Closing the Cross County Season – Athletes’ Takeaways

by Caleb Kim ’26

Sports revolve around this central goal of improvement and development, and it’s no different for Bellarmine cross-country. Throughout the season, by focusing on this central goal, the cross-country program climbed to great heights. However, the real success of the season was not found in the awards; rather, it was achieved in each runner’s individual development and success. Whether the goal may have been improving a mile time by 10 seconds or even becoming a top-five runner in the program, every participant in cross-country demonstrated improvement. This article highlights our runners’ personal growth over the season.

Aniruddha Janakiraman ’26 wasn’t certain whether he was going to participate in cross country; however, after “talking with [his] friends, it sounded fun, so [Ani] gave it a shot.” He “started practicing [the] first week before school,” and ever since, he has been a committed member of the cross-country team. Initially, Ani says that the freshman team was not competing at a high level and that he was not doing well either: “At WCAL I, we were like not running together as a pack,… and I didn’t really kick at the end of my first WCAL I race.” Eventually, however, he said that he improved in terms of “mental toughness, like continuing to run at the same pace… when you need to and not like slowing down… I remember a few of my first races, I was slowing down, and the hills in the first few races definitely got to me, but after a lot of training and hard work, I think I’ve improved a lot over the season,…especially in toughness. Furthermore, he explains that this success is from the instruction: “Yeah, I like to attribute the improvement to the coaches, to my teammates because they always encouraged me and influenced me to try my best.” Finally, he said that this improvement came to fruition at the end of WCAL III: “The most memorable moment this season was definitely after WCAL III. After we finished our race, we would watch other teammates finish, and it was really inspiring. In fact, one of my teammates, Sean Kim, … had an insane kick at the end where he sprinted and passed multiple guys at the end.”

Stephen Sziebert ’26 didn’t know how he would fit in at Bellarmine, but cross country gave him a place to find himself. He said, “I… came here, not really knowing who I was going to hang out with. [Through cross country,] I was able to quickly make a lot of friends,… [and] the friends that I made were great.” In general, he explained, “I just feel very supported by the community both academically and in sports. When I was sick, and when I was injured I still felt supported. So I feel like it’s definitely great community and the great choices.” Moreover, he said that he and the freshman cross country class have improved greatly: “I feel like I have become more outgoing and… worked on being less just kind of introverted, I would say. Yeah, but as a freshman class, I think we’ve all improved being more coordinated.” He said that this came to fruition when, “mainly after the races, everyone [would come] together and regardless of time and just [talk] about how well everyone else did and just like [talk] about how things could be made better in the future.”

JV Cross Country Members competing in San Francisco Park. © Matthew Bannon ’24

As a freshman, Hugh Mahendroo ’25 tried out for volleyball and basketball, but he didn’t make either team. So, “when I first thought about [cross country,]… I was like, I need some sports credit.” Regardless of his reason for joining the program, when “I did cross country, I really enjoyed it.” He explained that what gives him so much joy are “the races: the Ram Invitational and WCAL III.” Finally, he said that perhaps the most gratifying part is the improvement: “I think I improved a lot in my distance and especially my running overall… By the end of the season, my mile time was a lot faster, and I felt good about it, even though I could have ran faster in my last mile time trial.”

In middle school, Tyler Craven ’24 had done cross country. So, because “it was something I had done in middle school and it was an opportunity to meet people at Bellarmine, [I joined, and] it was a lot of fun just to meet people and work on something that I was familiar with since I came in during COVID.” From that work, Tyler has seen lots of improvement, and he attributes to “the team. We do our best to support each other, and Coach McCrystle and Coach Maloney, they’re so supportive, and they just want the best for our runners. So, I’d say we all work together as a team… Therefore, if one person wins, everybody wins.” Moreover, he explained those victories: “Having a good race, feeling good during the race, and finishing strong and knowing that you put everything out there is definitely an individual victory, [and] when everybody does that,… that’s a victory.” He said that this came to fruition at WCAL II: “The one that stands out to me the most is WCAL II because that was my best race and I felt like during the second and third mile, Soham Vohra, Jack Frida, and I really packed up and tried to stick together, and that worked really well because we were all pushing each other to go as fast as we could.”

So as the cross-country program sprints to a close, many important takeaways and experiences were gained by members of all levels throughout the season. Ranging from personal triumphs to great cohesion as a group, resilience and improvement were the defining themes of this successful season. And ultimately, these principles allowed the runner to have success not only in Crystal Springs or Baylands, but also back home, right on the BCP track.

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