MK Girls Cross Country 2020 Season in Review


MK Girls Cross Country team at Freedom Park in Randolph

Victoria Tang and Analiese Haag

“3, 2, 1, BANG!”

This sequence of sounds followed by an adrenaline rush is not a new experience for many runners. But even amidst a global pandemic, MK and other schools throughout the state were able to hold fall sports such as cross country. To adhere to national and state guidelines, adjustments were made, including a shortened season with less spectators at events and fewer meets. However, these alterations didn’t discourage the MK’s Girl’s Cross Country team this season. One of the team captains Emily Aguanno said, “I think the school did a really good job with handling sports this year because they gave us seniors one last chance to go out there and be a team. This season was challenging ,but extremely rewarding as well and I am so glad I got to be a part of this team as long as I could and I will never forget it!” Another one of the captains, Alyson Hefferle, felt similarly and she stated, “Even though the season was different than last seasons, the team still had the fun dynamic it always has had before. The cross country team is like a second family to me and I am thankful to have had a season at all, no matter how short.” 

Both this year’s girl’s varsity and junior varsity teams achieved second place at the “Back to the Mountain Invitational” race on October 10th at Garret Mountain. On October 24th, at the same location, the varsity team achieved second place again, while the junior varsity team achieved third place.

Team picture at Garret Mountain

Additionally, by the end of the season the following awards were given to the athletes:

  • Analiese Haag qualified as 5th on the NJAC First Conference Team.
  • Karolina Kedzierska qualified as 9th on the NJAC Second Conference Team.
  • Emily Stevenson qualified as 10th on the NJAC Second Conference Team.
  • Chloe Graham was selected as an NJAC Conference Honorable Mention.

Aside from being encouraged to wear masks when not running and maintaining social distance when possible, this year’s sports started much later and most teams competed in fewer games or meets. Many of the Cross Country meets were added as the season progressed, as the situation with COVID-19 was better understood. For instance, in an effort to work around the difficulties presented, the team had a scrimmage at Freedom Park on October 22, which is a course that no one from Morris Knolls had much experience running at previously. Only Randolph and MK participated in the scrimmage so it was a great way to give runners a chance to run while keeping risks in mind. 

Instead of meets about twice a week with both Varsity and Junior Varsity attending, the JV team was only permitted to attend two races this year, which were both at Garret Mountain. The varsity team had a meet every week, along with the meets with the JV teams, totaling seven races. To reduce the number of people on the course at one time, each team was given a two-hour window to warm up, partake in their events, and then leave. This was a little rushed, but was overall a positive adjustment that helped the season. 

 Despite the changes and challenges, this year’s team had a positive experience, which Mrs. Thalman helped make happen. This was Mrs. Thalman’s first year as the head Girl CC team coach, but she has been the assistant CC coach, the head Girls Winter Track coach, an assistant Spring Track coach, and an art teacher in the MHRD for many years. She stated, “The Morris Knolls Girls Cross Country team, led by seniors Emily Aquanno, Danielle DeLuca, Alyson Hefferle, Lindsey Lu, Nicole Nash, and Isabella VonBerg had an outstanding season this year. Even though our season was very different, the pandemic did not dampen their spirits! The seniors welcomed and encouraged the younger members of the team to do their best, train hard, have fun and make every race count. Their dedication to the team and how they represented Morris Knolls made me proud to be their coach. Hopefully, we will all be back together for the Winter Track and Field Season!” 

While in past years the team had a pre-season, taking place from mid-August until September, this year the cross country team saw a shorter season, beginning on September 14th and ending on November 3rd.  Unfortunately, the team was unable to participate in their last event due to the rise in COVID  cases and the two-week school closure that took place shortly after Halloween. This race was the NJSIAA Sectionals; it still occurred on November 14th. Morris Knolls’ sister school, Morris Hills, was able to partake. The  MH Girls Cross Country team came in third place out of the ten teams that were able to compete. Normally, this would advance the team to compete in  the NJSIAA Groups race,  but due to COVID this race was canceled. 

At the end of the season, the team was still able to celebrate. Instead of having a party at a venue such as Brick 46, the coaches were able to put together an end of year gathering outside where the team members had their own pre-wrapped food to eat. They were also able to give gifts to the captains and coaches and reflect on the season, which was similar to past years. Despite the challenges this year presented, through adapting  well to the circumstances the team was still able to have a positive and successful season.