Cross Country Cultivates Camaraderie Over Winning

Posted: September 8, 2017

Andrew Bensch

Spend five minutes speaking with anyone associated with the Bellarmine cross country team and you’ll come away with the same perspective. These guys care far more about each other than they do about winning.

According to Head Coach Patrick McCrystle, it is that commitment to camaraderie and teamwork which propels them to their racing success. The Bells don't put winning on a pedestal, but they just so happen to win pretty consistently.

Bellarmine has won ten-straight West Catholic Athletic League (WCAL) titles at all four levels of cross country, to go along with four-straight Central Coast Section (CCS) championships.

“The more I coach, the more I become focused on using the sport [of cross country] to help kids have a really positive experience where they grow and learn about themselves and realize their potential,” noted McCrystle. “A byproduct of that is winning, and we’ve been really, really good. By any kind of way that you measure it, we’ve been getting better and better. And not that we don’t try to win, we absolutely try to win, we work hard, but we spend as much, if not more time, trying to make sure they are a team, that everyone is involved and feels like they belong.”

“We have a huge team and yet Coach McCrystle gives just as much attention to the top guys as he does the slower guys, so no matter what, you are going to improve,” commented senior Alex Scales. “He splits up the groups with really quality assistant coaches too. The overall team environment is great and super supportive. Everyone loves one another; that’s the biggest attraction to the Bellarmine team.”

The Bells had over 230 total students come out for the start of cross country season just two weeks ago. As long as they make practice each day, no student gets cut. Currently, the squad has about 190 students remaining. The team practices five days a week with each student attempting to improve their fitness and running form.

“What’s really special about the cross country team at Bellarmine is the strong camaraderie we have,” chimed senior Meika Beaudoin-Rousseau. “Everybody is just so supportive of each other regardless of how fast you are or what class you are in. I’ve played other sports before, but when I came to Bellarmine and ran cross country for the first time, I was like ‘wow, this is really special, I’ve never had this before.’ So that really drew me to the team.”

As one can imagine, the third and final runner interviewed for this column, shared similar sentiments.

“Our team dynamic, in general, is a lot closer than what I’ve seen on other teams,” added fellow senior Neerav Gade. “Mr. McCrystle and all the other coaches do a really good job of trying to make us feel like we are part of a team, part of a community. For example, the top-15 runners go to Tahoe in the summer for a week for a leadership retreat. [McCrystle] takes away all of our technology and we just have time to spend with each other, get to know each other as teammates and friends. That is a really cool experience, and we take that and bring it into the season and spread it around the team. One of the biggest things that we talk about is making freshmen feel welcome because it’s their first year and they might not know a whole lot of people. Cross country is a really good way to meet new people and get introduced to a new sport.”

Bellarmine’s first race is Saturday, September 9, at the Polo Fields.

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