A New Chapter by Kate Cox, former STA Runner

Kate Cox is a former Kansas High School track & field and cross country runner, now competing at Creighton Univ. Kate competed for St. Thomas Aquinas and was gracious enough to write an article for us and how her high school experience benefited her in college and dealing with the "new normal" that the coronavirus has left us dealing with, while in high school Kate won a team cross country title and a 4x800 relay title in track.

                                                                        The New Chapter

Last October 2018, I wrote an article for US Milesplit about the trials and triumphs of my high school career thus far. It was published the week of State my senior year. Looking back, it is crazy how much has changed in just a year and a half. I'll start by finishing that chapter, I was blessed to finish my high school career at Saint Thomas Aquinas, winning the 5A team state title in cross country and 4x800m title in track. After a challenging four years, it was beautiful to have years of work which seemed unfruitful pay off. 

Running for Aquinas gave me the best foundation I could have asked for going into college. Coach Wrigley and the team culture showed me what it meant to do things the right way, every day. The team motto was and is "Business As Usual." There was no question as to what the expectations were, and I am so thankful to have grown from that experience.

As sad as it was to leave Aquinas and the team which had become family, I knew it was time to open a new chapter. After it was all said and done, I was so proud of our accomplishments senior year, but shortly after, I started to think about how much I wanted to achieve these feats. They were great and exciting, but that feeling went away pretty fast, and honestly, life goes on. Years down the road, and even now, those exciting wins are not the first things that come to mind. Rather, I think about the friendships and relationships that will be with me for the rest of my life. 

Starting college, I tucked this little piece of wisdom away, confident it would serve me well in the future. Now, it is time to move on. This fall, I was thrilled to officially become a member of the Creighton cross country team. Everyone knows that running in college is a whole different animal. I would soon find out exactly why that is the case.

As exciting as it is, starting college is scary. No one talks about it that much because most of the time, you just hear people talking about how they are having the best time of their life in college. It is difficult for most freshman moving away from home, making new friends, and basically starting over. It is even more difficult learning to juggle it all as a Division I athlete. The first few weeks were hard, they really were. It is easy to wonder if this new team, as welcoming as they were, could ever feel like a family. 

The way I got through is from what I had learned in high school: be present, one day at a time. This meant taking it one class, practice, and rep at a time. I am thankful to say, that eventually things got easier. Becoming great friends with the other freshmen was a complete game-changer. We became a support system, a little family there for each other. 

With time and support, we started to like this whole college thing. Starting over as a freshman, our roles on the team would take a major shift from high school. We all might have led the way at our own school, but now we had to be followers, naturally. We learned how things were done here, and what this team is all about.

To be successful at this level, I learned that a lot of it is just like high school, in addition to other factors that became more prevalent. First, I learned that especially freshman year, you must view small improvements as successes. Sometimes, these small victories are found in adapting to new training philosophies and concepts. Your high school team did things one way and had success. That's great, but now it is time to "buy in" to this new program. No matter what training you are doing, I 100% believe you must trust in it to see any improvement. You have to believe in what your coach is doing. It can be a challenge with faster paces and higher mileage. This is when support from your team is crucial. Although everyone's in it together, finding a teammate or two to become training partners makes a big difference. Running every workout and race with my teammate, Ashley Riley, we helped make each other stronger than either of us could have been alone. 

Consistency and taking care of your body is even more important now. The biggest gains are made from good weeks of training, strung together forming solid blocks of work. To keep up through it all, you must notice if something is hurting or feeling off. A day or two off is well-worth staying healthy in the long run. 

Another difference from high school is that there are much fewer races. With this in mind, it's even more vital to find joy in the process.

There is much more to a team than its training, and an overlooked aspect is to "buy into" team values and mottos. "Business as Usual" will always be in my heart, along with some new ones. For Creighton, the big one is "Eyes up." This can mean something different for every person. In every race, you'll hear someone yell "Eyes up!" To us, it means more. It means eyes up on the good things ahead. Whether you had a great race or a poor one, eyes up, tomorrow is another day. Eyes up, it means believing in yourself and your team. Day by day, believe you are becoming the best version of yourself. 

As the months went by, the other freshmen and I felt like we belonged on the team. As I saw in high school, every person has a role, each important. After my first season, I started to see my role more clearly. I am nowhere near the front of the pack right now. With work and persistence, I hope that can be my role one day. However, I must do the absolute best with the role I do have. In high school, I went about this with high intensity and wanting things done my way. This was good to some extent but was not always received in the way I intended. 

With a new role, I still bring that fire, not as hot though. Checking up on my teammates, showing them I care is a far greater motivator than any intense lecture or meeting could ever be. I believe focusing on effort and encouraging others to do the same is the best thing I can do. Every person, including myself, brings something different to the table. Some days are better than others, it's just life. So as long as we can walk away knowing we gave our best effort on that day, that is all we can ask for.

A new motto for the girls team this year is to "call each other up." Rather than calling out someone doing something wrong, we simply remind them that they are capable of more. I was and am a big believer in saying what needs to be said; however just because something is true doesn't mean it's helpful. I can make a bigger difference when my words are true and kind.

As incredible as it is to be on the cross country team, I strongly believe it is important to become well-rounded in college. Just in case things aren't always going your way, as they rarely do, it's nice to have some other friends to turn to. 

When our second semester was cut short, all the freshmen and I were sad to go home. This had become our new home, and we couldn't imagine not seeing each other every day. It's ironic because if you would've asked us the first couple weeks if we wanted to go home, I can guarantee we all would've said yes. I am thankful I gave it time and patience because I can't imagine my life without these people.

For anyone planning to run in college or thinking about it at all, I would highly recommend just giving it a try. In doing so, you get a built-in support system and really unique opportunities. It's difficult, especially at first. As time goes by, you'll get the hang of it and start to realize you're actually having lots of fun like everyone said they were. Take it day by day, find your role and give it your best, and lastly remember to keep your eyes up.

Kate Cox