Checked the Last Box

“It’s hard, but that’s why they call it cross country,” said Coach Scott Brooks, head coach of the Benet girls cross country team. Cross country is one of the most physically and mentally demanding sports, with miles and miles of grueling running. But all it takes is one common goal to drive the team. Since the beginning of the season, Coach Brooks had an optimistic feeling about the team making history and being the first Benet girls cross country team to win the state championship. This motivation to be State contenders brought the team closer together and pushed each runner to their maximum potential. 

The season went much better than expected in all levels: frosh/soph, open, and varsity–the talent on the team was very strong. The team was consistently ranked first place all season long in the weekly rankings, never dropping down to second. The Benet girls won the majority of their regular season meets, each win providing both confidence and encouragement for the team’s future. 

The 2019 ESCC conference meet, hosted by St. Viator, resulted in a memorable win for the Benet girls. Benet won overall in all races, meaning that the combined total of points (based on the place all the runners in each race) was the lowest number.  In the frosh/soph race, sophomore Laura Mansour took first place, followed by six of her teammates in the top eighteen. In the varsity race, Benet runners placed second through eighth place. In the open race, junior Kelly Andrews took first place followed by thirteen of her teammates in the top eighteen.The clean sweep at conference provided the perfect motivation for postseason. 

Postseason was another success for the team. Throughout the postseason, Coach Brooks kept referring to the team wins at sectionals and regionals as “checking off the boxes” on his bucket list because this year was the first year that the team has won such races. The girls worked very hard all season and, with both sectional and regional champions under their belt, they saw that a state championship was possible. 

Support for all runners at state was very prominent. This year was the first year that a fan bus was sent down to Peoria. This amount of support reminded the runners that they were not just competing for themselves, they were doing this for their team, coaches, and school. The chance to make history was upon them.  

Junior Joy Jackson commented that the key to winning state this year was the tightly grouped varsity pack. The varsity pack is a group of the top runners on the team. Most teams have around a 1:30-2:00 minute gap between their first and fifth runner, with very good front runners. Benet distinguished themselves from the rest with an impressive forty-five second split between their first and fifth runner. 

“Ladies, we checked the last box!” Coach Brooks screamed, hugs filling the red and white crowd as the Benet Girls Cross Country team was declared the state champion. Not only did they win the state championship, Juniors Emily Spellman and Meaghan Andrews were All-State runners.

This feat was a huge accomplishment for the Benet girls cross country team. It showed that all it takes is one common goal to bring the team to victory. Those supporting the team throughout the season included family, friends, teammates, and alumni. The memories of this special season will last a lifetime. Former runners have been watching this year’s season, proving “once a lady redwing, always a lady redwing.” It is exciting to see what next year holds. All of the starting seven runners will be returning–it is sure to be another great season!