New hobby leads to college opportunities


Owen Piker, Reporter

When senior Delaney Fitzgerald first joined the Cross Country team, she was not expecting so much change. Today, not even two years after first joining the team, she is committed to the University of Kansas to run cross country and track. 

Fitzgerald joined the cross country team after a couple of her friends, including Adriana Crabtree, had persuaded her. 

Crabtree said she and Fitzgerald have been friends for as long as she can remember. 

“We lived close to each other, went to kindergarten together, and then ended up both going to U-High,” Crabtree said. 

Crabtree was aware that Fitzgerald had started running a little during the pandemic when she convinced her to join the team. 

“I actually joined two weeks late last year,” Fitzgerald said. “I emailed Coach Neisler late, and he said okay.” 

Having joined the team junior year, Fitzgerald was not anticipating the progress she was going to see. Her personal record for three miles dropped from 19.49 to 17.50 in just one year of training. She achieved this record after a summer of intense training which included…

Being a student-athlete and managing academics can be difficult. However, Fitzgerald believes that it is all about balance. 

“I set my phone away and try to just get my work done when I need to,” Fitzgerald said. “Like during my free period, just to make sure I’m staying on top of things.” 

A normal week of cross country for Fitzgerald includes practices Monday through Friday, and meets on Saturday mornings, while Sunday serves as a rest day.

Along with the work that is put into cross country, there can be setbacks. In her opinion, communication with coaches when you need advice has proven to be helpful. 

“I have been fortunate enough not to be injured during cross country; however, the mental strain it has on you can be difficult,” Fitzgerald said. “Knowing how to fuel yourself because the sport can be so difficult, regarding what I am eating. I have worked with my coaches and they’ve given me good advice and help when I needed it.” 

Keeping motivated during the season is one of the most important parts of being on the cross country team. John Neisler, math teacher and cross country coach of almost 10 years explained that cross country is a long season, and it can get hard. 

“Running is running, and not everyone enjoys running,” Neisler said. “So finding other ways to enjoy the time– Ice cream sundae bars after practice–break up the difficulty of running. We gave a couple of days off this season that we usually don’t do. It’s just a matter of constant reflection,  knowing where they have been, and what they’ve done.”

In Fitzgerald’s opinion, competing is one of the best parts of the season.

“I love passing people during competitions, like during the second mile,” Fitzgerald said.

One of the mental tools Fitzgerald uses before competing includes reading to calm herself down.

“Right before a meet, I get pretty nervous, and I usually read. I’m reading a book right now by Bruce Lee,” Fitzgerald said.

Coach Neisler claimed that the best part of competing, in his opinion, was the opportunity to do something you have never done before. 

“I tell them whether it’s a PR, it’s the fastest you’ve ever ran. It’s something you have never done before,” Neisler said. 

Crabtree gets her energy for the sport by cheering on the team while pursuing her own growth. 

“It’s fun to challenge yourself, it is a team sport, being able to encourage everyone is great but at the same time it’s very individual,” Crabtree said. 

Both Fitzgerald and Crabtree agree that it’s the environment and the people that keep them willing to put in the miles. 

“Everyone is so positive and sweet and wants each other to do well. Also Neisler. I love that man,” Fitzgerald said. 

Fitzgerald does find time to enjoy her other hobbies, including Basketball, Earth Club, Girls in STEM, NIOS, and yoga. She is also planning on joining the track team this year. 

Only two years into Fitzgerald’s cross-country journey, she is planning on continuing her athletic career at the University of Kansas. Who knows what the future holds for Fitzgerald, but it is sure to include a lot of miles.