The Student News Site of Columbia Heights High School

The Heights Herald

The Student News Site of Columbia Heights High School

The Heights Herald

The Student News Site of Columbia Heights High School

The Heights Herald

Cross country team surges towards success and finishes with a solid season

Daniel Abebaw
The CHHS XC team bonded over a bonfire at Kordiak Park in Columbia Heights before the Tri-Metro Conference Championships this fall.

Joining a new activity or sport can be hard on anyone, but especially if it’s a brand new activity, and this is exactly what the Columbia Heights High School (CHHS) cross country (often abbreviated as XC or CC) team faced this year. However, this wasn’t the only thing on the radar of the newly formed team — the looming pressure of crushing another race or setting a new personal record (PR) was always in the back of their minds.

Cross country is a sport based exclusively on long distance, competitive running. In the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) rules, this is done in 5k (around 3.1 miles) length courses. Locations of meets often vary between parks or golf courses consisting of many different terrains, from hills to trails and everything in between. These meets are also only two to four hours long due to the races only taking 30-40 minutes to complete before starting the next race. CHHS is just one of the many schools in our area to have a cross country team; however, the start of the latest addition to the school’s activities department is very interesting.

In 2021, the first ideas for the cross country team bloomed. The current coach, CHHS science teacher Mr. Zachary Johnson started a running club that met twice a week and competed in meets whenever possible. This group included a few of the current members of the cross country team. The fight for a more official and competitive fall running team started in 2022. During the track season, the current captain of the boys’ cross country team, Cole Young (11), mentioned the idea to Daniel Abebaw (11) and the girls’ team captain Isabel Hernandez Monroy (12). Later, this group would go on to convince more people on the track team to consider joining. The efforts didn’t stop there; they also worked to convince incoming freshmen to join. This is how the small but mighty CHHS XC was born.

“I decided to join because if it’s my senior year [and] it wouldn’t hurt to try something new,” girls’ cross country captain Isabel Hernandez Monroy (12) said. “It was hard getting people to join because you can’t really make running sound ‘fun.’ My biggest argument was it will help with whatever other sport you’re in.”

This year was the first time in over 20 years that CHHS has an XC team. Lucky enough to have had a massive push for its creation and tons of support from the activities department, they also have an insanely supportive coach in Johnson, who also coaches the large spring track and field team here at CHHS.

“I love running, and I love coaching runners,” Johnson said. “I’ve coached distance running in track forever, and all the other distance coaches from other schools were surprised we didn’t have a cross-country program, given how good our distance teams have been. I knew that starting a program would help make our track team stronger.”

The cross country season started on August 14 with just five people showing up to the first practice, yet the team was still determined to make its mark on CHHS. Later on in the season, the team grew to 13 runners and two managers. The team was more motivated than ever to push themselves further and try their hardest. While small in size, with the girls’ team only having three runners and the boys team having 10, they nevertheless pushed themselves harder and ran faster than they ever had before. It seemed like almost weekly that someone was hitting a new PR.

“The fact that I was able to catch up to the fastest person on the team, even if it was only for a couple seconds, [was exciting]” Siloh McGovern (11) said.

This is what led to the amazing accomplishment achieved by Kevin Romero Rivera (12) on October 17 at the Tri-Metro Conference Championships. Romero was able to push himself in the 5k race just hard enough to get the title of All-Conference Champion. This is awarded to the individuals who are in the top 14 of the runners in their race. Romero was luckily able to place 14th and receive his well-deserved all conference title. 

Sadly, no one on the team was able to place at the subsequent section meet on October 25. However, two members of the team were able to PR. The team has made many memories this season, from weekly capture-the-flag games to giving each other piggyback rides when walking the course at meets. 

“Despite being injured and unable to participate, I was still happy to help manage the team and work with the people to make this incredible team a reality,” Daniel Abebaw (11) said.

The team has a bright future ahead of them with hopes of increasing the teams size to at least 30 people, and even possibly have more people achieve the All-Conference title and pursue the state championship. 

“I grew up with some of the younger runners, but when new people join the team, my goal is to get to them so that they feel comfortable,” Cole Young (11) said. “However, next year is my last year [and] my last shot at making it where I want to — that is All-Conference and state, [which are] goals that are very possible if I train.”

If you or someone you know is interested in joining the cross country team next year, don’t hesitate to ask Mr. Johnson, who is located in room 6, captain Cole Young, the CHHS activities department or manager Daniel Abebaw. This team has an even brighter future ahead of them than they’ve already managed to cultivate, and they would love for you to join them on the trail!

More to Discover
About the Contributor
Caroline Raleigh
Caroline Raleigh, Co-Editor-In-Chief

Caroline Raleigh is a senior at CHHS. This is her second year on staff, now as Editor-In-Chief after being a Staff Writer last year. She is the Chair of both the Youth In Government and Model United Nations program. She also serves as one of the CHHS representatives on the YMCA's State Steering Committee. Caroline is also involved with speech, lacrosse, Link Crew, cross country, student leadership and student council. She is also returning as one of the Student School Board Representatives for Columbia Heights Public Schools for a second year in a row.