Social distance is decreased by team bonds
Young people’s lives can be busy in the summer months. For those participating in Fall sports, add team practice to their busy agendas. The harriers of the Teton Wolfpack have been assembling for over a week at this writing. Cross country coaches Mindy Kaufman and Caleb Moosman host two workouts a day. Some athletes come to morning sessions and others hit the afternoon sessions and sometimes an athlete will attend both.
This season of cross country is unique for a number of reasons. Virus awareness has forced a variety of changes to practices. Meets will be run with a number of constraints and an old, former coach can’t just get hugs from former athletes when he drops in on their practice to see how the season is shaping up.
This new moniker, the Timberwolves, fits well with this pack of youth who maintain some distance but still feel drawn to each other as the team tightens sinews and seals bonds of connection. Some are but puppies learning the simpler rules of the pack. The experienced Alphas and Betas understand that the success of the pack will rely on their leadership.
Unfortunately, having the whole pack together at one daily session is not yet practical until classes begin. I made time to meet with the afternoon crew last week and I was left feeling optimistic about the prospects of the new pack.
If you know anything about cross country, you know that a team’s success hedges largely on the intangible, on the sense of unity and willingness to sacrifice one’s short-term impulse for the long-term greater good of the team’s vision. This may sound squishy. We are primarily individuals and the goal is for the sole athlete to arrive at the finish line as fast as possible; right? Some see this as the guiding principle of our society.
Yeah, but... No. In cross country, individual success is great but only gets the team so far. Teton has a tradition of placing great emphasis on collective success. If your team aspires to succeed, it can only get there with each individual seeing himself or herself as responsible to the pack, to the team, to the family, to the society.
The not-so-fuzzy math of scoring based on your top five runners influences the calculus of any one runner’s commitment. But the literal heart and soul of any harrier’s willingness to sacrifice, train and achieve is magnified by his or her devotion to the team.
This is why strong individual harriers usually have strong teams behind them--or more accurately--with them. The desire for collective success nurtures that sense of responsibility and willingness to sacrifice for the team. So, back to my pre-season optimism.
It is clear that this group of athletes has put in more collective miles this summer than any previous Teton cross team. That fact has to do largely, with the shutdown that began in March. These kids lost their in-school social experience, they lost their Spring track and field season, They were apart from each other for such a vast percentage of their personal and social growth that their energy got redirected.
Senior, Gavin Behrens ran to deal with the isolation. I saw him on the roads in April. I saw him logging miles with his teammates this summer and reports sifted in that he and so many of his peers were developing a discipline of habit. “The virus just brought us all together,” Gavin revealed. He was not the exception among the veterans on the team. They were out on the roads and trails, or inside logging miles on the treadmill.
Across the board, veteran harriers spoke with confidence about their improvements over last season. I asked senior Mackenzie Lee to reflect on her increased preparations over previous years. “I put in some miles and I haven’t done that before and I think I’m more motivated.”
The crew of team leaders, the Alphas, the Betas, the Gammas, the Deltas feel abundant joy to be united again and working toward the common goal. The young puppies in the pack have expressed a sense of belonging. They already know that their work means much to the strength of the pack.
Is this not a lesson for the wider society? Can we learn from our youth that if I am concerned for the collective health of my society, I must act in a responsible way?
Sophomore, Addison Hansen said, “I made it my summer goal to cut 2 minutes off my fastest time from last year. I did that so now my goal is to cut 2 more minutes off my time.”
The Teton High School cross country harriers are on the threshold of a fresh season and by all indications, they will provide our Valley inspiration through their spirited unity.
Senior James Allen holds great expectations for his team. Speaking of the many who ran over the summer, he said, “They seem like they’re hungry. They seem like they’re ready to go.”
The Timberwolves will have their first race at Blackfoot High School on Thursday, August 27th. The JV races begin at 2:30 and the Varsity races will begin at 3:30. Men’s races will follow the women’s races. Fans following the team can find race schedules, results and other details at athletic.net
Cross Country Team Roster and Grade Level
Amey, Taylor 9
Bagley, Sara 11
Godfrey, Brooklyn 10
Hansen, Addison 10
Hertz, Falena 11
Hunter, Breah 10
Hunter, Kylie 11
Lee, Mackenzie 12
Letham, Jenna 10
Marcum, Liza 11
Moncur, Kalia 9
Pentz, Madeline 9
Simmons, Lindsey 10
Torres, Catherine 10
Wilson, Eliza 11
Adams, Ben 11
Allen, Jacob 10
Allen, James 12
Bates, Brennen 12
Behrens, Gavin 12
Collins, Porter 10
Edwards, Cameron 11
Machen, Noah 11
Marcum, Tyson 9
McKeller, Oliver 10
Morales, Rocky 9
Ortiz, Alex 10
Ripplinger, Carl 11
Russon, Leif 11
Safiran, Lance 12
Terry, Ty 10
Tuttle, Frankie 9
Wilson, Gideon 9
Woiwode, CG 11
Woiwode, John 12