From Grosse Ile, Michigan, Gold Medal winner Abby King has been playing soccer for as long as she can remember.
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Captains: Elizabeth Downing ’17
Athletic Awards: Most Valuable Runner: Elizabeth Downing ’17; Most Improved Runner: Xiaoyu Hu ’17; Spirit Award: Jian Lyu ’17
When asked how he would describe this season, Head Coach Jeff Warner used “a new beginning” to recount the season. “We had a huge influx of talented freshmen, unlike anything we’ve had in over 20 years. Girls that had never ran cross country before made significant improvements throughout the season,” added Warner.
With only two weeks to train before the season started, the girls quickly became acclimated to the running schedule and were ready to begin the season. By third meet into the season, the runners were showing their true potential. The Tiffin Invitational is one of the largest distance festivals in the area and would be the first time the runners would be up against 39 other teams. “Everything conspired to make it an interesting race, and everyone ran great. It was their first opportunity to run with so many people. You could see the potential in the team during the race and realized that this season could be really great.” The runners finished 13th out of the 39 teams they ran against that day.
The seniors, including captain Elizabeth Downing ’17, helped to bring the underclassmen up to speed and show them the ropes of the WRA cross country program. These new freshmen played a significant role in the outcome of each meet, with four of these new runners playing roles on varsity. “Five of the top right or nine runners were freshmen, which was pretty exciting,” said Warner. “The whole team felt very new and very exciting.”
Two freshmen, in particular, made the record board this season. Olivia Robinson ’20 is now the 13th fastest freshman in Reserve’s history with a time of 23:40 and Clara Fu ’20 became the 17th fastest freshman with a time of 23:50.
Because the season is made up of most invitational meets, it was exciting for the girls to be able to ring the Victory Bell after their dual meet win against Laurel School. “We beat them on their home course which was pretty neat. They were able to ring the bell because of this. It’s hard to ring the bell when you run cross country, so the girls were excited,” said Warner.
Warner has always been proud of the runners that are a part of the cross country team each season. “They are always nice kids. They are great students and work really hard. And it’s a nice group to work with. I don’t want to take that for granted,” said Warner.
The team is motivated to do well again next year, with only one of the top five runners graduating in the spring. “It will be exciting to see how they grow over the next few years,” said Warner.
Libby Russ ’18 will be the leader and captain for the 2017 fall cross country season.
Captain: Katherine (Wren) Zandee ’16
Athletic Awards: Most Improved Runner: See Yoon (Sue) Lee ’18; Coaches Award: Wren Zandee ’16; Most Valuable Runner: Zo? Krischer ’17
The completion of the 2015 girls cross country season marked the program’s 29th year at Western Reserve Academy. Head Coach Jeff Warner started the program during his third year on the lawn’s wide sweep and has seen it grow tremendously over the course of three decades. Warner was thrilled to have a solid team this season and pinpoints a few of his girls as the pillars that supported the team.
Warner could not speak highly enough of senior captain Katherine (Wren) Zandee ’16: “Wren was a wonderful captain, and she combined a warm personality and her own running excellence to be one of the best in my tenure here at WRA. As a captain she was inclusive and supportive, and as a runner Wren was a tremendous role model and competitor.” Zandee ran a personal best time of 21:18 at the Legends Invitational this season and will graduate as the 19th fastest girl in Reserve history.
Junior German exchange student Zo? Krischer ’17 came to WRA as an accomplished 2000m steeplechase runner and really had not trained for a cross country race recently. Yet this season, she ran the second fastest time by a Reserve girl ever (18:54). Warner commented, “Zo?’s passion about running was palpable and it was exciting for her teammates to see someone who was that committed.” Early in the season, Krischer won the prestigious Tiffin Invitational, placing first of 236 runners. Zo? won or took second in almost every meet of the season, and according to Coach Warner, anyone who beat Zo? this year will certainly be competing for a state title in Columbus late in the fall. Throughout the season, not only was Krischer juggling her WRA school work, she was completing her German schoolwork as well.
Newcomers sophomores Jade DuVal ’18 and Libby Russ ’18 made strong impacts on the team this year. DuVal is a basketball player, Russ, a hurdler, yet both runners found their niche. Warner feels that if these two train well over the summer, they are in line for significant future success.
Due to injuries and other circumstances, Warner was never able to place his top 5 runners on any course throughout the season. Instead, he relied on a quartet of runners to fill that crucial final spot in his line-up. Shunhua (Edwina) Zhu ’16 made strides in only her second season running cross country. Chung Hwa Suh ’16, Ashley Lyu ’17, and Darcy Kuang ’17 also stepped into that role.
Even then, the team found ways to persevere, accomplishing fantastic results. At the Tiffin Invitational, one of the largest distance running festivals in the United States, the girls placed 19th out of 37 teams. Warner found this race encouraging for his team because it took place towards the beginning of the season, when the team was still rounding into running shape. One of the last meets of the season, the Legends Invitational, included some of the best teams from Northeast Ohio. WRA took 13th out of 34 teams.
For next fall, the team will look to Elizabeth Downing ’17 to captain the squad. Warner sees Downing as another strong captain, expecting Downing to bring the same energy and talent that made her the team MVP during both her freshman and sophomore years. He is also sure that she will continue the work that Zandee did this year to keep the squad so supportive of each other’s accomplishments.
Although Krischer is returning home and three seniors are graduating, Warner will look to build a team unit around a small core of experienced runners.