Cross Country: With no end in sight, Wildcats race through COVID-19


Daily file photo by Alison Albelda

Cross country runners at the 2019 Loyola Lakefront Invite. With the 2020 season up in the air, Northwestern cross country is focusing on staying healthy and staying connected outside of practice.

Charlotte Varnes, Reporter

Cross Country

Coach Jill Miller and the Northwestern cross country team are back running through Evanston after an abrupt end to the spring track season and the 2020 Big Ten cross country season’s postponement.

The team began socially distant in-person practices following Wildcat Wellness. Senior Mandy Davis said practice is “more normal” than she expected, considering the new regulations. Workouts and other major aspects of her routine remain the same — the main differences, she said, are wearing masks while running and splitting into pods for locker room usage.

Coach Jill Miller added that she prioritizes keeping practice “as normal as possible” and focusing on the athletes’ well-being so the team will feel ready to run whenever it’s time to compete again.

“We’re making sure our student-athletes’ energy stays high and they never feel like they need a break in their training, because competition could come back on the radar sooner than later or later than sooner,” Miller said.

Davis said Miller adapted quickly to the season’s changes and was effectively “rolling with the punches.” In addition to the season’s general uncertainty, Miller and the athletes are now dealing with the Lakefill’s partial closure where the team typically runs, forcing them to move some of their practices to Floyd Long Field by the residence hall at 560 Lincoln St.

With no return to competition on the calendar, some seniors say they’re left wondering if they will ever run in a collegiate meet again.

Davis said the uncertainty feels like “a more abrupt transition to what graduating from college and collegiate running” will be like, but that Miller is working with her to help make the most out of the situation.

“Something that Jill says that I love is to make sure that running is adding energy to my day and not detracting any,” Davis said. “I’ve totally shifted my weekly mileage to make sure that I’m doing what’s right for me during this time.”

Amidst all of the uncertainty, sophomore Kalea Bartolotto said the team is still managing to stay connected virtually. They have had team meetings on Zoom, talk through a group Snapchat and send each other baking pictures, she said.

“We’re trying to make the most of it and make it fun and enjoyable,” Bartolotto said.

Miller said she’s been impressed with the team’s efforts to stay positive and grow, despite all of the challenges they have faced since March.

“Mentally, we’re stronger than we’ve ever been and the team culture is in a fantastic spot, which helps everything move forward,” Miller said. “I’ve been really proud of this team and what we’ve been able to do even though we haven’t been able to physically be very connected. That excites me for the future. We still have a lot of work to do and a lot of room to grow, but it’s been exciting to really feel things clicking with the team.”

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @charvarnes11

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