Running for fun

Cross country team pushes themselves to grow


Bella Tederman

Varsity runners Seth Janecek, Carter Tichota, Bryce Kolc and Issac Kult begin their race at the Yutan Invite. The annual invite is held at Walnut Grove park in Omaha.

In many sports, the athletes have to run longer distances as a punishment, but the cross country athletes run for fun. 

“When you tell somebody that they’re going to run three miles, that’s a lot of kids’ worst nightmare,” said assistant cross country coach Alyssa Hansen. 

But this year, there are eleven high school and four junior high runners who are willing to show up and run these long distances every day at practices to improve their skills with the help of head coach Natalie Zabrocki and assistant coaches Hansen and Joel Carrillo. 

“For our kids, they’re mentally tough, and they see it as an opportunity, a place to grow, a place to compete,” said Hansen.

Since Zabrocki was out for maternity leave to start the season, Hansen had to take on a bigger role as assistant for this year’s team, and she was ready for the opportunity. 

“I’m passionate about giving kids something that they can do for a long time, even after high school,” said Hansen. 

Hansen has been assistant coaching the team for three months and is surprised with how much strategy and how mentally prepared the runners have to be for each meet or even practice. 

“We talk a lot about strategy, which doesn’t seem like a thing that would exist in cross country, but there’s a lot of strategy,” said Hansen. “Most importantly, I think there’s a mental aspect to it.”

Even with a slow start to the season and athletes coming in at different levels, the team members push themselves in practice, which paid off in some of their recent meets.  

“At our last meet in Fort Calhoun, our entire boy’s team got personal bests,” said Zabrocki.

Jumping off from that success, the team is hoping to finish as one of the top five teams at the conference meet and get a runner back at state. 

“I don’t think it’s super out of reach to get some of our runners to qualify individually,” said Zabrocki. 

Beyond success in meets, there are other benefits to running cross country. It not only benefits athleticism or mentality but also builds bonds between teammates. 

“Everyone is super supportive,” said junior Janel Bussing, “and they’re always pushing you to become better.”