Individual runners place 4th and 18th at D1 state race

Members of the boys and girls cross country teams reflect on a challenging yet rewarding season. This year, runners Annika Elliott, junior, and Nathan Cumberbatch, sophomore, were the only runners to make it to state. Resilience was key for the teams as injuries, a change to the toughest sectional and sub-sectional in D1 and other pandemic related challenges were prominent. 

“In Division 1 the competition is way more difficult just because the schools are bigger, so they have more people to choose from talent wise,” Elliott said. “Our biggest challenge was probably to figure out where we fit and where we belonged in D1 and really realize that we could compete with those teams.”

 Shorewood girls cross country saw the end to their season at their sectional race. They were placed in the most difficult sectional in the state, which included both powerhouses of Muskego and Whitefish Bay high schools. Elliott, who lost her shoe mid-way through the sectional course, placed fourth at the race. The girls team finished third as a team while Cumberbatch, the only member from the boys team to qualify, clinched a second place finish. 

“We still competed in the toughest sectional ever in Division 1 and finished third, and I think that it’s just really important to realize that even though we can’t come back and win a state title this year, we are completely capable of accomplishing great things in the future,” Elliott said.

We still competed in the toughest sectional ever in Division 1 and finished third

— Annika Elliott, junior

“It went exactly to plan. I didn’t want to burn myself out for the next week [at state], so I held back a little bit,” Cumberbatch said. 

The boys team was not able to qualify for sectionals and ended their season at the Menomonee Falls sub-sectional race. The team is still proud of their overall effort and progress throughout the season, including a perfect-score race at the conference meet. 

“I think the high point was the end of the season, especially the last three meets. There was the course in Menomonee Falls, and the conference meet where they won with the perfect score. Even though I couldn’t run in those races, it was really special to watch them just really step up to build the spot that I left,” said Adam O’Connor, junior, whose season ended shortly after he discovered a stress fracture in his back. 

“I think that although we didn’t all make it through, [to sectionals] almost everyone PRed [at sub-sectionals] and everyone had a good race so I think there was nothing to be down about from that,” Cumberbatch said.

This year, the state meet had a few changes. First, the D1 state meet was held at Arrowhead High School instead of the normal Wisconsin Rapids. Further, each individual was only allowed to register five family members or friends to come watch them race.

COVID made it so that we couldn’t have the state meet in Wisconsin Rapids where it is usually because the cases are rising so much there, so it was at Arrowhead which is not a good cross country course, it’s just a soccer field basically,” O’Connor said. 

The WIAA also chose to have each division compete in intervals and at different locations. Already competing without their Shorewood teammates, this additional rule affected both the competition and morale of the runners. 

“It’s going to be really different on the starting line not having my teammates behind me, although I know that they are supporting me on the sides,” Elliott said before her 18th place finish at the state meet. 

“It did feel kind of like another small meet at the beginning of the season, but I kind of just had to think about it in my head and say ‘Yeah, this is the state meet. I have to perform, have to act like this is the highest level we get for the season,’ and I think I did that pretty well,” Cumberbatch, who placed fourth, said. 

However, Cumberbatch is no stranger to running as an individual without his teammates from the cross country team. 

“It was definitely weird for cross country at first but since I’ve been running track individually for five years now I’m pretty used to it. I think I handled it well and I kind of just settled back into my rhythm of track,” Cumberbatch said. 

Despite these challenges, both teams were still able to train efficiently throughout the season. 

“I feel like now I’m in a really great position to hopefully be a good role model for people and it’s been great to be older too because I can help organize some [outdoor] activities and things to do with the team and take leadership,” Elliott said. 

“I think through COVID and through the problems that we had to overcome, we still came really close to each other and we still learned a lot about each other and how we can fight through things,” Cumberbatch said.

Despite the hardships, there were some positives to the changes in this season. Cumberbatch enjoyed the increased competition and believes it led him to run faster times and the achieve performance he wanted at state.

I kind of liked being moved up to Division 1 because I think that brought the best out of us

— Nathan Cumberbatch, junior

“I kind of liked being moved up to Division 1 because I think that brought the best out of us … because of the competition and Division 1, I ran the fastest times that I did this year and I think that the competition just helps us for everything,” Cumberbatch said.

 Furthermore, because the boys soccer season was cancelled, some members were able to join the cross country team, which wouldn’t have happened without the pandemic. 

“Surprisingly there’s actually been pros and cons to the [boys cross country during COVID] team…like if there hadn’t been coronavirus none of the soccer players would have joined cross-country and we wouldn’t have been able to know them,” O’Connor said. 

The unique season allowed the teams to prove to themselves and others that they can be challenged in ways they didn’t think they would be, and that they can still hope to achieve their goals in the future. The girls team looks forward to another possible state title in the near future. 

“Being switched to Division 1 has really opened my mind to realize that I’m way more talented than I thought that I was and that I can compete way more than I thought I could with other people in the state, that I’m right up there and very capable of accomplishing my goals,” Elliott said. “As far as goals for next year, we haven’t exactly really touched on those, we kind of just ended this season. We’re trying to figure that out but I think going into next year we still have all the talent to compete for another state title.”

The boys also hope to remain competitive for a state title, regardless of the division they end up in. 

“For the team, we want to be challenging for the first state championship in the next few years and I think as it gets back to normal we’ll be able to do that if we get sent back under to Division 2, or even if we stay in Division 1 we can still fight against that competition and still compete well,” Cumberbatch said.