Running man: Senior cross country captain leads team to finish line

Practice starts before the sun rises. Most students are still in bed while the cross country team laces up their shoes and hit the road running. Senior Nathaniel Steels serves as captain on the cross country team and has continued to improve throughout his high school career. After running cross country in middle school, Nathan joined the team in high school to continue his running career.

“My biggest challenge when I got to high school was having a new coach and learning new techniques,” Nathan said. “Beyond the athletic side of cross country the hardest part was making new friends and fitting in.”

When high school practices started, Nathan was uncomfortable with the workouts and felt like the running was too extreme and not fun, but that has changed over the years.

“I’m more motivated to run now,” Nathan said. “I see running more as a hobby than as a punishment.”

After overcoming the social obstacles and learning how to handle practice, Nathan has grown into an a leader his teammates can look up to.

“Nathan is the captain for the boys and he’s really helpful,” sophomore Estelle Dasilva said. “He always pushes us to do better and never makes fun of someone trying to improve.”

Nathan attributes his success to his teammates and turns to them when he is struggling. He also understands that even people in leadership positions must rely on their teammates.

“People are the best part of cross country,” Nathan said. “Honestly, there’s been times where I felt like I wasn’t good enough, but my teammates made me feel like I belong.”

Anxiety is common before a meet. Nathan and his teammates lean on each other for support to handle the pressures of the event.

“We always have spaghetti dinners before a meet,” Nathan said. “We have dinner at a teammates house the night before the meet. It’s so much fun to get together outside of school and get some family bonding in and it also helps load up on the carbs.”

Nathan takes his role as team captain seriously, using his authority to help others and never put them down.

“Nathan doesn’t let his authority get to his head that’s why we love him,” Estelle said. “Nathan is one of our best runners and he really knows what he’s doing and just how to help others.”

The head cross country coach Darchelle Welch sees Nathan’s ability to lead by example as one of the many reasons he was named as a captain for the team.

“Whether he’s tired or sore, he doesn’t complain. He goes out there and gives 110% and encourages his teammates at the same time,” Welch said. “He may come in first every workout, but this doesn’t stop him from turning around and running his last teammate in, cheering them on to push themselves.”

Nathan always pushes the team to do better and always supports them, especially when they are struggling.

“Nathan is a well-rounded student athlete inside and outside the classroom,” Welch said. “He has the athletic ability and classroom skills to go far in life. I am very blessed and proud to to be his coach. I can’t wait to see what his future holds for him.”

Nathan always encourages the team to do better and always supports them, especially when they are struggling. His role in leadership helped jump start the beginning of his successful career.

Nathan continues to push himself and lower his race times as he looks toward his running career after high school.

“I recently had a personal record time of 17.37 in the varsity boys 5k,” Nathan said. “I’m really excited because Baker University in Kansas has been watching me. I feel like if I push myself I can achieve greatness and I hope I can build a career out of this. Baker University cross country program is National Association of Interscholastic Athletes powerhouse, both on the course and in the classroom.”

Nathan’s character and work ethic have carried him throughout high school and will continue to be assets as he looks toward collegiate competition.

“His deep drive to never give up, his dedication, his determination and his passion for running makes Nathaniel a solid athletic competitor,” Welch said. “He shows up every morning with a smile on his face ready to push himself farther and faster than the day before.”