Running with pep in their step

Cross country introduces team captains for the first time

Rebecca Kucera, Staff Writer

The sun beats down on their faces as they push through to the end. Run, breathe, repeat. Their tired muscles ache as they round the next curve. Run breathe, repeat. Eyeing the finish line, they gain another spur of momentum to finish strong. Run, breathe, repeat.

Seniors Sunny Mallina and Peyton Saar live and breathe running because as the newly appointed, first-ever cross country captains they know others are watching.

“This year we have two individuals on our team who are natural leaders in how they carry themselves on and off the team,” head coach  Emily Janda said.

The captains are excited and honored to have been chosen for the job.

“I felt really proud of myself, and I knew I had to make sure to always come to practice on time and work hard to be seen as a good leader,” Mallina said.

The coaches and teammates agree that Mallina and Saar will bring a sense of structure, fun, and support that their athletes need.

“[Peyton and Sunny] really know how to balance having fun and working hard. For example, they came up with a fun spirit theme week, which included fun prizes, and it made the whole week really enjoyable. I know that they play a big part in making the cross country atmosphere fun,” junior Gretchen Braak said.

Every day the captains lead the team in warm-ups and dynamic drills. During meets, they ensure everyone is in the right place and cheer on their teammates. 

“I have a lot of energy, and I like to cheer everyone on. I think it’s really important because cross country can be a painful sport,” Saar said.

The teammates appreciate the unconditional love and support they receive from their leaders, and it increases each runner’s performance.

“I’ve known Peyton for the last two seasons, and she has been so helpful and a big part of my support system. Whenever I’m going through a tough time, she keeps me motivated to do my best,” Braak said.

Both seniors have learned vital lessons from past teammates that they are now sharing with their team. 

“Last year Kristiana Young taught me that this sport is a mental game. You have to get out of your own head in order to succeed,” Saar said.

These simple insights from the team captains go a long way.

“Sometimes lessons are better learned from one’s own teammates than adult coaches; Peyton and Sunny are perfect for the job. They have done a fantastic job so far this year, and we expect them to continue leading the team well,” Janda said.

As their last high school cross country experiences come to approach, both leaders will leave an ever-lasting legacy from all the hard work and positivity they put in.