities to challenge themselves, practice teamwork, lift each other up and celebrate their humanity. We always tell the girls on the team to look for the joy in the experience — joy of running, of competition and of each other. Athletics plays a vital role in the growth and development of our students; as Dana Hall coaches, it is OUR joy to witness this growth.