As the fall semester comes to a close, fall athletes begin their inevitable last games, meets and matches. For underclassmen athletes, this is a time to begin a schedule with more free-time and less practice. However, for senior athletes it marks the last time they’ll represent the Scots in their sport.
Maryville College’s cross country team has three seniors: Molly Ridgeway, Erin Dupes and myself, Chandler Chastain. All three girls have run for all four seasons. As the season comes to a close, the team will run their final race at NCAA DIII Regional Championships in Newport News, Virginia on Nov. 11.
“I chose to run cross country because I have been running since I was six,” said Molly Ridgeway, an early childhood education major. “It’s been a good, long journey with the sport I love. It’s bittersweet that we are close to an end.”
As the end of the season comes near, the seniors like to reflect on things that made being a cross country runner, in both high school and college, so special. For me, the idea of being a part of a sport that lets you spend so much time outside is so beneficial for the mind and body. The team runs at Cade’s Cove and in the College Woods are going to be so hard to let go once the season ends.
This year, the girls team has grown with a lot of young talent. Although only adding two freshman, both are in the top five scoring positions, and all the other scorers will also be returning as well. This is great news for the team’s position in the USA South Conference. In the Conference race on Oct. 28, the girls scored 5th out of eighteen teams and broke the school’s overall team time.
“Cross country is a individual sport, but we are a team,” Ridgeway said.
This team aspect is what carries freshman runners into their senior year, giving an athlete a family and a reason to dedicate themselves to four years.
“I chose to run at MC because I had been running for so long, and I knew it would help me better transition into college,” said Erin Dupes, also an early childhood education major.
Running all throughout grade and high school, running in college was a choice she knew she would make at Maryville.
“The team immediately felt like family, and I knew I would not be able to leave,” she said.
The difference that pulls or takes away from collegiate sports can often be the difference between high school and college competition. For every athlete and sport, the transition between high school and college is different and unique.
“High school cross country is very relaxed, and college cross country is very competitive,” Ridgeway said. “We are running against the best of the best in every state.”
For Dupes, the difference is in the way the team competes.
“Traveling is a big difference between high school and college cross country,” Dupes said. “You travel farther in college, and you get to see exciting new places.”
For their last race, the team will be travelling over nine hours to a course they’ve never run before. The nature of being a DIII athlete is to be student first and athlete second. This concept often draws students to do a sport for the passion of it.
“Being a student athlete means being a student athlete,” Ridgeway said. “It does take more time management, but I am so much more productive in season than I am in the spring.”
The cross country men’s team does not have any seniors. The men’s team is actually so young, they only have freshman and sophomores, which is great in that it leaves a lot of room for team growth. The men’s team will also be running at the Regional Championships in Virginia on Nov. 11.
As the three cross country seniors lace up and get ready to say goodbye to their collegiate running careers, there is a bittersweet goodbye to the team with which they’ve run and friends they’ve made.
To a student considering running, Dupes said, “ I would tell them that it was the best decision I made and that they should do it too.”