Hempfield Cross Country 2020


Aidan John Hodge

If you’re reading this, then you’ve probably heard about the Hempfield Cross Country team. If you haven’t heard about them, then I’m here to tell you all about their 2020 season. My name is Aidan Hodge. I’m a sophomore and the top runner on the team. Let me tell you a little bit about cross country so you get the gist of what this sport is all about. Each race is a 5k, so about 3.1 miles. There are normally 2-3 teams in a regular dual meet. Everyone runs but only the top 5 runner scores for the team and runners 6-8 displace other runners on the other teams. I could go into more depth but it would take forever so I’m just going to skip over that. Let’s get started with the season overview and how we did this season. Regular season the team went 10-0. Undefeated. We had normally one meet every week against 2-3 other teams at each meet. Let me tell you a little bit about one very important meet we had against Cedar Crest, Elizabethtown, and Penn Manor.
We took to the line. Nerves at an all time high. This was the most important race of the year by far. Cedar Crest lined up to our left.
“Good luck boys,” we all say to each other. Thanks are given periodically and then the official raises his hand and the gun. BANG!!! We start off on course and sprint for position to get an inside spot on the first turn. The race strings out at about a half mile and then the real race begins.
The race drags on. Leads switch and people put in surges to get an edge for the final 400 or so meters. I reached the hill we went up with a Cedar Crest kid right in front of me. I think about how bad we need to beat Cedar Crest because they are our biggest competition in the LL-League. We reach the track side by side. I know I can beat him. I put in a big surge 200 meters from the finish line. I feel every step and can hear the Cedar Crest runner fading behind me. I cross the line and fall down immediately to catch my breath. I get up and see my teammates cross the line, but alongside some Cedar Crest runners. It’s going to be close. Once everyone has finished we go on our cool down and get the results. We had won by 1 point.
That was our most important race of the season in the regular season. We were all so excited and hyped up. We got back on the bus with our heads held high. We progressed through the last half of the season with a few hard races.
We had finally made it to the postseason. Our next race was our League meet where every team in Lancaster County ran in the same race for the team title. This year was different though for many reasons. Now to qualify for the District 3 meet, we had to win the League to go as a team.
The day of the race came and we knew what we all had to do. Our coach told us to catch anyone that was in front of us. No matter what. The race went off and I surprisingly took the lead. Until about a mile and a quarter there were 4 Hempfield runners up front. Crazy right! When the lead pack hit about a mile a crazy good runner, Graham Thomas, took the lead and basically ran away with the race. It was a race for second at a mile and a half. In the chase pack about 30 seconds or so off of Graham, there were 3 runners in contention for 2nd. Stephen Schousen, Tyler Stevens, and myself. The final half mile came and I knew what I had to do. I needed to sit where I was (figuratively) and wait till the final 100 meters to kick and hang on for 2nd. I executed the plan perfectly. I hung on for a second place finish. I waited for my team to file in after me and we had won. We were moving on to districts.
Now if you were following the team up to that point thank you so much. If you’ve read this far you must be really interested. We moved on for the District 3 meet at Big Spring High School. We had trained hard all week leading up to it. We were ready. To move on to the State meet we needed another first place finish as a team, and that’s exactly what we did.
The gun went off and bodies sprinted to the front for position. I found myself towards the front about 400 meters in. This was not the plan. My plan was to sit on the leaders and out kick them in the final 100. By the time I had calmed myself down we had made the first turn and were in the back half of the course. At the mile we were at 4:58 or so. Not where I wanted to be. I knew we needed to win the meet. We needed to run all out. I had missed States by 3 seconds last year at this meet. The same thing will not happen again. Before I knew it I crossed 2 miles in about 10:15 or so. One mile left. This is time to really put the hurt on the other runners. Me and the people around me roll through the hills towards the end of the wooded section. Once I get out of the woods and go up “Kill Hill” I have about a half mile left. Mostly downhill thankfully. I make up ground on runners in front of me and pass them to get to the small pack of runners behind the leaders. I pass them but some of them go with me. I know I just have to stick with them and then blow by them the final 100 meters. I came up to the final stretch and kicked my hardest I think I had all season. I look at the time when I finish. 15:58 and a fourth place finish in the district. I collapse right after the chute where we finish. I didn’t have the strength to see my teammates finish. Once everyone had filed in we walked back to the campsite where our bags were. As we all take off our spikes and put on warmer clothes, our coach walks up to us.
“Guess what you guys are all doing next weekend. That’s right you are all, racing at states.”
We won Districts! My proudest moment all season even though I didn’t have much energy because I ran so hard. We had done it and I couldn’t believe it. States was the next week and we were all excited. We trained hard, but also tried to stay safe and not overtrain and be tired. Everyday was fun. Jokes were made and we philosophically talked about random things. The day of States came and it was hot. Maybe a little too hot. When the race started no one was used to how dry the air was and how hot it was. By 1 mile I think everyone was suffering a little. Well at least I was. By mile 1 the team was in 2nd place. 2nd in the state. Everyone raced their hardest and pushed through their struggles during the race. In the end the team finished 4th in the state and we had two Top 25 state medalists. Me and senior Evan Eshelman. It was Evan’s last season so this race really meant something to him.
Now you might have noticed that I used the word “we” and “everyone” a lot. Well that’s because the cross country team is a family. Everyone supports each other. We have banter outside of school where we all hangout and have fires. We practice during the summer and suffer together through the heat. During practice between the boys and girls team encouraging words are exchanged when we pass each other to help the other get through the workout. During races we find each other on the course and yell for each other to catch the guy in front of us and to keep pushing. We celebrate wins together and as well as, the very few, losses. What I’m trying to say is the cross country team is one unit. One family.