By Abigail Weber
As she began her freshman year of high school, Hannah Huggins decided to try a fall sport to complement soccer. Despite her friend urging her to try field hockey, she settled on cross country.
Since then, she’s never looked back.
Huggins quit soccer when the two sports’ seasons began to conflict. Now, eight years later, Huggins is still doing cross country. This is her first year as the only senior on the women’s cross country team.
“There were only four people who came in my freshman year. One of them still goes here, another one transferred and another girl is in the nursing program, so she’s working this year,” Huggins said.
Still, Huggins is quick to say there’s a benefit to the team being comprised of mostly freshmen and sophomores. “It’s great to see a lot of young people because you want the team to stay improving even after you’re gone.”
The program has rapidly developed since Huggins’ freshman year. With 21 rostered players, the women’s cross country team has nearly doubled in size.
Another area of change for the cross country team is the staffing. Over Huggins’ career on the team, she’s appreciated the tutelage of the same coach, Kunle Lawson, with a changing roster of assistant coaches.
Last year’s distance coach graduated and left, replaced by former assistant coach Stephen Harrison. “He’s mixing it up, which I think is good,” Huggins said. “We’re doing things a little bit differently.”
Despite being, in her own words, a “track person,” Huggins appreciates the comradery of cross country. “The team aspect of cross country is so great because you’re all running the same race and since you’re doing the same thing, you’re all training together,” Huggins said. “I love just being with the team.”
Official and unofficial get-togethers help strengthen the bond between teammates.
“Running as a sport is really cool because while you’re running you can talk to people, so you can get to know them through that,” Huggins said. The team also gets together for dinners, baking and movie nights.
One new bonding activity is “Secret Sisters,” set up by junior Ashley Applegate. Similar to Secret Santa, each team member picks a name and gives little gifts to them without revealing their identity. This past Friday, the team members dropped the secret from the title and revealed their identities to each other.
Even though Huggins is the only senior on the team, the team’s chemistry never leaves her feeling alone.
“I love being on the team,” Huggins said. “It’s nice to have the extra group of people who you know you can always go to and will always be there when you need them. I’ve met some of my best friends through running at Mary Washington, so I’m so glad I did.”
The UMW women’s cross country team placed first this Saturday at the Catholic University Invitational. The team scored 51 points on the 6 kilometer (3.73 mile) and got a total time of 2:21:39.