With Captain Katie Ellinger’12 at the helm, girls cross-country has a seventh consecutive New England Championship in its sights. A varsity runner since freshman year, Ellinger has greatly contributed to Andover’s perennial success.
After seven years of cross country experience both in school and with a local club, Ellinger knows what it takes to be competitive in a sport that relies on not only hard work, but talent, technique and teamwork. “The two keys to our success this season are smart coaches and smart runners,” said Ellinger. “The coaches have created a very well thought out training plan to prevent injury and overtraining, and us as runners must listen to the coaches as well as our bodies.”
For Ellinger, cross-country is a challenge as well as a much-anticipated escape from the stresses of schoolwork. “Practices are my time to relax and step away from it all, and to hang out with friends without the burdens of the classroom.” One of her favorite workouts is a long, even-paced run. “There’s definitely a truth to the theory of the ‘runner’s high’- once you get into a rhythm and hold a steady aerobic pace for 40 minutes to an hour, everything in your body gets incredibly relaxed,” said Ellinger. “Plus, it’s a great time to get to know my teammates.”
After placing third at New Englands in 2009, Ellinger knows the rewards of a hard season of training. “We were all incredibly happy with our victory, especially so since the course, with the combination of hills and sloppy mud, was probably the hardest we had ever run,” she said. That year, with Ellinger as a top seven runner, the team was undefeated. Girls Cross Country has only lost one meet in the past six years.
“Katie really loves the sport and shares that joy with the team every day, but she also trains hard and takes her running seriously,” said Coach Nancy Lang.
Looking to set a strong example for the squad, Ellinger encourages team camaraderie as well as a positive mentality. “The girls on the team find Katie extremely approachable,” said Coach Lang. Trusting one another will be key, as pack running is a common strategy in close races. With strategy in mind, Ellinger hopes to not only improve herself, but to improve her teammates as well. She believes that with dedication to training and to each other, this year’s squad has the tools to take another shot at the championship.
“My primary goal is to win our seventh consecutive Interschols, and hopefully have another undefeated season in the process,” Ellinger said, eager for the competition. “It’s definitely in reach, but everyone out there knows we’re the ones to beat. That only motivates us to work harder.”
Ellingers’s dedication to running is also apparent outside of Andover, as she hopes to run half the Boston Marathon next spring for a charity team.
With Ellinger setting the pace this fall, the sky is the limit for Andover Girls Cross Country. She will lead the squad at the Codfish Bowl on Saturday, September 24th.