Cross Country Competes at Oatlands Invitational With a Focus on Team Spirit

Members of the cross country team at a Lake Forest meet on Sept. 10. Photo by Kaiden J. Yu.

The GDS cross country team competed at the Oatlands Invitational meet in Leesburg, Virginia on Saturday, Sept. 24. Over 120 schools participated in the event. The GDS women’s team’s top seven runners participated in the Varsity B Division and finished in fourth out of 24 schools. The men’s team finished 51st out of 94 in the Varsity A race and 31st out of 58 in the Varsity B race. 

The weekend’s accomplishments came on the heels of past successes for the team. The women’s team won first place and the men’s team second in their respective varsity races at the Bullis Invitational on Sept. 17. 

At the Oatlands Invitational meet, like other cross country meets, the top five runners from each team earn points based on their placement. If a runner finishes in first place, they will earn their team one point, and if a runner finishes twentieth, they will earn their team twenty points. A team needs five runners to finish the race in order to qualify for placement, and the team with the lowest amount of points wins.

The five-kilometer course proved to be tough for multiple GDS runners. The official description of the course describes it as “mostly grass, with rolling hills, some wooded trails, and two creek crossings. Runners can expect some short hills with sharp inclines.”

Sophomore Sadie Boyle finished as one of the top runners on the GDS women’s team. “I was kind of expecting for the meet to be harder,” she said. “But I think we worked well as a team and I think we performed better than we thought we were going to.” A hill dubbed Smiley-Face Hill—because in the past, there was a spray-painted smiley face on it—proved to be the hardest part of the course for Boyle. Despite the challenges of the course, Boyle managed to achieve nineteenth place by running a 21 minute and 55 second 5K and helped her team secure fourth place in the Varsity B race. 

Senior Luke Cohen agreed with Boyle about the struggles of Smiley-Face Hill. Cohen finished 161st out of 640 runners in the top division. “I know I can run faster, but I’m happy with how I did,” he said. 

The men’s team as a group finished 51st out of 94 schools. According to Cohen, the team was missing some of its top runners due to injuries and vacations, which he believed hurt their results. “We could have done better,” he said, “but it’s a pretty good showing.”

Head coach Anthony Belber has coached the GDS cross country team for 23 years and currently coaches 84 runners across the men’s and women’s teams. “I rely a lot on good senior leadership and I also have excellent assistant coaches,” he said when asked about how he manages such a big team. Belber also said he believes that if people have a fun experience as members of the team, it will lead to better results during races. “Athletes are going to run harder and with more motivation when they enjoy the people they are with,” he said. 

Senior Ben Meyer has run cross country all four years of his high school career and agreed with Belber’s idea about the importance of building a supportive atmosphere on the team. “It’s a really strong community and everyone there cares about all the other teammates and wants them to do well,” Meyer said. He, like Belber, emphasized the role of senior leadership on the team. “When I was an underclassman, I didn’t see the role that seniors played as much as I do now,” he said. “There’s a lot of little things that I think seniors and older people on the team do to keep the whole team running.”

As the team looks forward to the rest of the season, Belber said he wants to continue to foster the sense of community around GDS running. “A goal is certainly to maximize our team unity as we approach the championships at the end of the season,” he said.

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