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Crossing Barriers: Lizzie Gares Sprints into first year on the cross country team

Bosu Avunoori

By Akshita Joshi, Staff Reporter

Breaking personal records, placing high at meets and ranking top seven in the team are all feats Lizzie Gares never expected to accomplish within her first year on the cross country team. The only freshman on the varsity cross country team this year, Gares has excelled throughout the season with many personal and team triumphs. Viewing running as a mere hobby when COVID-19 lockdowns first went into effect, Gares never considered running competitively on her high school team.

“I did start (running) in January 2020, but I really got into it from the spring track season in eighth grade. My dad got me into it because he runs a lot, and I started going on runs with him just for fun,” Gares said. “He really is my role model for the sport and is the reason why I am on the team today.” 

This year, Gares has placed among the top seven on the ’Stoga team and her recent triumphs include placing first at two of the Central League meets this year, third at the Six Flags race and fourth at the Cherokee Challenge. While having broken many personal records and ranking high at meets this season, these achievements did not come easy for Gares.

“Sometimes it can get very mentally and physically challenging because of long runs on days I just want to rest, but I keep myself motivated by thinking of the races that I want to do well in while I am at practice training. So then ​​it cycles because doing well makes me feel really good and pushes me to keep training more,” Gares said.

Senior Molly Ryle, a member of the cross country team for the past four years, recognizes Gares in her first season while Ryle is wrapping up her last. 

“Lizzie usually places in the top three, so that really helps our team succeed. I think all the girls overall really like spending time with Lizzie and how she gets along really well with all of us and is such a good leader even though she’s younger than all of us,” Ryle said.

Coach Richard Hawkins reports on Gares’s growth from the start of the season in June and appreciates her. Hawkins views her as an asset to the team, a friendly teammate and a skilled runner.

“Over the summer I really didn’t recognize her potential, but then once we started racing, she showed amazing potential not only fitness wise cardiovascularly, but also with her competitive drive,” Hawkins said. “Each person on the team is like a puzzle piece and she’s definitely one of the bigger puzzle pieces that build the team.”

With this season’s end, Gares hopes to prepare for the upcoming winter track season by intensifying her regimen and enforcing the positive attitude formed from cross country.

Akshita Joshi can be reached at [email protected].

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Akshita Joshi, Social Media Editor