Thomas Jefferson’s cross country team found great success this season on and off the racecourse.
TJ’s cross country team had an extremely fun and successful 2019 season. The team practiced Monday through Friday from August until the regional meet in October. On any given day, the team could be found doing sprint work around the track, running seven miles on the Highline Canal, or working on strength in the weight room. The team worked incredibly hard this season which was clear from the team’s success.
This year, the cross country program welcomed new head coach Jessica Popper, who is also a US history and psychology teacher in her second year at TJ. “I’ve pretty much been running for as long as I can remember,” explained Popper. She ran cross country all throughout high school and still competes in long-distance races in her free time. The team loved having Popper as their coach. “She was a great addition to the cross country program and really pushed us to do our best,” mentioned junior Sami Baker, who has been running on the cross country team for the past three years. Popper coached alongside assistant coach Jake Fortnum, who is in his second year of coaching cross country and his second year of teaching math at TJ. Fortnum really enjoyed this cross country season. “I loved coaching and getting to know the kids as runners and people,” he described.
Cross country provides a great experience for everyone regardless of their running experience. There is a place for everyone on the team to grow as runners in an incredibly supportive environment. “I always felt so encouraged by the group,” commented Amalie Wegewitz, an exchange student from Germany who ran her first season of cross country this year. While there were varsity and junior varsity runners, the team always practiced together and did the same workouts. Each practice started off the same, with a warm-up around the track and stretching. Then, the team would do the day’s workout. Often, the team could be found running through the neighborhoods, around parks, on the track, or on a trail. Despite the grueling nature of the sport, most of the team always had a smile on their face.
Thanks to the leadership of Popper and Fortnum, the team found great success this year. Out of the 21 runners on the team, 13 ran at the regional meet. There were many personal records achieved throughout the season and consistently strong races from varsity and JV runners. “I loved being able to get to know new TJ students and watch them grow as runners,” commented Popper. Overall, the TJ cross country team had a very strong season, marked with personal and team success, close connections between coaches and runners, and a lot of fun.