Women's Cross Country
Synergy makes the team

Nov. 4, 2011



Before the scores even began to roll in, I knew that the Vanderbilt women's team had won the SEC cross country championship. In short order, Alexa Rogers, Liz Anderson, Louise Hannallah, Jordan White and Kristen Smith had crossed the finish line, a blur of black shirts.

It wasn't a matter of if they won, but by how much, and before we could absorb this, the freshmen crossed the line--Grace Orders, Amira Joseph, and Becca Chandler--followed by Kristen Findley.

The energy that pulsed through the finish line and the team as they collapsed into each other with hugs and smiles was infectious, and the sweet culmination of months of hard work.

But this story starts long before that moment, and is about so much more than team results.

The girls call it "synergy," a term to describe the incredibly close connection the team possesses, with each moving part contributing smoothly to the whole.

Anderson, with her bubbly personality and high energy, provides the sort of comedic relief that balances the team. Hannallah, the mother-hen figure, picks up her teammates and provides advice and help to the younger members. The soft-spoken Rogers, ever the leader by example, genuinely credits her teammates with their success, believing her record-breaking season is only part of a greater picture and possible only through her team.

The trio of Rogers, Hannallah, and White have fondly been dubbed "The Three Musketeers" for their long-standing friendship since they arrived on campus together four years ago (White is a red-shirt junior).

Add in the talented group of freshmen who bring energy and laughs to the group, and you can feel the connection this group of girls has. As assistant coach Rhonda Riley has said, they balance each other perfectly. That balance, in school, in life, and on the team has made a world of difference as they focus their sights on the finish line.

The entire season, they have steadily worked towards the goal they set in camp in August: let's get to nationals. And as head coach Steve Keith says, this team runs their best part of the race in the last half. The team has showed that by getting stronger with each race.

The night before the meet, as we sat in the hotel and the girls did homework, talked, and milled around, there was an overwhelming sense of calm, which surprised me. Usually, the night before the big race or big game or big match, there's a sense of nervous energy, almost an audible "hum" of excitement. But these girls, faced with an opportunity to make history, were so focused on their goal that the only visible nerves came from the coaches and myself.

They've beaten everyone's expectations--even Coach Keith's, leaving him speechless.

For the girls, they don't need words. In their quiet way, they simply go out on the course and run as a team.




 

 

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