Middle school cross country sprints through season, makes history


Photo credit: Kim Smith

Members of the middle school cross country team take their first stride at a Pacific Basin League (PBL) meet in Cheviot Hills. The running squad has earned first place finishes in both of their September meets, which marks the first time in Archer history for the middle school cross country team.

By Vaughan Anoa'i, Editor in Chief

As all fall sports embark on the halfway point of their seasons, Archer’s middle school cross country team suits up for their remaining two meets. The running squad has competed in two Pacific Basin League (PBL) meets this past September, both of which they took first place in.

These finishes mark the first time that a middle school cross country team at Archer has won an entire meet. According to head coach Dalila Tolbert, it is her goal to carry this winning streak into the remainder of the season as well as into the state meets, both on a collective and individual level.

“Winning state for middle school, that is my ultimate goal. But for individual athletes, I would like them to beat their times from the previous cross country meet,” Tolbert said. “So, individually, they get a little bit better and then as a whole as a team we end up winning state.”

As Archer continues their return-to-campus plan for all students, on-campus practices and regular meets are back to their regular scheduling. During the week, runners will usually practice on the grass located on the back field or will run one mile around campus. Tolbert noted that sometimes the team will venture off-campus and run on the sidewalks to practice their uphill sprints. Regardless of the practice location, Tolbert described the “hard work” and “willing” mentality that each athlete comes to practice with.

“They come to practice hard and they come to practice willing,” Tolbert said. “They all listen, so I think that played a huge part in them winning. They were prepared to run because they work so hard during practice.”

Due to COVID-19 regulations, cross country athletes were not permitted to compete in meets last season and also had to participate in shortened practices on campus. As they prepared for this season, eighth grade captain Lila Bigalow spoke to the mental and physical challenges of this season, as well as the positive aspects.

They all listen, so I think that played a huge part in them winning. They were prepared to run because they work so hard during practice.

— Dalila Tolbert

“It’s definitely challenging, like mentally and physically; I had a little bit of a mental block coming in just because I hadn’t competed in over a year,” Bigalow said. “But, I felt really accomplished afterwards and just really proud of myself and other people on the team for competing.”

Echoing Bigalow’s sentiment, sixth grade runner Farah Sandoval shared her personal goals as she prepares for the remaining two meets on Oct. 12 and Nov. 3 at Cheviot Hills.

“It’s been going really well so far. I’d like to get top five or top three … I’ve gotten top seven; that’s the closest I’ve got,” Sandoval said. “I’d really like to get a little higher up there and also just improve my experience more since I’m in sixth grade. I still have things to learn, so I want to try and do that.”

From after-school practices to weekly meets, the team has developed a “family-like” bond through the time that they’ve spent together. In addition to this bond, the general enjoyment surrounding running has also shifted this season, according to Bigalow.

“Everyone on the team is super nice, and I enjoy spending time with my friends,” Bigalow said. “I also enjoy running because although it can be hard at times, I always feel really energized and happy after I finish a practice or a meet.”

This connection extends beyond just the team environment, however. Sandoval describes the friendships that have translated to everyday life as a result of the cross country program.

“Everybody’s so nice, and I’ve made friends that I can just say hi to sometimes,” Sandoval said. “I love the people and I love how  it’s such a little group so we’re already close, because not a lot of people do cross country.”

Looking forward, Tolbert said she felt very “happy” and “excited” to continue training in preparation for the remaining meets, as well as continuing to improve one day at a time.

“Hopefully we go on and win our next meet and go on and win state. And if we don’t do those things, I hope that everybody just gets a little bit better than what they did the last week,” Tolbert said. “I’m happy and excited to be here.”