• Patton cross-country runners go the distance

  • Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series of articles about Patton Junior High School fall sports.

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  • Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
    Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series of articles about Patton Junior High School fall sports.
    When playing football, 11 people come together to form one unit, whether it be offense or defense, to work toward a common goal — scoring more points than the other team. When playing volleyball, six people come together to do the same. But there is one sport at Patton Junior High School that, while still a team of 36, emphasizes the accomplishments of each individual participant — cross-country.
    “(Cross-country) gives you a chance to express your individuality because your time, your distance, what you put into it is completely yours,” said Patton seventh-grader Alex Rieper. “It is just a matter of doing our best when we get out there.”
    Coach Tricia Dreiling agreed.
    “You can’t blame anybody but yourself in cross-country,” Dreiling said. “If you have a bad time or you’re not running hard or pushing yourself in practice, it is on you. … (Running) is a lifetime activity that most of us do the rest of our lives, so just to get them to enjoy running is the main goal.”
    Every day after school, the 36 runners warm up together before going outside for a two-mile run around the perimeter of the school. While running two miles seems straightforward, the athletes are keeping a close eye on their form and the obstacles in their path.
    “(Cross-country) is hard because you have to run down hills and you have to run up hills,” Dreiling said. “You have to learn how to put your head down when you’re running up a hill or have big strides so you can really gain on somebody when you’re running downhill without falling down.”
    “The hill is our MVP. The hill has made us tough,” Coach Gipper Sullivan added. “They have to learn how to pace themselves because if they go out too fast, then they can’t finish. Then, just getting themselves to run two miles without walking is a challenge.”
    Additionally, as opposed to other sports, particularly track and field, which has similar goals, cross-country means dealing with the elements.
    “It is more exciting, but you have more of the elements to deal with,” Dreiling said. “The rain can be for both, but with cross-country you could also be running in mud and other (obstacles).”
    For Patton eighth-grader Courtney Manner that is what makes her love cross-country more than track.
    “In cross-country, the scenery is always changing, and it doesn’t feel as repetitive and bothersome in that way,” Manner said. “Running two miles on a track, I feel like would do rather poorly on that because I would probably lose count doing the same thing over and over again, therefore it would be a lot easier to lose motivation, but with cross-country you can see your goal.”
    Page 2 of 2 - When it comes to the meets, the main goal is to continually improve individual running times, something Patton eighth-grader and team captain Gabi Ohwovoriole said makes cross-country stand out from other sports.
    “It is all about stamina and endurance,” Ohwovoriole said. “For example, in basketball you have a specific amount of time to make a certain amount of points, and you have to at least try and beat the other team in that amount of time.
    “With cross-country, you just keep getting faster and faster, your time just keeps getting faster and faster, and it doesn’t have a limit,” she said.
    Ohwovoriole’s fastest time for two miles is 16 minutes, 26 seconds, but she said her goal is 14:00. However, that is not the only goal she has for her season.
    “I want to get closer to (my dad) since most of the time he’s deployed, and I don’t get to spend time with him that much,” Ohwovoriole said. “I decided to do cross-country so we could bond over something like running, and we could go on a run together every week.”
    Though her father, Maj. Samuel Ohwovoriole is currently on a one-year deployment to Kuwait, she said they have already bonded over cross-country.
    “I talk to him about my meets and how I’m doing and he tells me how I could correct my form or how I should stretch my muscles after practice and things like that,” Ohwovoriole said.
    As team captain, Ohwovoriole said she is passing that advice along to her teammates.
    “Usually, I tell them not to drink as much water before a run so that they don’t get waterlogged or that they should stretch before a meet,” she said. “(Being team captain), it makes me happy because last year I used to look up to all the leaders.
    “Now, this year, people can look up to me,” she said. “I feel proud that I can watch all these seventh graders grow up to become leaders as well and to just get faster and faster as they go on.”
    The next cross-country meet is 4-7 p.m. today at Shawnee Mission Park. For a complete Patton sports schedule, visit https://patton.usd207.org/apps/events/2019/10/?id=1.
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