Addison Trail Cross Country Begins With a Good Outlook

Addison Trail’s girls cross country team’s season took off with many quick finishes and personal records during a meet against conference rival Downers Grove South on September 5th.

Kirsten Olson, the girls varsity coach, highlighted successes of several Blazers at this meet.  One of these Blazers was senior Viviana Sanfilippo. She placed 3rd in the varsity race. Sophomore Esmeralda Bucio also finished the race with a large accomplishment, running a career personal record and adding her name to the all time fastest Blazers list. Sophomore Joanna Cruz was the third Blazer to start off with a bang, bettering her freshman best time by 2:09 from last season.

The Blazers saw similar successes at their second meet, which was hosted on September 10th at Wood Dale Grove, Addison Trail’s home course. Sanfilippo and junior Madelyn Ford placed 1st and 4th respectively in the Varsity Race.  Each ran a season personal record.

  Two new members of the team had impressive results during this meet as well. Olson described the stellar performance of these girls.

“There were standout performances from freshman Giselle Hernandez and sophomore Isabella Basilio, both of which are new members of the team. Giselle had a stellar debut at the Varsity level, improving her time from the previous Saturday by 1:48.  Isabella had the biggest overall improvement by running 4:08 faster than she had at the Downers Grove South meet.”

As many team successes have come from freshmen or other new team members, the team has shown pride in their abilities to blend in and yield such strong starts.

“We have 3 freshmen who are running varsity this year,” said Madelyn Ford, one of the girls captains this year. “I think that they are doing a great job adjusting.”

Coach Olson also mentioned  some top returning runners.

“Top Returning Runners are team Captains Senior Viviana Sanfilippo and Junior Madelyn Ford.  Both have great talent and determination.  They put in strong summer training and I fully expect will continue to set the bar for our newer members,” she said.

Ford described challenges that the team will have to face this year. 

“It’s challenging not to be able to run in large groups. It’s also difficult to worry about masks when trying to overcome pre meet nerves. We’ve been doing alot more speed work this year, but being unable to use the weight room to work different muscle groups has held us back,” she said. “I’m just fortunate that we’re allowed to run.”

Similarly to many runners, Ford’s goals have changed greatly during the pandemic, as competition amid the precautions is much more scarce. However, she has shifted many of her goals to focus on succeeding as an individual runner.

“My personal goal this year is to just keep dropping my time as much as possible,” she said. “We all want to qualify, but  it’s more personal, with less comparing yourself to others,” she said. “We’ve been increasing our mileage to work towards our goals.”

While achieving goals and funning is a big part of why the girls love this team, the bond also is a huge part of what makes it special. This leads coaches, captains, and participants to encourage newcomers to join cross country. The team is still looking for new team members this season, and the coaches are happy to have those who are interested contact them.

“I would honestly encourage anyone to join cross country.  Running is a lifetime love of mine, but honestly cross-country really has a great blend of team atmosphere as well as many goals and Personal Records and achievements that you can make along the way,” said Olson.

Ford agreed that cross country is a special sport.

“I don’t think people realize how powerful running is,” said Ford. “Running is a mental sport, and many don’t see that until they join. People learn to battle their own minds, pride themselves, and be a part of a really good team,” she said. “I would definitely encourage anyone to join. It’s just one of those sports,” she added.

As the team looks ahead to the finish of their season, many girls reflect on what an important part of their life running is and their love for the sport. Coach Olson, in particular, describes why she loves this team.

“This is my 20th year coaching Cross Country and I honestly feel so lucky to have the chance to work with these young women.  Whether I am coaching a 4th year senior like Viviana Sanfilippo or coaching a brand new runner who is just starting out, I really appreciate watching them improve and realize the connections in setting goals and learning to believe in themselves. I love watching them succeed,” she said.

The girls team will continue to work towards their goals and overcome their challenges throughout the season.

The boys cross country team also began their season with a lot of broken PRs. Their first meet was against Downers Grove South at their home course, Wood Dale Grove. Last Thursday, they ran at Hinsdale South’s course.

“Getting a meet completed and being able to compete with the restrictions was a great opportunity for everybody to be able to get out and run and compete after a long time of uncertainty,” said Brad Donaldson, the boys varsity coach. “We had both Dylan Moran and Alex Martinez run extremely well. In both meets they ran in the top five finishers.”

These meets were a milestone for many.  Many runners completed their first ever cross country race.

“It was great to have them get a chance to get out and run,” said Donaldson.

Most of these first time runners are freshmen this year. The team encompasses about 11 freshmen. The team is excited to see this many freshmen start cross country so early. 

“This is the largest group of freshmen we’ve had in years, which will be really good for the future,” said Donaldson. “A new runner who is a standout to the team this year is junior Eduardo Escomirosa. He looks to be a promising runner as a totally new person to cross country,” he said.

These new runners and experienced runners alike look forward to what they believe will be a very successful season. 

“I would say that the boys team has a solid chance of doing well against other teams later in the season,” said senior Dylan Moran, who is captain of the team. “We have a solid group of top guys that are seriously dedicated to doing their best.”

The boys know that this success will come with many challenges. Amidst the pandemic, meets have been cancelled, opportunities limited, and uncertainties about whether the season will carry itself out for its entire length.

“Our main challenge this season is lack of competition,” said Moran. The majority of our individual meets were cancelled due to the pandemic so we have been stuck racing at local parks against teams in our own conference. It’s hard to get motivation when there is a lack of competition.”

Donaldson discussed some other challenges for the team. “Focusing on trying to pay attention to all of the details that are beyond just showing up and running is something we will need to focus on. Because we can’t be near each other during warmups, the responsibility has shifted more onto the individual athlete,” he said.

Despite the difficulties these challenges have presented the team with, the boys are still working hard to achieve their goals. Although whether or not sectionals, regionals, and other big events will take place, the team is still driven to achieve great things this season.

“Our returning runners and our varsity are definitely a very competitive group, both personally and in the conference. Our goal is just to get better everyday,” said Donaldson. “When we come to practice, we try to be better today than we were yesterday. We’re placing a lot more focus on trying to look for week to week and month to month improvement. Hopefully that will eventually translate into conference, regional, and sectional success.”

Although the team knows that sectionals may not occur due to Covid-19, they are still training to qualify as if it is a definite.

“We might not go past a regionals meet, but the varsity’s main goal is to qualify for sectionals as a team,” said Moran. So far we have been putting in a lot of work to achieve this goal.”

This ambitious team also has a strong bond. Many students who are a part of the team as well as coach Donaldson welcome and encourage new students to join the team and build on this bond as well.

“Most of us have known each other for years now. What makes our bond special is that we all look out for one another and have different qualities that we use to help one another,” said Moran. Using these qualities to help others is an important reason that Moran stepped up to be the team captain. “While cross country is a personal sport, every sport needs leaders,” he said. “Running is harder when you do it on your own and while we have a coach to give us workouts and advice, it is nice to have someone who is experienced and willing to guide others to help lead the team forward.”

Coach Donaldson sent out an important message to those interested in joining.

“I would absolutely encourage anyone to come out and run at any point,” he said. “Unlike a lot of other sports, cross country can be a lifetime passion that you can grow into. Even when the season ends at the end of October, you still have PRs and goals that you can try to strive to accomplish. There’s no time like today to try and take your first run. There is a place for everybody.”

The team looks forward to seeing success and improvement throughout the season as it eagerly awaits decisions about sectionals. No matter what, the team will continue to strive to improve at the sport they love.

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