The Knox Cross Country team has traveled often through the early parts of the season, having just completed their fourth meet last weekend.
Heading for a fifth this weekend, they continue to hope that these opportunities to compete will help them establish a stronger team identity. They would also like to get some stronger overall team performances, but those wins have been largely elusive until now.
The men’s team has struggled to place runners in the top 20 for different races, seeing the same core group leading their squad. Freshman Samuel Hernandez has led the team pretty consistently, with captains senior Joseph Gilmore and junior Ben Hosto coming up behind him.
While it seems that there is a strong group leading the pack, Gilmore explained that they “have fewer strong performers at the top, as well as the fact that we are still missing the depth that we want and need to compete for strong team scores.”
One thing Gilmore is confident of, however, is that this is the strongest women’s team he has seen since his freshman year.
Junior and captain Rebecca Katz has enjoyed this strong start, pointing to the team’s improving team scores as proof of this progress.
In practice, Katz reports that there is “a much stronger pack at the front that can push each other and everyone else behind them. We haven’t really ever had that since I’ve been here.”
This improvement in practice has started showing itself during meets, as this past weekend three women placed in the top 15 of the 5,000 meter run, which Katz argues “hadn’t happened before for us since we started working with coach Alex Moreno.”
Gilmore and Katz both give a lot of credit to Coach Moreno for the strong team culture that is present in Knox Cross Country, and say that the entire team has bought into his team-oriented focus and drive.
The women’s team was able to relay this strong race into the second highest team score of the six schools at the Beloit Olde English Invitational, their highest finish of the season to date.
Both Gilmore and Katz emphasized that the culture on this team is stronger than any they have been a part of during their time at Knox.
To Gilmore, one of the team’s early-season goals was to improve each member’s dedication to the team.
Gilmore explains that there has been strong progress here, as runners who have sustained injuries, making them unable to participate, still come to practice to watch, cheer on their teammates, and stay involved in team meetings.
Katz says that the team chemistry and mentality has been a big focus for her and her co-captain, senior Bonne Matheson.
“We’ve been able to really find a balance between being there for each other, and being there to win and push each other to improve,” Katz says.
Heading into the final stretch of his Knox athletics career, Gilmore has a clear set of goals for his last few meets with the team. Mainly, he wants to see improvement from the team.
“I want to see Ben beat me in a race or two, and see Sam continue to consistently beat me. I want to see them continue to establish themselves as strong runners, and leave the team with a strong core when I leave,” said Gilmore.
Katz sees a strong finish coming for the women’s team, and an improvement over last year’s conference finish. “There were a couple of teams last year that just barely beat us at conference. It would be nice to be able to see our team jump past them, and I really do think we could do it,” Katz says.
Moving into the homestretch now, both Gilmore and Katz have the team primed and focused to achieve strong team goals at the upcoming meets, hopefully culminating in strong finishes at the conference meet.