Taking heart in competing together

Cross-country athletes continue to push forward after cancellation of three separate seasons

Daniel Newman, Sports Editor

The first leg of the mixed 10k relay team is finishing their first lap of race at Ballard High School (left to right, Brayden Schultz, Jared Putney, Elius Graff, Colin Boutin). (Jacky Chen)

For cross-country athletes at Seattle Pacific University and around the county, the cancellations and postponements were numerous. First, it was outdoor track in the spring. Then it was cross-country in the fall. Finally, indoor track championships were cancelled for the winter. No other team on campus has had more than one season canceled so far, but as senior Colin Boutin explained, cross-country does things differently competition wise.

“The thing about being a cross-country and track athlete is that we are in season most of the year. Other sports, they are not,” Boutin said. “We have cross-country, indoor track, and outdoor track, each with their own season, each with their own rules, but basically we’re full time training and competing the whole year.”

In some ways, the extended break has been a blessing for Boutin, as he takes more time to train and less to focus on competition.

“Even though we’re just doing a lot of training, it’s nice, I’m not dreading any race that’s coming up or I’m not being rushed into any race, cause sometimes you get that, where it’s like, ‘Oh I just raced this,’ and then like ‘Oh I have a race in a week, and I’m not sure if I’ll be ready for it,” Boutin said.

Kelsey Washenberger holds off two seniors as she finishes her leg of the race at Ballard High School. (front to back, Kelsey Washenberger, Elizabeth Thompson, Dania Holmberg). (Jacky Chen)

Third-Year Jared Putney was shocked by the cancellation of the season in the spring, but he was glad that the conference decided to cancel the entire season all at once instead of viewing the situation from a week by week basis. He was less surprised by the cancellation of the fall season.

“I kind of figured that cross [country] would get canceled. They told us in July officially,” Putney said.

Putney is excited to be back and running with his teammates again after seven long months.

“That was one of the reasons why training over the summer was hard at times, because I had run seven months straight just alone everyday,” Putney said. “That made it so much better when we finally got to come back to the team. My coach was like, ‘Oh, you have to run in pods,’ and we were just like, ‘We’ll take whatever we can get.’”

On Saturday, October 10, the members of the cross-country teams participated in a relay race to help bring the team together and build competition. A baton was not actually passed between team members. Whenever one team member finished their distance, the next member could start. There were four teams, and one person from each team ran at the same time. Each team was made up of two men and two women, and the men ran 3200 meters, first-year women ran 1600 meters, and returning women ran 2000 meters. The team of junior Brayden Schultz, first-year Nicole DeHerrera, sophomore JR Hentges and senior Dania Holmberg took home the victory.

Sayer McDonald, new runner, and Jon Owen, second year distance runner, pace with each other as they progress through their 10k. (Jacky Chen)

“We were in the lead until the last lap,” Putney said with a sigh, “And then Dania, who is crazy good, she went to nationals and everything, had a super good last lap and then we got second, which kind of sucked.”

This event marked the first time the entire team had seen each other this year, according to Putney. All social distancing guidelines were followed during the event when the runners were not running.

Beginning a season without any official races is not the way Boutin imagined his senior season going, though he hopes to use the extra year of eligibility given to him by the NCAA next year. Both Boutin and Putney hope to reach the national championship meets before their careers end.

One of the best ways to bond with teammates is on long bus or plane rides. Boutin remembered a story from two years ago, when the team was returning from the GNAC Indoor Track championships in Nampa, Idaho. Head Coach Karl Lerum called a local Taco Time and asked them to make 100 tacos and burritos, so the team could just pick them up and head on the road. However, Taco Time thought that they were being prank called.

“They didn’t actually do it, so when we pulled up with a bus full of hungry track athletes that just competed in conference, we had to wait there for 30 minutes,” Boutin said. “It was fun thinking about it now but yeah, it was rough in the moment.”

Boutin hopes to take another big trip with the team someday, but for now, running and practicing with a few of his teammates is enough.

“If team practice was canceled, then I don’t think I would be running as much, I wouldn’t be motivated, wouldn’t be having fun running, so having a team right now is really great,” Boutin said.