The success of UChicago’s men’s and women’s cross country teams may be one of the best-kept secrets in the athletic department. The women's cross country team is ranked 3rd in the nation and the men are just behind them, coming in at 13th.
The UChicago cross country team has been on an upward trend these past few years. Both the men’s and women’s teams have qualified for the DIII championship meet and placed in the top 12 teams for the past three years.
So far this season, the women’s team appears to be on an unstoppable streak. They have won first place in three out of their four meets so far. At the September 17 Michigan State Invitational meet, which included teams from Division I, II, and III, first-year runner Claudia Harnett and second-year runner Lucy Groothuis placed in the top 25 out of 236 competitors for the women’s 6k event.
Even though UChicago is a DIII school, these two underclassmen beat runners from DI schools such as Michigan State and Toledo.
The success of the women’s team cannot be attributed to just one or two star runners. Senior Rachael Hutson says, “the team is very deep—there are over thirty of us and everyone brings something unique and equally valuable to the table.”
The men are also on to an incredibly strong start to their season—they have come in second for two of their meets, placed fifth in one, and, in their most recent meet, were able to secure the coveted first place position.
The men’s team also competed in the Michigan State Invitational meet and UChicago runners were able to go head-to-head with DI schools.
Runners from both the men’s and women’s teams agreed the teams’ successes should be attributed to a combination of solid coaches, strong team culture, and the unwavering work ethic of all the runners. Third-year runner from the men’s team Joshua Cheung said, “All of us chose to be on the cross country team because we enjoy running in general and running competitively.” That’s a big part of the team’s success: how they all motivate one other.
Cheung also pointed to the importance of the social camaraderie of the team. “Eating together at Bartlett after practice then going to study in the reg together builds bonds that allow us to enjoy the process even if we are all physically sore,” he added.
First-year runner Elisabeth Camic on the women’s team offered a similar perspective. She said that what makes the team successful is “the hard work of the girls. They give their all every day at practices and meets.” She also commented that Coach Hall is an integral part of the team’s success because of his “great training philosophy.”
Another big piece of the team's success comes from the amount of joy the girls get from going to practice and spending time together. Hutson says that practices “are the highlight of my day; they're full of laughter, smiles, and fascinating conversations.” She also added that the team likes to “stick around long after practice ends to chat and eat for hours.”
This is Hutson’s first year on cross country, but she is not new to UChicago athletics, as she played soccer and ran track her other three years. She believes that the UChicago cross country team is a special group of women, and she has “never trained or competed with a more uplifting, resilient, and ambitious group of women.”
Both the men’s and women’s cross country teams are currently halfway through their seasons and have just four meets left to give it their all. Camic is optimistic about the rest of the season and says she believes “we have what it takes to finish the season strong and go all the way.”
Hutson agreed and said there “is a strong, palpable collective desire to succeed” and she “can't wait to see the team's commitment and hard work lead to exceptional results in the approaching championship meets.”