Although an individual sport, there is great camaraderie in Cross Country at Newington.
Newington Cross Country Program
Cross Country is a non-contact sport that offers the boys an opportunity to train in a great environment not just for cross country, but also as a cross training alternative for other sports such as athletics, rowing, triathlon and cross country skiing held in different seasons. Newington offers excellent facilities including a weights room and nearby Sydney Park is a great venue for training and competition.
In the AAGPS competition, each school hosts a meet on varied courses, with advancement to the following championships – AAGPS versus CAS, NSW CIS, NSW All Schools and Australian All Schools. Training is held at least twice a week both on the field and in the pool.
2020 was a year that threw up many challenges for athletes, schools, competition, coaches and motivations. Recognising this, the AAGPS achieved a unique job in finding ways for competitors to reach different goals and we finished the season with a format of cross country racing that many really enjoyed, while observing specific protocols that were put in place. We had Zoom coaching sessions where, as a team, we combined warm-up protocols with skipping sessions followed by prescribed runs. This then led to the older cohort setting up Strava challenges where athletes logged their runs for all to observe. Terrain, distance, times and other data allowed them to keep their motivation high through the early season challenges of training.
Once competition was under way, the reduced number of races available and the prevailing conditions meant a re-set in the competition format. Unlike traditional years where each weekend athletes attend a scheduled event to compete against the same group of athletes from previous competitions, the format was changed to cope with restricted numbers. This format saw schools compete against each other on a one-on-one basis each week much like what we see in team sports. This meant competition against individual schools each week with an accumulated point score system where the conclusive finals event was against the top two point-scored schools. This led to a very exciting and interesting competition as athletes calculated where they needed to finish in a race to achieve the best results for accumulation.
The Junior team finished the season in third place. The Year 7 boys combined superbly with the Year 8 boys once the season progressed. Many of the boys came off the back of GPS athletics and others joined cross country as an option for sport only to discover that not only can they be good runners, they were also able to achieve results they weren’t initially expecting.
The Intermediate team was the classic example of quality and persistence over quantity. This group consisted of a determined group of athletes of varying abilities that raced with determination and grit with a mindset to conquer as a team. Support was their mechanism as they progressed through the season scaring competitors on their journey. No matter how big the opposition school’s team, they constantly scored with over 60% of finishers in the top 10, finishing the 2020 season as GPS premiers.
Our Opens team for 2020 were a group that led by example. Not specifically natural runners, but a small team that engaged the technology ideas and brought this forward to the balance of the team. Team Captain, Dhruv Kumar showed persistence as well as quiet leadership in a challenging year.
In a normal season, racing for cross country is very unique. Each week, athletes pit themselves against the same competitors. In 2021, with a different format, we were introduced to different forms of racing that changed technical and racing dynamics on a weekly basis. Rising to the challenges of these changes was everyone’s learning experience. Is this the future of cross country racing? We are not sure, but it certainly was a change-up where a lot of positive learning experiences were gained.
Working as a Team
There is a great sense of camaraderie and team unity in the Newington program.
Our continued catchcry, ‘Process over outcome’, recognises personal development and personal bests on the competition field. Unfortunately, there were no representative selection opportunities for 2020, however, there were some stand-out performances throughout the year: Team Captain, Dhruv Kumar showed persistence as well as quiet leadership in a challenging year. Bailey Habler who, with the Smith twins, guided the Intermediate division to a well-thought-out season win. Harry Halleen showed the Junior group that with organisation and team spirit, they can improve their result into 2021.