Running with the Pack

Though often viewed as an individual sport, the Wolves show the reality of cross country.
Leah Robinson and Ella Ford push past Norris competitor after the hill at Mount Michael.  Both girls pass her to allow for an overall win.  The phrase We over Me, is written on the girls legs as they run together.
Leah Robinson and Ella Ford push past Norris competitor after the hill at Mount Michael. Both girls pass her to allow for an overall win. The phrase “We over Me”, is written on the girls legs as they run together.
Photo by Payton Brummels

“It’s all in your head,” highlights the mental toughness required for cross country.  Though it is a sport that requires consistent individual resilience, athletes need teammates to rely on. Running in a pack contributes to the wolves’ success, and aligns with the message of the 2023 season: “We over Me”.

Senior Quinn Carney runs cross country and plays soccer, which is more commonly viewed as a team sport.  Carney appreciates the personal aspect of cross country.

“For me, I’m usually running with people, and they are the ones who keep me going,” Carney said.  “They are motivating you to be your best, and you’re doing the same in return.” 

While cross country athletes run against each other, they also run for each other.  Some athletes have bad games, just as runners have bad races.  In times of mental and physical pain, when there is no break or half-time, runners need strong and dependable teammates to get them through races.

“Even though it’s not like soccer, you are still working together to reach a goal,” Carney said.  “It’s the team that helps you get there.”

Running together not only contributes to success in races, but also in practice.  While the team trains early every summer morning, it’s not just the feeling of accomplishment that keeps runners coming back: it’s the community. 

“For me, running is mind over matter,” Carney said.  “Sometimes you have to prioritize that, just knowing that you can do it, and whatever you are feeling, the person next to you also is.  You have to put the team first to keep you going.”  

Science teacher, Jordan Fugelstad, is in year seven as a running coach, year 2 as head of cross country at Elkhorn North.  Based on his personal running experience at South Dakota State and the success of his team this year, he also reinforces the importance of running together. 

“Running alone can be mentally draining, especially training day to day wears you out,” Fuglestad said.  “Having someone next to you in a race that you know and trust, makes you able to push yourself more and trust what you’re gonna be able to do.”

Freshman Leah Robinson and junior Ella Ford dominate each race together. The camaraderie of a partner or group makes the hard days easier.  Running together allows athletes to find joy in their sport and build friendships. With the experience Ford has in her third year of running cross country, she can help Leah also succeed as they run each race together.

“Having Leah this year has really made me see the we over me,” Ford said. “Having her run alongside me every meet just really allows me to think about how I’m doing this for my team, not just myself.  It’s fun to push each other and reach goals together.”

Ford is currently ranked third in class B for Nebraska and she is Elkhorn North’s number one runner, therefore the fate of meets often falls upon her performance.  As she runs in the front pack, having Robinson run with her allows for better scoring.

“Coach Fuglestad has talked about how pressure is a privilege, and that has changed my mindset for the season,” Ford said. “The pressure I feel, doesn’t matter in the big scheme of things and I have learned to just go out there, run, and have fun.” 

While running doesn’t appeal to all, those who are dedicated to the physical and mental commitment build relationships and find success.  Running together and for each other has allowed the Wolves to succeed thus far in the 2023 season.  

The success of the team relies on each individual runner.  Every meet runners take on different roles depending on the performance of their teammates.  As the runners get on the line, they remember the why:  “We over Me.”  While the physical and mental pain is evident in the sport, the reward of succeeding for the team is greater.

“Running has helped me become more of a hardworking person,” Ford said.  “The relationships you build through running set you up for life.”

Leah Robinson and Kailey O’Brien show their team support by writing “we over me” on their legs pre-run. This message encourages them during their race. (Photo by Payton Brummels)
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    Leigh FordOct 10, 2023 at 3:04 PM

    I have had the privilege to watch the “Wolf Pack” compete and even though the pain is evident, the connection between these athletes is awe inspiring! I hope the weather is favorable for these last two races and they remember how proud we are of each and every one of them!