Leading the pack: Junior steps up in leadership role with cross country team

The alarm sounds. It’s 5AM, and the only option is to wake up and go to practice. So they push themselves out of bed, get ready, and beat the sun to the horizon. Day after day. This is the ritual of the cross country team, 56 members who have been undaunted by the early morning practices. With such a big team, team captain junior Nick Defoy has taken charge and became a leader on the team in practice, at meets, and in the classroom.

While the team is at its largest numbers in recent years, Nick has been an intricate part in keeping the team on task.

“He makes my job as a coach easier,” coach Darchelle Welch said. “He shows the kids what to do, and he re-iterates what I say if someone didn’t hear me, and answers questions when I’m unavailable. He’s smart, he’s quick, and he has an awesome attitude.”

Acting as a leader means more responsibility for Nick, having more eyes are on him, and being there to help others who are falling behind.

“Being one of the leaders is fun,” Nick said. “It’s frustrating at times due to everyone being stubborn, but it’s fun. I make sure everyone stays on task and that everyone is doing the warm up, the cool down, and that everyone is doing their job.”

Nick’s job doesn’t stop once practice is over. He helps other members of the team with their homework and makes sure they understand the concepts.

“I look up to Nick,” junior runner Matt Shumate said. “He takes care of all his academic work and even helps me with my homework when I don’t understand something while also maintaining a really high work ethic at practice.”

With the increase in the number of younger runners this year, Nick has filled the role of an example for teammates to follow.

“Nick stepped up due to all of the younger kids on the team,” Welch said. “A lot of them don’t know exactly what to do and the habits of the team. Sometimes you have an older kid who doesn’t want all the younger kids on the team, but Nick wants to show them how we do things. He has stepped up. Last year he was really quiet, but this year he’s more vocal.”

At the first race this season, Nick took charge and was able to keep everyone on track, and knew what was going on.

“Our meet at Temple has been the best so far,” Welch said. “Everyone got there and did their business, and took the underclassmen under their wings.”

The word “family” is constantly used when talking about the cross country team. Whether it’s someone pushing another member in a workout, supporting each other in their time of need, helping with homework, or hanging out with each other, the cross country team has taken the word “team” to a different level.

“My favorite part about cross country is the people,” Nick said. “We’re like a family and we have a lot of fun together. Running in general is fun, too. The team atmosphere is joyful and we love each other. We have spaghetti dinners where we have fun, eat spaghetti, and play around. We do it primarily to have fun, but to also get the carbs in before our race.”

The spaghetti dinners the team has before race day has helped with the team grow in numbers and grow together. One member of the team hosts the dinner before a race, where they provide the spaghetti and desserts, and everyone comes to have fun and fellowship with one another.

“We’re a family” Welch said. “We’ve grown the team to 56 runners. Our spaghetti dinners are a big attraction, all of our workouts have meanings, and we have team talks. Communication is the biggest thing and Nick helps with that.”