Staying with the pack: Cross country runners stick together on and off the course


Illinois junior Esther Bell hugs a trainer after her meet on Oct. 31, 2015 at the MAC Championship in Akron, Ohio.

There is a certain bond formed in the crucible of training shared by cross country runners. Hard work, determination and family are the main tenets that make up the Central Michigan cross country team.

Certain bonds are formed between players of other sports, but cross country say theirs is different.

“We’re a little obsessive. We are constantly hanging out,” said senior runner Nate Ghena. “Since I’ve been here, (everyone has become best friends).”

Head Coach Matt Kaczor said the bond and friendship is obvious between his runners.

“It’s a family community and I’ve got a great group of kids,” Kaczor said. “They do everything together, it’s almost nerdy. They study together, they eat together. After every workout they all go to the Merrill Hall dining commons together.”

Team traditions are a big part of building this family community.

“We always like to have team dinners before the meets, and on off-weekends we do fun stuff," said senior runner Kelly Schubert. “(For example), we went to Uncle John’s Cider Mill.”

Even after the cross country season ends — which it did for the Chippewas after placing 12th and 15th at regionals Friday in Wisconsin — the traditions continue.

“We have a thing called Turkey-fest, where after the season is done, the guys and girls teams get together and we have a Thanksgiving dinner,” Ghena said. “During the winter, we have a secret Santa exchange and we do night runs where we will run around the city and look at all the holiday lights.”

It’s those traditions and the sense of family and camaraderie that helps to attract new recruits, like freshman runner Luke Anderson.

“I came here mainly because I felt it was a really good fit, after coming for a visit,” Anderson said. “It had the feeling of home. It felt like I was in my backyard even though I live three hours away.”

All of this helps make the cross country team who they are during races and training.

“I think it’s great coming into a program where we all push each other because we are all very close,” said freshman runner Samantha Allmacher. “It’s great to come in (everyday) and have somebody who can push you. We hold each other accountable and we all lead by example.”

Just like running in a pack during a meet, Schubert said teammates sticking together during training can help encourage each other to do better than they would by themselves.

“I think it makes training a lot easier not to give up or slack,” she said. “We keep each other going and we meet up and do double runs outside of practice when we run even more miles.”

This team doesn’t just run and train together, they consider themselves family.

“The guys and girls are so close, it’s just a great atmosphere to be in,” Allmacher said. “I don’t mind waking up super early in the morning because I know I get to be with my friends and go on a run.”