Teamwork makes the dream work: Women’s Cross Country is training to defend their championship

The Keene State Women’s Cross Country team has begun working towards defending their championship title following their success at the Little East Conference (LEC)  last year.

According to the LEC website, the team won the 2022 LEC Championship, scoring a total of 33 points, making it their 19th winning title.

“This was the first year in four years that we [have won],” Coach Dan Roark said. “… That was wonderful and it was a great thing for everyone to do that together.”

The Owls have already seen a win this season when they hosted the Alumni Invitational on Sept. 2. At the meet, team captain Maggie St. John won the two-mile race with a time of 11:40.

“The season is going good, we look really strong overall [considering] that we had just won our alumni meet, it was a really good time,” St. John said.

Senior Sara Christian, the team’s other captain, said the team had already put things in high-gear in terms of training.

“We’re honestly doing a lot of what we did last year and it’s a lot of doing similar workouts and training [wise] we kept our schedule pretty consistent,” Christian said. “… We’re trying to stay healthy and do everything similarly to what we did last year, but we do have a good team so far.” Christian said that having captains is a new addition to the team. However, as a captain, she has made her role more open so the other members can have their chance to contribute to the team.

“I opened it up to anyone, so anyone can kind of be a leader,” Christian said. “I try to make sure everyone feels they have a part on the team… I don’t want to feel like I overpower anyone because everyone has an equal part on the team as much as I do.”

Similarly, St. John said that she has been using her role as captain to help motivate the team to work hard towards their goals.

“[The captains] are just trying to keep the team strong and motivated and part of that was this summer we did group runs with each other, with whoever lived close to each other,” St. John said. “… Even the little things like stretching, sleeping, eating right and trying to get everybody to have a positive mindset, this year.”

St. John added that a usual training week for the team consists of, “two harder running workouts a week… This year we are trying to incorporate something new with after a race day we have hard, long runs… it’s difficult because it’s the day after a race [and] it’s just that mindset of working hard throughout the week and it will pay off.”

St. John said the team’s mindset has made it easier to overcome obstacles and to achieve their wins.

“We work together, I think communication and trusting each other is huge, I think if we believe in each other then it’s easier to believe in ourselves when it’s a hard race,” St. John said. “… One thing we started this year too is writing each other letters… just saying we believe in you, believe in yourself; it’s a really good mindset to have.”

Roark said communication is key to how this season will play out.

“We’re going to continue doing constant communication between myself and the athletes, the athletes and each other… the culture we kind of started last year will continue,” Roark said.

Roark added, “This year they have an expectation of where we want to go and they’re hungry for it. It’s been an exciting first couple of weeks and they know the expectations at this point and the direction we can go.”

Even though cross country is based a lot on the individual records of the athletes, the Owls will be soaring through this journey together.

“I think cross country is very much a team sport… that’s something we really instilled,” Roark said. “…If you’re one person, you can only get so far when you need five or seven to win that championship.”

Roark said the team has a chance to win the LEC championship again if everyone continues to support one another.

“I think [the athletes] do a great job of pushing each other throughout the whole year… I think it’s hard sometimes to visualize [the team aspect] for cross country but I think we do a great job instilling that with the team and they do a great job executing that as one unit,” Roark said.

Nicole Dumont can be contacted at

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