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I'm not typically one to get sentimental around the holidays. I try to be grateful on Thanksgiving and Christmas for the privileged life I lead (fun fact: privilege is very hard for me to spell). I try to surround myself with friends on Halloween and New Year's. But I've only ever made one New Year's resolution and I don't typically reflect heavily on the year passed. My birthday makes me uncomfortable and I prefer to avoid the existential terror induced by the fleeting of time altogether. I expected the end of this decade would be the same.

But as I was contemplating my complete lack of excitement for the end of the decade (in the shower, as one tends to do), I realized that it has been about a decade since I first began running. Winter 2010 - Brendan and I packed up our marching band uniforms (clarinet and percussion, respectively) and went out for indoor track to get in shape for outdoor soccer. I have a very brief memory from one of our first runs out on Portsmouth. Just a general, foggy thought. But it's a light and airy thing and it feels good to remember.

So the decade itself doesn't hold much significance for me. But ten years of running? Suddenly this decade, this arbitrary unit of time, feels very significant.

And what a wonderful decade it has been. Running has been nothing but a positive force in my life for the entirety of these 10 years, and now, especially as my relationship with running becomes more and more imprecise in the wake of my collegiate career, I welcome an opportunity to reflect on and be thankful for it.

However, like most sports, cross country and track are not inherently positive experience. It’s the coaches, teammates, and parents that shape that experience into a positive one. I am extremely lucky to have had some of the best in all three categories.

While I'm being sentimental, maybe I will share some plans for the next decade.

No matter where, when, how, or why, every run is simply another little adventure. After a decade of these little adventures I think I’m ready for some big ones. I want to coach, I want to hike 1200 miles, I want to drive cross country with my friends to watch races at Hayward Field, I want to get married. On every one of these big adventures I will remember what I’ve learned in my little adventures - and I will be very happy.

So here’s to another decade of running, adventuring, thankfulness, and existential dread. It’ll be over in the blink of an eye and I intend to make the most of it!

And finally, to stay true to the theme of sentimentality, I leave you with two quotes - the language of sentimental people.

"Run often. Run long. But never outrun your joy of running" - Julie Isophording

“It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.” - J.R.R. Tolkien

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The West Springfield Spartans are running a near perfect season right now. The Spartans, coached by Chris Pellegrini, now have 2 commanding postseason victories under their belts, winning both the Patriot District and Occoquan Region championships. They won these titles with scores of 22 and 21 points, respectively. Throughout the season, Sean Stuck has been a consistent force out front for the Spartans. I asked him a few questions about what makes this season special, and what we can expect from them as we move on to the biggest meets of the year.

The Spartans are proving to be a force in 6A, what do you and your teammates attribute your growing success to?

I think that the reason that we have grown to be a force in 6A is because of our mentality.

I remember vividly, my junior year, after we lost Cross Country States as the favorite, Pellegrini pulled together Sam Pritchard, Chris Weeks, and myself and looked at us and said something like, “Right now, the way you act will determine if you can have a shot to win next year.”

This year we have only lost one Invitational and I believe that is due to the change in mentality that we got from that moment. I can not say exactly what changed but I think it is that we have more confidence. Confident that we are the best team and we have something to prove every time we race.

At the region championship, your top 5 were separated by just about 1 minute, which is impressive considering your sub 15 minute performance. How does having such a tight top 5 help as the races get bigger and more competitive throughout the postseason?

Pellegrini is a numbers guy and he has most likely gone over just about every race scenario that is probable to occur at the state meet. Through doing that he has figured out that it is near impossible, if we all run well, for Oakton to beat a one minute spread. So, by having this spread it will allow us to have a shot at winning the state meet and making NXN.

Are there any fun things you guys do as a team to build camaraderie and team atmosphere? Maybe a favorite game, song, movie, etc. that you all enjoy together?

During the summer we take around 14 guys to a state park in West Virginia where we all sleep in the same cabin. While we are there we do challenging runs, cook our own meals and set our goals for the upcoming season.

During the school year I wouldn’t say that we hang out that often outside of practice, but when we do we go to someone’s house, a movie, and or get food together. I think that where the most team camaraderie comes from just practicing two hours a day together almost year round, and the biggest thing that brings us together is memes. We all love the small probably not funny jokes that either we or the internet comes up with.

What are the goals for the team and yourself as you are going into states and beyond?

The team definitely can, should, and deserves to win the state meet. Everyone believes that we can and if that is true than I am certain that we are going to be able to do it. After the state meet we are most likely going to go to NXR to try to get to NXN which would be a dream for all of us.

Individually I would like to win, which is what I think doing my part for the team is, but if I can’t, then I have to get the one card for the team score.

Post states I would like to get a nice fast personal record in the 5K and make it to NXN.

Stuck and the rest of the West Springfield team return to action this Saturday at Great Meadows where they will be aiming to capture the Virginia 6A state championship.

All photo credits to Ed Lull Photography.

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Hey guys, Reid here, long time no write. I'm writing this post with similar butterflies in my stomach to the ones that cross country runners all over the country are feeling around this time of year. It's championship season. The air is crisp; the leaves are trampled on the trails; the metaphorical hay is in the metaphorical barn. It's a great time of year, grit is showcased in fewer places than in championship cross country. So I'm here to talk about how awesome it is that it's finally time to put all those miles, repeats, and mile repeats to good use.

If you think about it, none of the meets until now have really mattered, who cares who won Oatlands if they can't back it up in October. Teams will be tested, broken, and crowned in these next few weeks. No matter if you are racing in this championship season or not, if you are at all connected to this sport, this is a time of year to plug in and experience the magic. If you are running in a championship meet----whether it's conference, regionals, states, nationals, or all 4----it's crunch time. Time to remember why you and your teammates forge your bodies in the fire of mileage; time to remind each other of your goals; time to go out and get those goals. Harmonious team relationships are the key to a bulletproof cross country team in November. Belief in the people that you grind with each day is the crucial element to championship teams. When the third mile hits and everyone is hurting, the people who have a deep belief in the 6 other people wearing the same jersey as them will find the courage to leave it all on the course. Teammates give the power and purpose to finish the job, no matter the challenge. Cross Country may look like an individual sport, but anyone who has felt or seen the camaraderie of a truly harmonious team knows that it is much more.

Good luck to anyone and everyone who is racing in the coming weeks. Enjoy the energy, it's why this sport is so freaking cool.

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