By Micah Ford
The transition from Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan to Angelica, New York has been a smooth one so far. In Nur-Sultan, I was given the privilege to run track and field year-round for two years, running indoors during the winters. This was because there was no such thing as cross country in the entire city due to its steppe nature. There were no hills and no natural forest for as far as you could see, sitting on a carriage the topmost position of the ferris wheel that loomed over the city buildings next to the mall named “Keruen City.” Because of that, I awaited eagerly when I found out the stunning news of moving to the area my dad’s parents lived for what was going to be my first year running cross country.
Fast forward to a month after the move, and amidst an injury, I was resting, I ran my first 5k, the Arkport Summerfest 5k. It didn’t go so well. After around 5 minutes, I was in second place behind my older brother Jeremiah. As I approached the first hill that I was ever going to run (where I lived the steepest hill was a bridge), I thought it was going to be the same as running on a flat surface, but you just couldn’t see the other side. I was wrong. By the time I reached the peak of the hill, I was exhausted and seven people had passed me. I was being welcomed into the New York world of running with a 20:05 5k. But through valiant effort and determination, I have come to run a 17:34 5k, which happened at Leroy, and I hope to keep improving. None of this, however, would have happened if I weren’t able to run with Arkport as a student of Alfred-Almond High School. Resentfully, though, transportation between the two schools is a problem at hand.
Currently, at Alfred-Almond Jr-Sr High School, Seniors Jeremiah and Logan, Freshmen Yasmin and Dylan, 8th grader Salim, and I are running with Arkport’s cross country team. As a result, we have enough boys to have our own cross country team, yet the Alfred-Almond school administrators will not reintroduce a cross country team, let alone allow a school bus to take us to Arkport for practice. Instead, parents have to deal with the extra hassle of picking up their younger children and us, driving us to practice, dropping off their kids, retracing their journey soon afterward to pick the runners up from practice, and finally bringing us home. I am sure no parent would want to deal with that amount of stress, hassle, and even gas money on the line for around three months. Yes, there is the option of staying at Arkport to wait for us to finish practice, but that can become a problem in itself due to a lack of things to do and a comfortable space to spend two hours in. In my family’s case, my mom would have to stay with three kids aged seven, nine, and eleven for two hours, not always an enjoyable group to watch over.
I would understand a school not wanting to send their student-athletes to another school for a sports practice if they scarcely contributed to the development and skill of the team, but after all, the Arkport Varsity Boys and Modified Boys cross country teams would not be going places if it weren’t for us boys from Alfred Almond, because my older brother Jeremiah is by far the fastest on our team followed me (3rd runner), and then Logan Whittal and Dylan Cannon (5th and 7th runners). And on the modified side, my younger brother Salim has already broken some of the Arkport modified course records that we have run, such as the one at Hammondsport by Keuka Lake. In other words, the students-athletes from Alfred Almond are a big part of the Arkport boys cross country squad. That should be a relevant and convincing enough reason alone to sway the administrator’s minds about an Alfred Almond bus driving us to practices.
Regardless of what has been said and done, I have enjoyed running for Arkport and will finish the season with many unforgettable memories. For instance, at the Plattsburgh Pre-State meet 7 hours away we stayed at a hotel and had time for team bonding the night before the race. Some of the team went swimming in the hotel swimming pool, and some of us played mini-golf on a specially lit course, these high school experiences being rare to have. Not only are the team bonding moments enjoyable, but also during races, I have memories that are entertaining and uplifting to think about, such as passing a number of people while sprinting to end a race, and winning as a team.
Even though the transportation part of cross country didn’t quite go the way the parents and runners wanted it, I (along with my brother and Alfred-Almond teammates) will keep supporting the team and developing the speed and endurance needed for being an elite cross country runner. In the end, what I am hoping in spite of what has been decided is that I go out there with the rest of my team and have a great cross country season.