RIDGEFIELD — It was Senior Day for Emily Hogan and her Class of 2018 teammates on the Skyview cross country teams.
They all were introduced by their coaches in front of family and friends before their final “home” meet at Whipple Creek Regional Park earlier this week.
They each got a moment to shine.
For some athletes, standing in the spotlight is the norm. The best runners on the team, for example, often get a lot of attention. Finishing first has its privileges.
But a varsity cross country team has seven runners. Only five score points for the team on a particular day.
Yet, there they are, the athletes toward the back of the pack, still putting in the hours, logging the miles.
Hogan is one of those runners. Talented for certain. Determined, too. Just not quite as fast as the best of the best.
“Cross country is definitely hard,” Hogan said. “I like it, though, because everyone feels the same pain. Some are faster, but everyone hurts.”
The fast-but-not-the-fastest have similar stories. ClarkCountyToday.com talked to four athletes from Skyview, but they could represent all cross country athletes who keep pushing themselves for themselves and for their teams, but not necessarily for any individual glory.
“Last year, I wasn’t on varsity,” said junior Spencer Pugh. “I really, really wanted to be on varsity. I just worked really hard over the summer. I just wanted to get better.”
Today, he is on varsity, hoping to crack the top five and score points for the Storm. He is not done improving, but he has made it.
“I’m proud of where I am,” he said.
Joshua Verrinder understands his value to the team. He does not have to be the first, second, or third runner for the Storm to cross the finish line.
“When we do run fourth or fifth (on the team), we’re earning points for our team,” Verrinder said. “We’re still getting points for our team and keeping other teams from getting points.”
“It shows us we are still a team,” Pugh added. “No matter how far behind we finish … we’re still a team and we’re working just as hard, maybe even harder.”
There are benefits to not being the fastest, too.
“After they’re done running, they start cheering for us,” Verrinder said of his faster teammates. “They just keep pushing us.”
In fact, the running world is a world of encouragement. Athletes from one school often cheer for athletes from another school.
“Even if they’re from Camas,” Hogan joked.
“You want everyone to perform their best,” said junior Ella Abbruzzese, adding that she gets a sense of satisfaction every time she runs.
“I’m giving it my all, and I’m supporting my team any way I can, even if I’m not in the first spot,” she said.
Pugh, Verrinder, and Abbruzzese were part of a co-ed Portland-to-Coast relay squad that had several members of the Skyview cross country teams. While not officially sanctioned as a high school sport, the squad did win the high school challenge in its category.
Verrinder had the first leg, starting in downtown Portland.
“I was just trying to focus on giving my team a really good start,” he said.
See? Even in the summer, he was thinking team all the way.
“It was really weird to run at 3 a.m.,” Pugh noted, adding that it was a fun change of pace to participate in a relay rather than a traditional meet.
“It was a lot different than cross country, but it was a lot of fun,” Abbruzzese said.
“It was really fun just to experience it with our teammates,” Verrinder said. “Just bonding time right before the season.”
Now, cross country season is fast approaching October. By the end of the month, the best of the best will qualify as individuals to get to state. The top teams will go to state, too. And all those teams need runners 3-through-5 to pick up points, and the last two runners to push the runners ahead of them. It truly is a team accomplishment.
That is what motivated Hogan to run throughout the summer.
“Just knowing I have teammates expecting me to compete every day,” she said. “I know I need to be there for my teammates.”
Abbruzzese acknowledged she has difficulty training alone. She needs teammates. And she needs to run.
“I don’t feel normal when I’m not” running, she said.
Both the boys and girls have high expectations for their teams heading into the final weeks of the season. The state meet is in Pasco on Nov. 4.
The top runners, and the runners behind them realize what they have to do to succeed. They understand their roles.
“I know the top five girls who are going to get the points are going to do a lot of great things,” Hogan said. “I’m just trying to do as much as I can to support them.”