Historically a tight-knit group, the cross-country team is gearing up for a full fall season of races and a spirited community life. Led by Sixth Form captains Joey Kauffman and Colin Kelly, the team completed a summer of individual workouts culminating in a two-week team preseason before the start of after-school practices.
Despite the graduation of many Sixth Form runners last school year, the team remains strong and feels good about their prospects this season—they’ve set big goals, like winning PAISAA (Pennsylvania Independent School Athletics Association) State Championships and Inter-Ac championships. Kelly sees these goals as entirely achievable, especially with the current team’s skill and depth. He also thinks the team’s youth is a sign of a strong future. More than two-thirds of the team is composed of underclassmen.
“Three out of our top ten are freshmen […] our number one runner at this point is a sophomore,” Kelly said.
Upper school history and finance teacher Mr. Brian Long, who rejoined the team this year as head coach, believes that the team’s youth will allow for success in the future.
“I’m really excited for what we’re going to be able to accomplish over the next three years,” Coach Long said.
The young runners aren’t only bringing fresh talent and optimistic prospects to the team. They’ve also been incorporated into team culture and embraced cross country’s unique dynamic.
“We have a lot of great freshmen and they’ve all done a great job of embracing the team spirit,” Fourth Form runner Michael Crutchlow said.
Their willingness to join the team’s values is vital to their success. Kelly said that the team is much more than a group of athletes. “Every guy on the cross-country team has way more to [him] than just running.”
Coach Long thinks that the team’s uplifting culture is vital, even though cross country is technically an individual sport.
“Cross country is a unique sport in that it is very individualistic. But we, as a team, succeed when each individual performs at his best,” Coach Long said. “If we are all brought into racing not just for ourselves but for our brothers, we can hurt a little more, and ultimately, perform at an even higher level.”
Because the team needs to bond as a whole, cross country has a unique rule in place with a double purpose.
“We have an expression in cross country called ‘No man runs alone,’ and honestly I think that embodies the ideals of a cross-country runner where we are a community,” Kelly said. “We’re not just out there to get the workout in.”
Coach Long added that the rule functions both as a “culture carrier” and as a safety precaution for runners training off campus during practices. The rule builds a community that stays together, supports each other, and encourages dedication and respect.
“On the team we always focus on lifting each other up and making everyone feel good about running,” Crutchlow said.
This attitude is crucial to keeping the team together because of the inherent difficulty of the sport.
“Ultimately, running is just a very hard sport,” Coach Long said. “In other sports, running is a punishment. For our sport, it’s what we do every day, and we have to find some way to enjoy it. The way that you can enjoy it most is by sharing that experience with other people who are going through the same thing.”
Kelly said that this brotherhood makes the sport so special.
“Some of my most memorable and fun experiences at Haverford have been running with my best friends on the cross country team, just talking […] every single year, every runner says how strong a community we have and how amazing the friendships are that we make,” Kelly said.
While building culture is part of any team, Coach Long said that he and then-Head Coach Mr. Tim Lengel began building the team’s current culture eight years ago when they first joined the staff. Although Coach Long was absent from cross country last year, he was always a supporter of the team and an important part of their work.
“If there’s one force that was always behind Haverford cross country, it’s Coach Long. He’s always there,” Kelly said. “He brings a certain amount of initiative and seriousness to cross country. He keeps us checked in and he holds us accountable.”
“Coach Long’s training plan this summer […] did a great job of getting us into good shape before school started,” Crutchlow said.
Regardless of the upcoming season’s results, the team will still meet many of its goals. Coach Long had each student send him three goals at the start of the term: one athletic, one academic, and one social. He believes those goals are an integral part of the program’s mission.
“Our goal setting allows us to get to know each other beyond just running. This enables us to be more vulnerable around each other, and ultimately, build out a community that is quite special at Haverford,” Coach Long said. “[The goals] fit into the model of what we believe the program is all about, and it’s about developing young men not just to be better runners, but to be better people.”