Miles of Memories

Cross Country seniors reflect on their years running.

Miles of Memories

The 2014 West Bloomfield High School (WBHS) Cross Country team had an exhilarating season. The team had its ups and downs but finished the season strong. Overall, the six seniors in cross country – Brooke Desposato, Daniel Finn, Julianna Jackson, Robert Niehof, Kush Pandya and Divan Putrus – enjoyed and gained much from their experiences in cross country. Boys coach and teacher at WBHS Nathan Belill recapped the season: “The WB boys’ XC team had 28 members, composed of a hard-working group of athletes. Many began conditioning in the summer months to prepare for a successful season. Through vigorous training and racing, the boys improved individually and as a team as the year progressed. The boys began to adopt habits of winning teams, such as attending Saturday practices. The varsity team (top 7 athletes) consisted of mostly freshmen and sophomores, with only 1 senior and 1 junior. The team enjoyed competing at the Spartan Invite at Michigan State, finished in the top half at the Oakland County meet, and 3rd of 7 teams at the OAA White Division Championship Meet. Robby Niehof [Grade 12] and Justin Christopher Moody [Grade 10] led the team; each earned all-conference honors.” Additionally, the girls coach and teacher at WBHS Brian Murphy added “For the season, we made great strides as a team! More runners were training in the summer, which is key to the success of the season, and running more miles as a team than in the past. Unfortunately the season was riddled with injuries which naturally creates setbacks as a team but other runners, especially the underclassmen, stepped up and learned a little more about their own potential which makes next season certainly something to look forward too!”

The Cross Country seniors gained a lot from their time in Cross Country. Desposato, four year cross country member, stated ,“I gained the ability to be a team leader, [learned] the payoffs of hard-work and I gained lasting friendships.” Finn, four year cross country member, said he gained “A lot of friends and cross country taught me to work hard too.”  Jackson, three year cross country member, shared that “Aside from my skill as a runner improving, the most significant result from my time in XC  was the friendships I made that are still strong today.” Niehof, three year cross country member and team captain, commented that he gained “a lot of cardio strength, I am able to run a lot further and faster. I’ve also gained a lot of leadership skills and [other] skills from running every day.” Pandya, three year cross country member, added that cross country “definitely made me a lot more conditioned and have a lot more stamina. Another thing I gained was learning not to give up just because a workout was too difficult or a run was too long.” Putrus concluded that, “I truly gained physical well being, which is a given because of all that exercise and running. But along with being physically healthier, I’ve gained mental strength. Running for as many miles as I have, especially in a row, the willpower and determination to keep going, keep fighting even when it hurts is really great gift that I’ve gotten from cross country.”

The cross country season held many highlights for the seniors. For the boys, Belill noted “As aforementioned, Robby finished 5th at the OAA League Meet, winning a medal for being all-conference. He was also voted team captain by his teammates. Divan Putrus showed what hard work in the off season can do, as he dropped more time than anyone else from his junior to senior years. Danny Finn ran XC for all four years and battled through injuries to complete his races.” For the girls, Murphy added “Our two senior girls are extremely hard workers but unfortunately they’ve had the poor luck of dealing with injuries in each of their previous seasons leading up to this one. So I think a highlight of this season was the opportunity for them to stay healthy and run with the team for the entire season. Thankfully they had a little more luck this season which was great for the team because it always helps to have that senior leadership on the team!”

The seniors, however, have their own personal highlights from their time in cross country. Desposato stated, “The highlight is when we went to cross-country camp and we ran together and bonded as a team. Also I would say the highlights have always been the bagels you get after a race.” Finn explained his highlight was, “Definitely the people. The best friends I’ve ever made are in Cross Country.” Jackson said, “Being able to run with people was nice, and so was going to meets and seeing runners from all over Oakland county.” Niehof shared, “This year had to have been the highlight because it was the capstone of all of my training. We had a great team and I feel this year we really went out and we were competitive.” Pandya explained, “The highlight was definitely all of the other people on the team. It was just a good experience getting to know so many people so well.” Putrus concluded that his highlights were “My senior year, seeing how much my time has dropped from the best race I ever had – which was this year – compared to the very first race I had. I actually dropped my time by over half in a race.”

As the seniors wrap up the school year and plan their lives for after graduation, continuing running is on many of their minds: Desposato described “ I don’t plan on continuing XC[cross country] after high school, but I do plan on running in college. My goal for this summer is to train for longer distance races like the half marathon.” Finn added that he will be,“Just casually running, I don’t think I’m going to be on a team.” Jackson shared “I don’t plan on joining any official college teams for XC, but I will continue to run, on my own and with friends, for the rest of my life.” Niehof added, “I’ll be doing running in college just for recreation. I have to do a sport and I might as well do something that I’m good at while I’m at college so I’ll be running a lot.” Pandya will not being continuing cross country after high school. Putrus explained ,“I’m planning to continue running, but not cross country, because in all honesty I’m no where near good enough to run for my college.”

The coaches wish the seniors luck in their future endeavors and send them off with a piece of advice. Belill stated “‘To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.’—Steve Prefontaine In other words, you’re all uniquely talented; give 100% in everything you do and live life to the fullest!” Murphy added “Keep persevering through those difficult times because in the end it’s always worth it!”

As the seniors prepare to leave high school, they leave a pieces of wisdom for current and future cross country members. Desposato advised, “always run your own race –don’t compete with others times compete against yourself. That’s the best thing about cross-country is even though it’s a team sport you’re also competing against yourself for a better time.” Finn shared ,“Work hard and have fun. That’s really what it’s about – having fun.” Jackson counseled, “It’s really rewarding to see your personal growth after you put a lot of time and hard work into training, so make sure to fully commit if you decide to join, it makes it more fun!” Niehof guided ,“Take it as it comes, some days you’re going to hate running  and ask yourself ‘Why is this the only thing that I’m semi-good at?’ But in the end, it’s probably one of the most intrinsically satisfying feelings to cross that finish line and know that you did the best you could.” Pandya suggested, “Always fill out your log sheets and don’t get pneumonia. Shout out to Murphy and Belill!” Putrus recommended, “Condition yourself, make sure your core is powerful. The stronger your core is, the better a runner you will be because the core is like an engine in terms of running. It really helps to have a strong core, so don’t neglect that.”

Overall, the seniors of the WBHS Cross Country Team have enjoyed and gained many things from their time in cross country. As the move on from high school they always have miles of memories to last them a lifetime.