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The pack that lives and grows together

“Before we get on the line at a meet, we all run 20 yards out and then huddle up and remind ourselves that we are not running for ourselves. We are not running just to finish or to get a time that we kind of like. We are running for God and for the guys around us. That gives us the motivation to lay every last ounce of energy on the course and to be more competitive,” said Colden Welsh, a sophomore who has been running cross country for three years. 

This year the boys’ cross country team won the boys' conference championship. THIS IS A BIG DEAL! Providence Day has won this championship for the last 21 years. 

“Many schools over the years had made a run for that title but haven’t been able to do it,” said Cross Country Coach Payne Dinsbeer. “This year we were able to put a team together that did it.” 

"My sweetest memory of this was winning the conference championship, hands down," said Cross Country Head Coach John Yasenchok. "Obviously, winning the state championship was our goal, which we have not yet accomplished, but we competed and finished 4th overall. Winning our conference, which is by far the most competitive and prestigious in the NCISAA for our sport, was a very sweet memory I will never forget."

(Be sure to watch this stunning video from cross country captain, John Michael Salamone.)

It’s a misconception that cross country running is an individual sport. In fact, at a meet the runners run in packs of five. It's the collective placing of all the runners that determines whether you win or lose. 

“Sure, you are literally running on your own, but a team cannot win with selfish goals in mind,” said Jacob DeYoung, a sophomore in his fifth year of cross country running. “The way the scoring works in cross-country favors the team aspect. Each athlete receives a point for their place (first gets one point, second gets two, and so on), and the lowest score wins. This places more importance on the fourth and fifth runners. The best person on a team may consistently place in the top five or so. However, the other runners have a much larger range (anywhere from 20-100 depending on the race). This means it is more important for runners who might have fallen off the pack to get back together because that can determine the outcome of a race.” 

A team can only win if they support one another wholeheartedly.  

“People learn grit. It requires a lot of mental tenacity and not everyone has it,” said Coach Dinsbeer. “So one of the things that the pack provides is accountability and if you fall off your pack helps bring you back. The runners really rally around each other and take ownership of their race.” 

Coach Dinsbeer saw the bonds between the runners strengthen throughout the year. He saw teammates reaching out to teammates to go on weekend runs. He saw them gather for worship nights. He saw them encourage each other to achieve record times.  

“I think the most I've learned from my fellow runners is the importance of having a bond of brotherhood and close group of friends,” said Hayden Duncan, a junior in his fifth year of running. “While we are just cross country runners, I've never been a part of a better team culture than at Covenant Day.” 

The pack lives and grows together. There is a deep sense of pride that comes from getting to coach a team that truly builds one another up.

"Most importantly, I am proud of my athletes," said Coach Yasenchok. "I tell my team this all the time: If you lined up every top runner of the CISAA conference and told me to pick which ones I want to coach, I would choose this team every time."

One thing Coach Dinsbeer lives by in cross country is helping his athletes become better than they think they can be. 

“The number of times this season alone that I’ve heard runners say, 'Wow, I didn’t think I had that in me,' and me thinking for the billionth time, 'We knew! We believed in you more than you believed in you.' It happens all the time. I consider it a huge privilege and blessing and joy to coach these guys.” 

Obviously, winning a conference championship was one of those accomplishments that came from the incredible grit and brotherhood fostered in this team.  

“For the seniors that had left such as Bryson Mace, Ian Macurda, Britt Anderson, and Edward Weaver, we had finally fulfilled their 10-year dream and dedication that those guys gave to this cross country team,” said Colden. “We were cracking so many inside jokes and the joy in everyone's eyes, especially the top seven or eight who had been with this program since 3rd grade was something that I can never forget.” 

“Once I crossed the line on the McAlpine course, I knew immediately that our team had won,” said Caiden Seufert, a junior in his fifth year of running cross country. “The feeling that I felt seconds after that race could only be described as ecstatic. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I give all the glory to God.” 

“I think this is a picture of my walk with Christ that I will carry with me forever as a reminder,” said Hayden. “Jesus never promised that life would be a walk in the park. He promised just the opposite. But we have the strength, by His grace, to move forward and to carry on.” 

This victory was the cross country program's second conference championship since joining the CISAA. The girls cross country team won in 2017 and went on to win the State Championship that same year! (Another huge accomplishment!) 

Covenant Day incorporates a year-round training model, bridging the gap between track and cross country. Most of the athletes run for both teams, all working together for the same mission. 

"I want to honor the hard work that our entire program has put forth," said Coach Yasenchok. "That starts with Coach Jim Parrish and his wisdom, expertise, and enthusiasm. This season would not have been possible without his guidance for our coaching staff through the outdoor track season in the spring, and the summer base workouts leading into the fall season."

"Athletics is an integral part of our mission at Covenant Day," continued Coach Yasenchok. "When Jesus saves us, he saves every part of us. Athletics is a good work from the Lord that a biblical worldview teaches us to redeem for his glory. When we give our best efforts, knowing our salvation is secure in Christ, that honors God and gives Him the glory and weight He deserves."