Milford Cross Country tackles season amidst COVID


Photo courtesy of Fred Schwendemann

Senior Kaz Bowring has ran as a star athlete for MHS for years, competing in many races.

Anabel Lisabeth, Staff Writer

The Boys Milford Cross Country team has had some extraordinary athletes in the past. While the team is always expecting to compete at a championship level, many may wonder how COVID has impacted the runners this year.

“Our first two meets weren’t affected majorly,” said Senior Kaz Bowring. “The only things that really have changed are the head-to-head meets rather than three teams in one; also, waves are being set to separate the runners by 30 seconds. Once you get the race started though, it feels as if it’s normal.” Several members of the team have claimed that this new way of racing has made them grow stronger not only as athletes, but also as teammates. “I feel like our team actually has gotten closer because we’ve been able to run together a lot and we know how valuable our time is so we make the most of it,” Junior Tyler Ristau said. “I also think it’s definitely made me stronger mentally because we’ve been through a lot and we just have to be tough if we are going to finish the season as we expect.” COVID hasn’t only impacted the physical aspect of racing, but it has also changed the runners’ mindsets, encouraging them to take a positive attitude toward a difficult time.

Although COVID has impacted the runners for the better, there have, of course, been downsides.

Many runners claim that the worst part of the virus taking over their season has been the lack of volume they receive from not having crowds. This source of support has always motivated the runners during their race. For some runners it has been a major downside. “I feel like fans have always fueled us and we ran a lot better with crowds, but we are adapting to it,” said Ristau. This aspect didn’t affect all runners’ performance, because some were so drawn in and focused on the race that they would not even notice cheering, but the support has been appreciated by the team regardless. According to Senior Luke Ballard, another negative has been not being able to experience the team bonding activities over the summer. “We weren’t able to do our traditional team-bonding activities over the summer like group camp, team camp, and captains camp, which were things I was really looking forward to since it’s my senior year. But it just made me appreciate the time I have with the team during practice even more.”

COVID hasn’t only impacted the runners, but it has also been an obstacle for Head Coach Brian Salyers.

Salyers, often referred to by students as Sal, has looked at the changes from a different perspective. One of the major regulations that the team had to face is not being able to practice together. “A lot of the summer we have been splitting our kids up for practice. Although it’s not an option, I would love for everyone to practice together. Also, practice time has been reduced due to all of the time we put into COVID regulations and keeping everyone safe,” he shared. “There is more of a forced disconnect, engagement is not the same.” This has been a major adjustment for everyone associated with the program. As a coach, it is important to be engaged with the team. “This is my 25th year coaching and I’ve spent 24 years working to get people together with a team-bonding goal to make cross country sharable, and now I find myself trying to keep my kids six feet apart and isolating them, which contradicts with my expectations of the sport,” he expressed. The pandemic has made it very difficult to make cross country as fun and competitive as it usually is. “I don’t think there will be any monumental changes in the future. Control what you can control, and set aside what you can’t. We need to work through the rule we’ve been getting.”

Despite the fact COVID has made it harder for the team to prepare, the runners still have many hopes and goals for the season. They are expecting to compete at the LVC Championships at Hess Hathaway Park (postponed until a later date), MHSAA Pre- Regionals at Kensington Metro Park on October 23rd, MHSAA Regionals at TBD on October 23rd, and MHSAA State Championships at Michigan International Speedway on November 7th.

So far, the boys have defeated 9 out of 9 teams this season. Unfortunately, the meet at Kensington Possum Hollow was cancelled and the LVC meet at Hess Hathaway has been postponed.

After finishing in the top 15 runners, last year, Bowring is one of many runners with high expectations despite the challenges this season has presented.