By Samantha Johnson
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Cross-country at Eagle Butte High School is not considered an individual sport, rather coach Darryl Smith creates a team atmosphere to support students of all abilities and levels to be successful.
“When I talk about the program it’s the idea of having a set of guidelines and meeting the expectation of what came before us and moulding that for us and the legacy of those coming after us. If we don’t do that it falls apart,” explained Smith. “The kids hold themselves to a standard of being appropriate. There is an expectation of honour and respect. The kids here know my expectations and what the team needs.
“Excellence for us could mean how we act, it could mean how we run, or how we train. I talk about this a lot. Kids will meet your expectations and always step up, always. I don’t think we give them enough credit.”
Grade 12 student Brianna Finke joined cross-country this year to help her get in shape for other sports, primarily hockey, and because of the fun team culture. Training and competing in cross-country not only helped Finke attain a higher level of positivity, but also increased her stamina for when she is on the ice.
“Mr. Smith has helped me a lot. He’s taught me how to bring out the best in myself and my energy and put it onto other people, too,” stated Finke.
Finke wants to continue playing hockey at a post-secondary institution while pursuing a degree in education with the aim of becoming an elementary school teacher.
Quinn Olson, who has been on the team for three years, has experienced a shift from an observing role in her first year to taking on more responsibility in successive years.
“Moving up through the years, I took on more of a leadership role guiding the younger kids and then eventually Smith calls you a team captain and I was leading warmup and doing the cheer,” stated Olson.
In classes now, Olson is less likely to sit back and wait for others to make decisions, rather she takes greater initiative when working on projects while also taking more chances, which supplies greater opportunities.
Following graduation, Olson is interested in a career in real estate. During her first two years on the team, she qualified for provincials, but only ran in them last year due to the pandemic the year before.
“There are a hundred-some kids running and if you don’t position yourself at the front, you are pretty much packed in until it all levels out. For the first 1 km, I was stuck between seven to eight different girls and couldn’t get by,” Olson explained.
This is the second year on the team for Grade 11 student Ryker Weiss, who plays basketball and joined to get ahead on training and enable him to perform at his best when on the court.
Cross-country is about getting into the right head space.
“When you are running you feel like you want to give up but if you keep pushing yourself than you’ll realize how far you can actually go,” stated Weiss. “When I practise, I’m right beside Mr. Smith and he’s always pushing me to go further, so I always just think I’m running with someone and if I slow down then they will go in front of me, so I try to keep forward.”
Shop is his favourite subject and Weiss wants to go pursue a career in carpentry after he graduates. This year, Smith gave Weiss more of a leadership role and he had to pay attention to what everyone on the team was doing, which has helped increase his social awareness and communication skills.