Reflection On An Athletic Career

How cross country has shaped my high school experience.


Courtesy of Colin Ring

After six years of running together, the friendship between Turley, Moellenhoff, and Ring has grown due to cross country.

It’s impossible to write about the full impact that the last four years donning the blue and white singlet has had on me, but it would be a shame to not try and reflect on what my cross country career at Westminster has taught me about leadership, friendship, and perseverance.

When I started my athletic career as a freshman, I would never have envisioned it ending up the way it did. I came into the year thinking that I was going to be primarily a basketball and baseball player, just using cross country to “get in shape for basketball.” If you would have told me before the start of my freshman year that the only sport I would end up doing for all four years was cross country, I probably would have been really disappointed with the outcome.

The first thing that really made me change my perspective on the sport of running was immediately obvious from my first day of practice as a freshman, and it was something I never could have predicted to happen: all (7) of the upperclassmen on the team not only acknowledged the underclassmen, but they also made it a priority to talk to us and get to know us. They even went out of their way to say hi to us, lowly freshmen, in the hallways.

This, within itself, was an amazing show of love to the awkward, goofy, ninth graders, but the varsity team leaders took it even a step further. At the beginning of the year, the coach created a system that put each of the younger kids with a more experienced “buddy.” This buddy was meant to help show the underclassmen what it means to run high school cross country while representing Christ and the school in the process. Although this could have been a token gesture, and the older kids were by no means forced to engage with us, they took it upon themselves to drive us to practices, joke with us, and share with us their wealth of cross country experience so that we could learn.

My “buddy” on the team was Evan Parres, a senior from the class of 2018. Evan was possibly the most gifted runner on the whole team, but he had been injured for a long time, and he knew that he was not going to be able to run that year for the team. Although I’m sure this reality broke his heart, he did not let it dissuade him from going to practices, cheering on the team, and loving all of his teammates. His team-first attitude and the selflessness he displayed was something that I drew upon when I was suffering from my own injury this year.

Overall, these actions, radically different from most of the sports I had grown up playing, taught me an important lesson about leadership that has stuck with me throughout my time at the Academy: if people are willing to work hard and be a part of a team, they should be treated equally no matter their skill level or age. As our class has progressed throughout the years, we have tried to emulate the leaders who taught us how to act and behave.

Without the good experience that I had as a frosh because of these upperclassmen leaders, I might have never pursued running cross. Things may have looked very differently today for me if not for leaders like Parres.

Ring, Moellenhoff, and Turley have been close friends since freshman year. (Courtesy of Colin Ring)

Likewise, Cross Country has taught me a lot about friendships. It took me a long time, as well as a glimpse of my “high school running mortality,” to understand that records, accomplishments, and even my competitive running career are not meant to last. In the scheme of life, my running performance will barely be a blip on the radar.

Instead, something that I will keep with me for the rest of my life is the friends I have made. It’s amazing to me that the friendships we formed during seventh grade cross country have only grown. Putting our collective blood, sweat, and tears into the sport to achieve team success has brought us together in ways that little else could.

I feel like we are now more like brothers than simply friends, and, as we depart to different colleges after spending so much time together since middle school, it is no surprise that two pairs of us will actually be rooming together.
The friendships I found in the sport of cross country have not only made my time and experiences at Westminster exponentially more enjoyable, but they also are a testament to the fact that, although high school is temporary, the memories and friendships made can endure long after.

Finally, the sport of cross country itself has taught me immensely about the power of perseverance, not just in sports but in life. From a physical standpoint, cross country runners have to persevere through uncomfortable situations every day to make themselves better athletes. It is not fun to keep running when your arms and legs are going numb and you feel like you’re about to pass out, but you keep going because you know there is light at the end of the tunnel.

This analogy, as I’m sure many can infer, crosses over into many aspects of life. In my own life, I have had my fair share of health issues over the last few years, and there have been some points where I have felt like giving up. Although it has been a struggle at some points, I’m still standing and writing to you today because, using God’s strength, I was able to keep pushing through obstacles.

Cross country has taught me how to keep fighting and persevering even when things get tough because, in my humble opinion, nothing in the world hurts more than the last 100 meters of a 5k.

My cross country career at Westminster has blessed me with a bounty of life lessons and friendships, and I would never trade it for the world. As I begin the next stage of my journey and leave Westminster behind, I know that my time as a Wildcat will always have a special place in my heart.