“You definitely have to have a screw loose to enjoy cross country.” That’s what BCHS junior, Luke Wessel says about his favorite sport.
He’s not wrong. Running up and down hills for several miles over uneven terrain is a special kind of fun that most of us consign to those with a higher tolerance for suffering. In Back to the Future III, Doc Brown is laughed at and ridiculed when he tells a couple of 19th century old-timers that in the future, people will travel by motorized carriages called automobiles. “Doesn’t anyone ever walk or run anymore?” they ask. Doc says, yes. In the future, people run for fun. And everyone breaks out laughing.
But that is exactly what twenty-five runners from the boys and girls cross country team went up to the Santa Cruz mountains to do – run for fun.
This is the first retreat that Coach Tobin Bolter has done with his teams. He is in his third year as cross country coach. It took the bus three hours to get up to the camp site after school on a Friday in late August, but it was worth the drive. The scenery was beautiful, the cabins were rustic, and they had the whole place to themselves.
Coach Bolter had mapped a route for the team to run on Mt. Hermon. After unloading the bus and collecting everyone’s cell phones for the weekend, he handed the captains a sheet of paper with a highlighted running route and told the teams to get to it.
After their run on Friday night, the girls and the boys teams gathered around for evening devotionals. This was one of the highlights of the retreat for Wessel.
“We all sat around the patio of one of the cabins underneath the stars. It was beautiful.”
There is a different kind of bond that forms between members of a cross country team. Ego plays a very small part in the sport. Wessel says that after a really hard practice, everyone is exhausted; their bodies have been pushed to the limit and broken down; nobody cares what they look like, and a certain vulnerability is allowed to set in.
“You really let go of the external stuff and allow yourself to just be you for a while,” Wessel says.
The coaches read big chunks of scripture with the theme of just being in the word. The athletes talked about their struggles, their doubts, and their own spiritual milestones as they opened up to each other in the fresh air of the mountains.
On Saturday morning, students were up at 6 a.m. for another mountain run before breakfast and a trip to the beach. The paths were sometimes narrow along the side of the mountain, but never overly dangerous. “One girl, Jayda Amaya, did fall on our run,” says Wessel. “She slid down the hill a ways and got some scrapes and bruises, but then she got up, smiled, and kept on running.”
Wessel says that he started running cross country as a way to get into shape for basketball, but then he ended up loving it. Given the family bond that is commonly formed among runners, maybe he doesn’t have a screw loose after all.