3 October 2018
Community in Crossed Personalities
Ethnography: New Plymouth High School Cross Country Team
Brisk wind slapped my tired face as I shoved open the door to my car and stood in the morning air, the temperature caused me to shiver and I immediately feel pity for my peers about to run before the sun had peaked above the horizon. A chilly morning practice for the cross-country runners is the icing on their painful cake of running, as they usually practice in the afternoon. Heading through the parking lot toward the bright lights of the football field and track complex, I reflected on my decision to choose the cross-country team; perhaps instead of their insanity for voluntarily running, I was more insane to study them. Their motives behind wanting to solely run for competition, an action that is merely a component of other sports, has always intrigued me. My brother competed in cross country for several years and his motivation to run on a team for several months when he never bothered to run outside of the season was odd. The individuals that comprise the team don’t all come from one collective background or spot on the New Plymouth High School hierarchy as other sports’ members seem to, yet they must compete as a team. In order to do so, major relationships must be formed during their time together at practices where a window of opportunity to observe their group dynamics is formed, and as I quickly learned that morning, the cross-country runners waste no time being shy.
The team members accumulated in a group on the track, huddled around their coaches, and begin to converse among themselves as they wait for instructions. Coach Henggeler instructs them to begin their run, only after she analyzes the number of members present and appears frustrated. The runners stop after a quick two laps, the sleepiness erased from their eyes and replaced with eager attitudes. The group recollects, spreading out along a line across the track lanes and they begin to stretch. “We need extra stretches,” one member comments as the group moves back and forth along a small stretch of the track like a pendulum on a grandfather clock. As they transition stretches, conversations take place among the group. Several of the older cross-country members group together and a senior, Ernesto Navarrete, sarcastically says “who wants to wake up in the morning and come to some stupid school and run?” The team continues to stretch, ignoring Ernesto’s comment. Although the idea of running is undesirable to many, even the runners themselves at points, the support that the team gathers from one another is evident.
Voluntarily running for extended periods of time is a turn off for many people, however those brave enough to choose cross country as a sport are fully dedicated. Members decide to belong to cross country for varying reasons including exercise/weight loss, preparation for other sports, and social interaction. The...