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Amid the chatter of family members and onlookers, a hush fell over Asheville Christian Academy girls varsity cross country runners Aug. 16 as they approached the line on Asheville School’s track.

The athletes nervously adjusted their watches, completed last-minute drills and prepared to race a two-mile race hosted by Carolina Day School. On the other side of the infield, the ACA boys varsity team anxiously began the warm-up drill routine in anticipation of its race following the girls.

The ACA Cross Country teams competed against Carolina Day School’s teams in a friendly competition before the season officially kicks off. The race was not scored on a win/loss basis.

“We have some work to do, but (we) have a solid foundation to build on,” ACA assistant coach Sydney Brynn said after the race.

Eighth-grader Katie Rudins was first to finish for the girls team, with a time of 13:03 minutes. She was closely followed by sophomore Rachel Lanter and freshman Chloe Gilbert, with times of 13:08 and 13:26 respectively.

Sophomore Jax Ledford was first for the boys team, with a time of 11:27. He was closely followed by sophomore Alex Rudins and freshman Spencer Young, with times of 12:13 and 12:14 respectively.

There were many runners who demonstrated an exceptional 100-meter finish on the boys and girls teams, including sophomore Harrison Northrup and junior Ivy-Carter Young.

Regardless of the statistics, ACA’s Cross Country program strives to build community and adopt an atmosphere of encouragement among runners, coaching staff and rival teams. The coaching staff believes that this is an essential component to racing and competing as a team.

“As a runner myself, I love the aspect of pushing yourself to new limits,” ACA’s head cross country coach Jason Ingle said. “And as a coach, I strive to teach runners how to get better at running and really learn to enjoy the sport. Running offers a lifetime skill that almost everyone can utilize, even if they are running competitively.

“But more than that, cross country gives the coaching staff a perfect opportunity to teach students how to live in a community; how to encourage, to love, and to grow through the power of the gospel. We suffer together, we celebrate together, and we grow together as a family.”

On Aug. 26, the ACA Varsity Cross Country team was scheduled to travel to Jackson Park to compete against Country Day School as well as many other schools from the surrounding area.

Tristen Townsend is a junior at Asheville Christian Academy.

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