On Saturday, September 26, the men’s and women’s cross country teams competed in their first home meet since the fall of 2019. The Polar Bears hosted the Bowdoin Invitational, recording both individual and team victories against Emmanuel College, Endicott College and Saint Joseph’s College. John Hood ’22, who paced the men’s team, finished first place overall in the eight kilometer race. Cameron Mackenzie ’22 led the women, finishing first in the six kilometer race.
Hood explained that the mental and physical preparation for both the meet and the season began far before the team’s pre-race warm-up routine on Saturday morning.
“Preparation really began in May or June for a majority of the team. A summer of running high mileage and executing medium-intensity workouts is paramount to having a successful cross country season,” Hood wrote in an email to the Orient. “The mental aspect of running and cross training every day can be daunting, so last week, we spent a lot of time practicing communicating, writing and reflecting about goals for [the Bowdoin Invitational].”
Newly-appointed Head Coach of men’s and women’s cross country Ben Raphelson echoed Hood’s sentiments, crediting the team’s diligence and intense pre-season training for high expectations entering the season.
“The team had every reason to be confident going into the weekend by virtue of their great training over the summer and in the time since we’ve been together on campus,” Raphelson wrote in an email to the Orient.
The team’s confidence was also bolstered by the mass of fellow students, family members and fans from the greater Brunswick community who attended the meet to cheer on the Polar Bears.
“The home crowd was incredible. It was great to see so many Bowdoin students on the course cheering us on,” Stephanie Chun ’24 wrote in an email to the Orient. “It’s comforting to get to race on terrain that you know so well, surrounded by people that support you.”
Raphelson credited attendees for energizing the athletes while they were on the course.
“[The runners] were effectively running through a ‘scream tunnel’ of fans [during] large portions of the race. I definitely saw more smiles than I usually would amongst students trying to race all-out for 20 plus minutes,” Raphelson wrote.
Raphelson viewed the Invitational as an opportunity for the team to re-develop its physical endurance and competitive mindset following the pause in racing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, runners begin to look toward championship meets later in the season.
“[The Invitational] was a great stepping stone en route to higher stakes championships down the line. This was the first opportunity most [athletes] on the team had to race eight kilometers and six kilometers, for men and women respectively, either in their [running] careers or for at least [the last] two years,” Raphelson wrote. “Our focus was on navigating those longer distances successfully and in a way that would give us confidence going into future meets.”
The team faced some adversity, as a bout with the common cold forced a number of athletes to sit out of the meet, but as always, the Polar Bears finished strong.
“A nasty cold had been going around [the team], so many of our athletes could not compete,” Hood wrote. “The team responded well. We ran the first mile slower than planned, but this allowed for many strong finishes. Hopefully these responses to adverse conditions will lead to confidence in larger meets with higher stakes.”
The team’s success at the meet, as well as the confidence and poise of her fellow athletes, has made Chun eager to race in larger, more competitive championship meets.
“I think the team’s ability to work together, encourage each other during the race and push each other allowed us to be successful at [the Invitational],” Chun wrote. “It’s really motivating and encouraging to run with teammates, and we’re feeling confident going into the Maine State Meet [at Pineland Farms] this Saturday.”