Oswego High School’s cross country season came to an end during the final races at Detweiller Park in Peoria. Both OHS varsity cross country teams qualified for state this 2022 season. Competing in a mud bath, the boys team pulled out from being underdogs and earned a No.25 state ranking; the girls team finished at No. 21. In the previous 2022 season, the girls team did not qualify for state because of the sectional they were placed in. However, the boys team was previously ranked fifth in state from last season. 

State meets differ from regular meets, and can be intimidating for those who have never raced there before. 

“You are with the best of the best and it is a lot more of a dense pack you are running with,” senior Brady Nelson of the boys varsity team said. “It is really hard to slow down because it is so tight you can barely move. It is all the guys who are just as good as you in one race.”

For the boys team, going into this race was intimidating. Last year they settled with a senior dominant team, so many of the athletes never experienced this state-like atmosphere. 

“The goal was to just make it there, and we didn’t do as good as a team but I was the only athlete who had been to state previously.” Nelson said. “As a first time state meet, since it is a whole different type of race, it was still very good.”

The varsity girls cross country team also had a successful race in Peoria, making a comeback after not making it to state last year.

“Our state meet went really well, but the weather was not ideal,” senior Audra Soderlind, captain of the varsity girls team, said. “It was pretty muddy by the time we ran which meant slower times on the course, but honestly the place is what mattered at the end of the day.” 

As Mrs. Rafferty, also known as Coach Zim, takes the role of head coach for the girls team, she emphasized the importance of their sectional meet and the big factors played. 

“We were actually going into the race, ranked seventh in the whole sectional which would be the last team out and so we really needed to put together a race that was able to qualify,” Coach Zim said. “The girls ran out of their minds, and got fifth in the sectional and were absolutely fantastic and put a statement out there. We beat a couple of teams that we definitely weren’t supposed to beat.”

This year, the team made a lot of improvements with their team culture. Cross country is a very individualized sport, but running for the team is extremely important. 

“We had a lot of team building activities over the summer, and we also had smaller running groups that helped us be able to get to know each other more in groups of 3-4 vs 15ish people…we just overall had a very good group of girls this year which played a big role in getting us to state,” Soderlind said. 

Changing the way practices were laid out, along with how they practiced helped the girls evolve over the season, as a team and individually. 

“I think a lot of the girls this year went from racing as individuals to racing as a cohesive group,” Coach Zim stated. “Watching their first race just kind of running, and watching their last races where they are telling each other to stick together is really inspiring.” 

Along with team culture, strong bonds and good leadership amongst the team is very important. Being a senior comes with a lot more responsibility and authority, and some athletes went above and beyond with helping out the team. The shift in the boys team from the season was extremely different after losing six seniors last year. 

“It was a large shift in leadership, but some guys stepped up, including me. There are actually some sophomores that stepped up, and I think that class has a ton of good leaders,” Nelson said. 

Unlike the boys team, the girls assign team captains for the season. That designates certain people to take overall leadership, but doesn’t limit other athletes from stepping up. 

“It has been different because I am actually one of the team captains this year, and it has been fun being in a leadership position and it is a lot different from previous years. And I think we just overall had a very good group of girls,” Soderlind said. 

With both teams succeeding expectations in Peoria this year, they have high hopes in having the same success in the future. 

“I want [the team] to go into next season with confidence knowing they can do that again even when I leave,” Nelson said.

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My name is Miranda Cook, and this is my first year being a part of 42Fifty! I am a junior at OHS, and I am on the varsity cheer team. I enjoy taking photos and hanging out with my friends in my free time, and I cannot wait to start my career in journalism!

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