A lot was at stake on a chilly Wednesday afternoon for the cross country team. The Liberty Conference Festival on October 14 was a chance to determine who would run Conferences, runners to beat their personal best times and for seniors to run their last race. It was a sad goodbye for the seniors and the coaches, especially those who had been on the team for multiple seasons. While running can be individual, the team aspect resonated with some. “I will miss going to all the invitationals,” senior Katie Zetkulic said. “It was all about the comrade.”
Varsity runners ran a separate workout than the rest of the time, taking off on a mile jog before or after the race. Senior Jordan Grimaldi finished sixth in the girls’ race while junior Laura Ramirez finished seventh. On the boys’ side, seniors Justin Sczerbinski and Thomas Dunlap ran to determine who would run in conferences, with Dunlap winning with a time of 16:55.
The girls’ team is led by Ramirez and Grimaldi going into Conferences. Grimaldi comes off her win at the County Championship on September 29 and was on the state runner-up team her sophomore year. The majority of the squad are underclassmen, however, signaling a strong team to come.
Like the girls’, the boys’ team looks to repeat their success from last year’s Conference team. They have won the Conference meet before and have some of the runners from previous years. Freshman Jonny Jackson leads the conference team, placing second in three invitationals before winning Glory Days at Bull Run Park. Junior James Gusmer provides experience in a upperclassmen dominated team.
When everyone had finished, it was time for the Senior Night festivities. Each senior received a rose and the coaches recited a short blurb from a questionnaire they filled out.
Seniors were able to reminisce on their careers and successes. “My favorite race was Glory Days,” senior Jacob Cupp said. “The rain and the mud made it all relaxing.” Others commented on how cross country changed them. “My calves are now much bigger,” senior Tyler Spicer said. “I have more more muscle for baseball now.”
The biggest surprise of the night came when coach Matthew Pryzdial announced he and his wife are not coming back as coaches next season due to personal reasons. They had started ten years ago, seeing the program increase from fewer than 30 runners to over 120. Coach William Drake, the current assistant coach, will assume the head coach position next year.
Coach Pryzdial was grateful for the team in his speech. “In ten years here, you guys have become our family, part of us,” Pryzdial said. “These ten years have been very important us, but now that we have two girls, it’s time for us to move on.”