Cross country team united, running as brothers

Jack Ford ‘26, Finn Kelly 25, Nolan McCloskey ‘24, Ryan Hu ‘26 (left to right) scored prizes at PAISAA, October 29 – Ms. Barbara Lapenta

The cross-country team nears EA Day competing on an upward trend. Varsity most recently placed fourth at the Pennsylvania Independent Schools Athletic Association Championship (PAISAA), with much of the team setting new personal records for the season. With an underclassmen-dominant roster, they have continuously set the bar higher at each race, delivering each time. Now, approaching the season’s culmination at Episcopal’s campus, the team is uniting for the event.

The season has been one of goal-setting, largely from Sixth Former co-captains Colin Kelly and Joey Kauffman.

Assistant Coach Ms. Barbara LaPenta said, “Joey and Colin are undeniably amazing. They always come with a smile [and] a ready-to-work attitude. They take ownership of their team and they set a very high standard for our under class men.”

And the team has risen to the occasion.

“We’ve had high expectations,” Kelly said. “We pretty much exceeded all of them.”

At the PAISAA race, competitors celebrated many individual successes.

We took down Malvern, which has been our goal all season

Colin Kelly ’23

“Nearly everybody PR’d all time, and that’s especially important because the course we raced is the Belmont Plateau, which is a very hilly and slow course,” Kelly said. “Usually people run about a minute or forty-five seconds slower. [Since] everybody ran their best times on that course, they would have ran another minute below that PR on another course. That was really exciting.”

Coach LaPenta echoes the importance of the team competing against itself, rather than others. 

“I know that winning is important, but I think beating yourself and succeeding at your goals is just as [important],” Coach LaPenta said. “We have had so many PR’s this season, as well as runners really leaning into and seeing the success of running consistently all year and summer.”

PAISAA was a prime example. While not winning, the team realized one of its long-time goals: to beat Malvern.

“We took down Malvern, which has been our goal all season. First, we lost to them, and then we won, and then we lost to them twice, and then in the Inter-Ac championship, we lost to them. But then at this race, States, we beat them, so that was kind of our goal for the season, and we accomplished it, and that was the best feeling,” Kelly said.

This victory and others would not have been possible without standout performances from underclass runners. Fourth Former Will Suter, suffering an injury at PAISAA, weathered through the pain to bring the team its victory over Malvern. Alex Dardarian, also a Fourth Former, has been leading the Fords’ times at each race. Times have been bettering by all, including Michael Crutchlow, Mason Wiegand, Finn Kelly, James MacColl, and Jack Ford.

You run hard, try your best, and run for your brother.

Nathan mirin ’23

And while forging its continual improvement, the team has not lost sight of fostering community. Team banquets and other activities have complemented the team with a strong bond, which leads to their spirit for EA Day.

“We just want to keep the train going, because we’ve had an amazing time so far,” Kelly said. “We’ve had such a fun season, and we just want to keep the momentum, keep the enthusiasm. [We want to] keep it going because this team, when the sophomores are seniors and the freshmen are juniors, will be an insane team.”

The Fords are aware of EA’s strength, and competitors have been practicing—and running—hard. Their practices reflect not only a commitment to physical endurance but also mental strength.

A pack of Fords advance on Belmont Plateau, October 17 – Barbara Lapenta

Sixth Former Nate Mirin said, “At this point, it’s more about mentality training. All of us are the best possible physically prepared, so everyone is just running for mental training for EA Day.”

And the entire team has risen to the occasion.

“For a team, this is the tightest knit, and overall if we’re talking team personality-wise, this is probably the best,” Mirin said. “[They’ve given] the most buy-in we’ve gotten from a team in cross country in the four years I’ve been here. Everyone’s working really hard, there’s no one just in the back slacking off. Everyone’s giving it their all, and whether we win or lose, we do it with pride.”

So how can you show up for the cross-country team this EA Day? Be there. 

“Cross country is a pretty weird sport because you can only see the beginning and the end pretty much, which on EA’s course is at the same spot just down from the water polo stadium. I love having a crowd there at the beginning, just insanely loud at the sidelines and at the end,” Kelly said. “Even having guys around campus is great. If you need to pass an EA guy at mile 1.2 or whatever random interval, and there’s a Haverford guy there, you’re going to do it!”

And showing up for each other, just as students can do for the cross country team, is exactly what the team plans to do on competition day.

Mirin said, “You run hard, try your best, and run for your brother.”

Author: Christopher Schwarting '24

Christopher Schwarting has been writing for the Index since 2020 and currently serves as a Managing Editor. His opinion piece "Queen Elizabeth leaves a lasting legacy, but Gen Z must be sure to see it all" received a Silver Key in the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards.