Cross country pushing through challenges

Autumn Schulz, Cross Country Reporter

It is no secret that the postponement of fall sports at Eastern has left each team with many adversities. The men’s and women’s cross country teams are no exceptions. Head coach Erin Howarth acknowledged that the past six months have not been easy for her as head coach due to a severe lack of face-to-face contact. 

“The biggest challenge has been ensuring that I feel as in touch with each student athlete in a virtual sense as I do when we are face to face,” Howarth said. “With the lack of body language on a day-to-day basis, I often feel more of a distance from these students than I do from the ones who offer a lot of themselves no matter the type of environment.”

Even though members of both the men’s and women’s cross country teams have suffered from the lack of face-to-face contact, Howarth said she believes the past six months have helped her athletes grow.

“Not running with each other and being with each other on a daily basis has definitely been difficult for all of us,” Howarth said. “When you are part of a team, you feed off each other and gain from others where you might feel lacking. Not having that has been extremely challenging, but I do feel like many have grown a lot in this five-month period and learned a lot about themselves.”

Even though COVID-19 has put a strain on the ways many teams can train for their upcoming seasons, Howarth said that training will not look much different from before COVID-19.

“We will train much like we often do since running is more of a lifestyle than something you do when you are in season,” Howarth said. “We are always ‘in season,’ but we will also focus on doing as many activities as we can to enhance the team culture/environment within the realms of social distancing and safety.” 

COVID-19 is not only affecting current cross country players at Eastern but potential players as well. Howarth said because NCAA Division I schools are currently in a dead period, the recruitment process has made it difficult to form a strong connection with potential team members to make a full decision as head coach.

“I have focused on zoom calls and virtual tours, etc., but they just aren’t the same. Many of the recruits have mentioned how they look forward to meeting the team and visiting campus and meeting the coaching staff in person, etc.,” Howarth said. “But without knowing when and if that can happen this semester, it makes it difficult to progress to the level the recruits feel it necessary in order to make a full decision.”

Both the men’s and women’s cross country teams plan to begin their season during the spring semester.

 

Autumn Schulz can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]