Keeping Track of the Traditions

Local track meets are held at Kingston Stadium.
Local track meets are held at Kingston Stadium.
Kaylia Richards

Sportsmanship and team structure can be one of the most important aspects of an athlete’s performance. Kennedy Track and Cross Country Teams utilize traditions to help them bond as a group and create a more enjoyable atmosphere throughout the season.

The boys and girls cross country teams have similar activities throughout the season to allow them both time to create a sense of community and help them improve. 

“Everyone runs better when they’re enjoying the sport and enjoy the company of the people they do it with,” senior Boys Cross Country Captain Jacob Bruns said.

The boys and girls cross country teams host a team dinner the night before each meet. 

“It’s a great opportunity to grow closer with the team, make memories and relax before the meet the next day,” senior Girls Cross Country Captain Alyssa Brandt said.

These kinds of rituals allow athletes to find a more reliable sense of community within their teammates.

“The team dinners help us individually and as a team, because it lets us each fuel up for the next day,” sophomore Adam Gray said. “It allows for all of us to bond with each other.”

The boys team has also found ways at the beginning of practice to warm up and connect as a unit.

“At every practice, we warm up and stretch together as one big group even though we spread out based on fitness during the workout,” Bruns said. “Which allows people to talk with one another and build a sense of community.”

The time before a meet is a vital moment in a runner’s mentality, so both teams take it as an opportunity to huddle up.

“The day of the meet while we are waiting at the start line before the race, we circle up and one of the team captains or our coach will give a mini pep talk to everyone else,” Brandt said.

Runners need time to get focused and excited about the event as running is often seen as a mental game.

“I definitely think our traditions help build a strong culture which in turn helps athletes’ performance,” Bruns said. 

There can also be these kinds of routines within an event. According to senior track and field runners Addison and Sidney Swartzendruber, their 4×400 relay team has a healthy amount of superstitions.

“How you stretch, what you eat and any circumstances surrounding your event can ultimately have an impact on your overall importance,” S. Swartzendruber said. “At least, that’s how I interpret it. That’s where superstitions come into play for me.”

The girl’s 4×400 relay team consists of Sidney Swartzendruber, Addison Swartzendruber, senior Jovie Veach and sophomore Emerson Swearinger. Their rituals include doing each other’s hair in matching styles before meets, bringing a speaker for warm-ups and group manifestation before running.

“With a little time between or before races, we would braid each other’s hair so we were matching,” A. Swartzendruber said. “Except Sidney braided her own because she’s the definition of superstitious.”

Sidney’s superstitions in particular have made their way into every race she runs.

“I am so closely analyzing the factors surrounding my race that I have developed habits many consider to be taking it too far,” S. Swartzendruber said.

From a pair of bright yellow “lucky socks,” she has to wear during important meets to not allowing anyone to braid her hair before a race, S. Swartzendruber has many superstitions. While to some they may seem unnecessary, the little rituals are vital to her success. 

“I think all of my superstitions stretch the truth a little, but ultimately I think having those habits puts me in the right mentality,” Sidney said. “I feel much more in control and confident, even in the toughest circumstances.”

When it comes down to it, the mentality of a runner seems to be the driving force amongst all the teams, cross country or track, boys or girls.

“Whether a track or cross country athlete has the most basic or wild traditions before or after a race, the most important part is that they are in the correct headspace to go out there and leave everything on the track or course,” A. Swartzendruber said.

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