Stride for stride, together — Central Kitsap cross-country runners form friendships, bonds

The Central Kitsap High School cross-country team warms up at a practice Aug. 19. - Kristin Okinaka/staff photo
The Central Kitsap High School cross-country team warms up at a practice Aug. 19.
— image credit: Kristin Okinaka/staff photo

Rose Christen started when she was young.

The Central Kitsap High School sophomore started running with her dad when she was 8 years old and hasn’t stopped.

“I bonded with him over it,” she said.

Now the high school cross-country runner has others that she has also developed strong ties and friendships with through their love for running — her teammates.

Central Kitsap’s cross-county team had 47 boys and girls signed up for the team as of last week and now have two weeks of team training under their belts before the official start of the school year. Of course, those who are committed — like Christen — have been running throughout the summer.

But she hasn’t been running alone.

Christen’s friend Sophie Carroll, also a sophomore, is on the team and the two said they have been running together since the track season ended last school year. It’s easier to do it with another’s company.

If runners stop running, nothing will be easy.

“You’ll be in pain,” Christen said, adding that runners can quickly get out of shape if they take a break.

The team’s head coach Mark Ward said cross-country running takes two qualities in a person: courage and dedication.

“You can’t be half-hearted and mediocre,” Ward said on dedication to the sport.

Even though cross-country is a no-cut sport, those who are not as dedicated probably don’t stick around.

“It’s definitely for certain people,” said senior Cam Winger, who has been running since ninth grade. “You have to keep pushing yourself even if you don’t want to.”

For the Cougars, the race distances are from two miles to five-kilometer races, said Ward. The team’s training revolves around two week cycles and the first race is Sept. 10.

The advantage of running on a team is that there is always someone next to you, pushing you — especially in tough workouts, said junior Drew Guertin.

Winger and Guertin both said they enjoy the close-knit family that the team becomes through training and racing together.

And, the endorphins that athletes can receive are an added bonus.

“They call it the runner’s high,” said Winger, adding that for him, he does not enjoy running while he is in the midst of it, but more the feeling of accomplishment when it is over.

Senior David Young said he has played baseball and basketball in the past but has always preferred running.

“It’s its own thing,” Young said. “It’s always been my passion.”

Running long distances can be a stress reliever, Young said. He added that everyone on the team needs to work together in order to compete well and therefore doesn’t consider it an individual sport.

Carroll said she runs individually to get a personal faster time — and the competition surrounding that is fun — but everyone contributes to the team and that her teammates hold her accountable.

She added that she has played in other team sports like soccer and basketball but she’s fallen in love with distance running because of the competition and team bonding.

“It’s the ultimate team sport,” Ward said.

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