Andover Girls Cross Country Captain Rhea Chandran ’19 began running in the sixth grade on her middle school team in Geneva, Ill. Although she initially debated whether to continue cross country at Andover, Chandran found a lasting home with the team her Junior year.
Chandran said, “I was really nervous about doing cross country at Andover just because my middle school experience wasn’t that great — it wasn’t the best program. So I was really nervous that it would be intense in high school and there would be cuts. I actually talked to my brother [Anjunae Chandran ’18] and he told me that there were no cuts, so I came to practice the first day and all the girls were so nice. I just decided the girls cross country team would be a great place for me.”
According to Chandran, her love for the sport comes from the feeling of running as well as the team mentality and opportunity to meet new people.
“I love the runner’s high you get just from running in general, but what I really love about running is running with the girls cross country team because we’re all so supportive of each other. If one of us is having a hard day, we all lift each other up. And then we have such a great team environment, especially on runs — you often run with new teammates, and it’s just a great way to meet new people,” said Chandran.
Chandran’s welcoming and inclusive attitude make her a strong leader and role model for her teammates, according to Head Coach Patrick Rielly and Molly MacQueen ’21.
In an email to The Phillipian, Rielly wrote, “Rhea is the all-around leader of [Girls Cross Country]. She does it all: leads the team during practices, organizes team bonding, and sets the example of what it means to be a strong cross country runner. Rhea’s leadership inspires her teammates and her coaches. She’s invested in building community within the team by including all the new runners in the traditions that have made the girls cross country program so successful.”
MacQueen said, “Rhea is a very natural leader, and I think she is very special because she has the ability to lead the team as a whole, but she is also really great about creating one-on-one relationships between her and members of the team. Given the huge size of Girls Cross Country, this is really important trait for a Captain. She supports and upholds the traditions of the team brilliantly, and I think [she] is doing a really good job welcoming new members of the team and introducing them to the culture of the the team as well as trying to come up with new and fun ideas.”
As Captain, Chandran says she hopes to instill confidence in the team, especially in many of the newer runners.
Chandran said, “I hope to make everyone feel included and confident, and like they belong on the team, especially the [Juniors] because I know how scary it can be to be on a team with a bunch of older girls.”
Carmel Fitzgibbon ’22, one of the team’s newest members said, “As a new Junior, everything was super new. I was nervous about homework, making new friends, and grades. I wasn’t sure how the new team was going to work, but the first day, Rhea was super happy and bubbly, and she immediately made me look forward to practice every day. She is a good friend to everyone, and I am super proud that she is my Captain.”
According to Lindsay Rosenberg ’19 and Posie Millett ’20, one of Chandran’s distinguishing qualities as a Captain are her positive energy and ability to inspire.
Rosenberg said, “She’s a very energetic Captain, which is a really great quality for such a big group of girls. She’s an absolute sweetheart, and she’s just a lot of fun to be around. She takes everything and makes it a lot more positive, so it’s really great for workouts — she’s always there to pump us up.”
Millet added, “Rhea brings such a large sense of joy and fun to cross country. It can be difficult when it’s pouring rain or really cold and we have to go out for a workout, but Rhea is always there to cheer us on and play music and make Cross Country a part of my day that I really look forward to. Her unwavering enthusiasm [and] encouragement before practices every day and her clear commitment to the team [are some] of the things that make Girls Cross Country such a wonderful team to be a part of.”
Looking ahead, Chandran says she is enthusiastic about the competition to come.
“I’m really excited for our home races because there’s a lot of good energy and there’s a lot of runners that we have running at those home races. Then, I’m so excited for [Andover/Exeter Weekend]. I love to race against [Phillips Exeter Academy] because they’re a good strong competitive team, so hopefully we’ll win. I’m also really excited for Interschols this year. Again, it’s going to be competitive, but hopefully it’ll turn out well,” said Chandran.