Pam Staton, a senior cross country runner at Loyola, is the Women's Cross Country correspondent for the HLN Blog.
"With each stride you grow stronger, your heart pounds faster, and you grow more confident and determined. You find out more about yourself and develop great camaraderie and friendships among teammates."
To our cross country team running is not just a sport...it's a way of life.
Being a fifth-year senior, this is one of the most important things in my life right now. This year our team is emphasizing the importance of enjoying the journey and the team environment along the way. Also, with almost all of our top runners returning for both the men and the women (we miss you not being in an LU jersey, Binnie) we know we are deep, have a great deal of talent, and some great leaders on the team. The freshmen all fit in very well and bring a tremendous amount of positive energy.
Preseason camp went really well. We made our way to Pottawatomie Hills, Wisconsin for the team camp that was one that I will never forget and an experience I am certain that changed how all of us looked at the sport of running. We all showed up for the first day of camp knowing we did everything we could over the summer: putting in the mileage, lifting, etc. Each day we had speaking sessions prepared by Cyril, our team chaplain, which allowed us to build a shared passion to form community and helped us realize that there was more to running than just the physical aspect.
Prior to camp Matt McCabe and I divided our whole team into 4 groups and organized various competitions after our morning and afternoon runs. I was a member of "Team Extreme" and we got really fired up about each of the events. Jena Brown suggested we put eye-black under our eyes to intimidate the other teams, and Jon Shepard was our workhorse. Ned Brady, on his birthday, came up with the winning spike to clinch the championship volleyball match, Ryan Kuphall had some exceptional dodgeball and bowling skills, while Danielle Locascio and Jenn Bane brought the dance party and team spirit to the bowling alley. I had some trouble with the canoe races, which created quite a laugh. I would have never guessed it could be so hard! I guess I was a bit overconfident. Nonetheless, my team picked me up and made me realize, "What dictates us in life is when things don't go well. It is how you respond when things don't go well and how you deal with adversity with running and life in general." The camp concluded with one last team run on the hilly trails and we were then on our way back to Chicago. Getting back into the team training environment was a blessing.
We then had a great weekend of getting the team together as well. The ladies and I did our long run downtown on the Lakeshore path enjoying the beach and scenery. Our final destination was Jamba Juice...YUM YUM! We ended the weekend with a team ice cream social that the men's team planned. We also watched the World Track and Field Championships to get us inspired for the upcoming season. What a great little get-together!
We had two weeks of classes along with a couple of fartlek/tempo-type workouts before we opened up the season at the DePaul Opener. DePaul, Marquette, Northwestern, and the Loyola Running Club were the teams we competed against in the meet at Channel Runne Park in the city of Lincolnwood. The goal for the meet was to just run at a tempo-ish, controlled pace, not worrying about winning or about how many runners were in front or back of us during the early parts of the race.Â If we were feeling good and wanting to compete and push the pace towards the end of the race we were free to do so. I was proud and very happy about how our team performed at the opener. Our crew, and the men's squad, both placed second as a team and Coach Wemple was happy with our efforts. We ran back from the race and, of course, Jessie and her mom, Mrs. Morgenthal, embraced us with banana bread, fruit cups, brownies, and cookies galore. Jen Rock, who was already eyeing the banana bread, made sure to point out some fresh raspberries to me, so she could get to the banana bread first. She clearly knows me too well!
This Friday our team is looking forward to racing at the Illinois Intercollegiate Championships at Illinois State University. I can't tell you what's going to happen for sure this season, but I can tell you that we're off to a great start and nothing is going to stop us from competing hard, racing well, and creating a positive energy day in and day out!