Passing the torch

The North Kitsap cross country team trains behind the high school. - Kipp Robertson/ Staff photo
The North Kitsap cross country team trains behind the high school.
— image credit: Kipp Robertson/ Staff photo

Carb-starved and tired, a large group of students from the North Kitsap cross country team ready their plates after a week of training. With hours of running behind them, the traditional, themed pasta feed is an event the runners look forward to.

The North Kitsap cross country team has kept traditions, such as themed pasta feeds, going for longer than any of the students on the team were in school. These traditions will continue as long as students such as Kendall Rock help keep them alive.

Rock, a 17-year-old senior, is one of four captains on the Viking’s cross country team and since she began running for the team as a freshman she has worked on keeping the team close.

“This team is more like a family,” Rock said. “We are much closer to each other than teams in other sports.”

In the past, the cross country team benefited from dedicated captains both on and off the trail and Rock said she hopes to pass off the responsibilities to the next generation of runners when she graduates.

As a captain, her responsibilities for keeping the younger runners on track and teaching them proper running techniques keeps her busy during practice, she said. For the most part, the team this year has done well and the only concern she has right now is communication.

“It’s difficult for the older runners to remember all the little things about running,” Rock said. “Sometimes we forget small things that are actually pretty important.”

Things such as breathing techniques and proper hill climbing are just a few of the challenges a new runner faces on a cross country team, understand these can make all the difference in a meet.

Besides feeding everyone, the runners have developed new ways to raise money for the team after officials from the City of Poulsbo warned of the potential steam pollution caused from car washes in July.

So far, the team raised money from a garage sale they hosted during the summer as well as selling “spirit packs,” which included cross country t-shirts.

Because cross country does not benefit from ticket sales like other sports such as football do, the team must find other means to fund its running attire.

This year there was not much of a problem providing uniforms for the team, except for replacing running shorts which students tend to keep after they graduate, assistant coach Jon Erikson said. While it’s not an area of too much concern, he said some of the money used from fundraising went into purchasing new shorts.

Aside from finding ways to help out the team and training for meets, Rock is currently preparing herself for college and since the school year began she has not had much time for anything outside school, she said.

Right now, Rock enjoys the encouragement everyone on the team gets from each other and said she has noticed how different running on a cross country team can be from other sports, since she began running at Kingston Junior High. She began junior high playing soccer and volleyball along with cross country, but quickly decided to stick solely to the unique competition of cross country running, which combines with her love for the outdoors.

Rock is uncertain whether she is going to continue running cross country once she finds a college, but knows she has enjoyed the experience throughout public school.

“I know my parents are always behind me 100 percent,” she said. “We’ll just have to see what the work load is like in college.”

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