CHS cross country team helps others during annual relay

It’s no secret that members of the Claremont High School cross country team, who log a stunning number of miles each season, are dedicated.

But did you know they sleep on the track?

Actually, it’s just for one night, during the team’s annual 24-Hour Relay. This year’s event, held from Friday, June 29 at 9 a.m. until 9 a.m. the next day, drew 51 students and a spirited group of parent and teacher chaperones.

It was a hot day and a long night.

Nonetheless, team captains made sure at least one group of students was circling the track and the surrounding area throughout the course of the event.

The relay had an Olympics theme, in honor of the games opening in London at the end of the month. The wall in front of the bleachers was decorated with Olympic rings made from painted hula-hoops, and a runner carrying a baton embellished with construction-paper flames led each relay delegation.

When the teens weren’t running, they relaxed on a sea of blankets and pillows beneath easy-up tents. They came armed with plenty of water, meal supplies like hot dogs and an arsenal of necessities: sunblock, stereos, playing cards, soccer balls, water guns, a Twister mat and, in the case of sophomore Riley Evans, a couple of ukuleles. 

The boys and girls of the cross country team also engaged in a mini-Olympics, vying against one another, class by class. The seniors and sophomores tied for first place in contests like a water balloon toss, a wheelbarrow race and a game that involved 2 students donning an oversized T-shirt, using their free arms for cooperative tasks like tying their shoelaces and dressing a Barbie doll.

The relay is a blast, said team captain Allison Spivack, a senior who joined the cross country team as a freshman, but it also serves a practical purpose.

“It’s an important tradition to get the newer kids involved,” she said.

Incoming freshman Nathan Jones—for whom the relay offered the chance to play Super Smash Bros on a Game Cube brought by an enterprising student—agreed. 

He didn’t feel like a total stranger, because his older brother Nick Jones, a senior in his second year running cross-country, was there. Nonetheless, Nathan welcomed the opportunity to put names to a few of the new faces he’ll encounter during his transition from El Roble Intermediate to CHS.

“It kind of feels like it’s going to be more challenging,” he said. “I’m going to need to take harder classes, and make new friends as people start going their separate ways.”

Beyond strengthening the team’s connection, the 24-Hour Relay gives the Wolfpack the chance to give back to the community. This year, the student athletes held a food drive concurrent with the event, collecting 546 canned goods to benefit local food banks run by Inland Valley Hope Partners.

“I’m doing it for a good cause,” said biology teacher Robert Hoyle of his chaperoning stint.

Such extra-curricular assignments are the cost of being a popular teacher, he joked. “The students hit you up—fundraising, car wash tickets, chaperoning, ‘Wanna buy some cookie dough?’”

The 24-Hour Relay takes quite a bit of organization on the part of team captains. Last year, the team couldn’t quite get it together when it came to procuring all-night chaperones, so the relay was shortened to a 12-hour daytime event.

This year, the older team members pleaded for the return of the relay in its marathon form.

“We remembered how fun it was,” said senior Maureen Murphy, who considers the event the perfect preview to the season. “It’s a bonding experience.”

Jimmy Baeskens, now a senior, said the relay was an invaluable icebreaker when he was a freshman, new not only to CHS but to the district as a whole. 

“It was a great opportunity to meet new people,” he said. “These are friends I’ve kept all of these years. I don’t see the camaraderie we have in any other sport.”

There’s something about in cross country that helps forge strong relationships, agrees Allison. Perhaps it’s the extreme exertion required, which she says attracts “friendly, competitive and determined” participants.

“It’s really challenging. You get to work on it personally, but it’s also a team sport,” she said. “These are some of my best friends, and I didn’t know them before this. It really is a family.”

—Sarah Torribio


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