Cross Country: Forgotten Sport, Forgotten Team


Senior and Co-Captain Eric Strand and juniors Cleo Pleasant, Derrick Freeman, and Benjamin Pomerantz scope out the competition at the Clayton Invitational Oct. 25.

Christine Politte, Web Editor

Sports teams tend to go in and out of favor with their fans, largely dependent on their win-loss record. No matter the fans’ perception of the team, though, at least there are fans. One U. City team does not have that luxury and instead has seemed to fall through the cracks.

People never even think of cross country, says junior Derrick Freeman, who has been on the team for three years.

“It’s like that sport everybody knows about but no one acknowledges. Even when people see us running, they’re like, ‘Are you guys the soccer team?’”

There have been several events in recent weeks that have led the team to feel sidelined in the school community.

First was the Sept. 27 pep rally. As is U. City tradition, all the sports teams sat together on the bleachers. They were called up one by one for recognition by the school.

Despite sitting front and center, wearing matching gold shirts, the cross country team was the only one not called. And this was not the first time.

“Every year, we never get called up,” said Eric Strand, senior and co-captain of the team.

Then, the October issue of the “Pride,” the district newspaper, came out. Under the headline, “University City: A High School that Works,” the district touted successful programs. A section about athletics was included.

“In addition to the traditional team sports of football, baseball, basketball and track, UCHS also offers field hockey, swimming, water polo, golf and more as part of the Suburban South Conference,” it said.

Once again, cross country was not mentioned.

Then the team almost didn’t have any yearbook pictures because photographers couldn’t or didn’t make it to any meets until late October.

These events were probably honest mistakes, but that doesn’t make the team feel any better.

“The sad thing is that up until last year, we’ve always been considered a running school,” said cross country coach James Crowe. “We have more state titles in boys track than any other school in Missouri.”

Although most U. Citians don’t realize it, the cross country team had a fairly successful season. The team may be small, with only 8 boys and 2 girls running this season, but its runners medaled at several meets, and three runners—senior and team captain Eric Strand and juniors Derrick Freeman and Benjamin Pomerantz—placed in the top 15 in the district meet, qualifying them for the state meet in Jefferson City.

Of course, while the volleyball team’s district triumph was announced the next school day, cross country’s wasn’t mentioned until three school days after the meet—only after Crowe requested it.

Before the last full practice of the season started, the team was discussing this issue at their regular meeting place on the steps outside of the natatorium. A woman walked by and said, “Oh, is swimming still going on?”

Cleo Pleasant, junior, paced in exasperation. “I am done,” he said. “I am so done.”

Full disclosure: This article’s author joined the cross country team this year.