Girls Cross Country Captain Abby Ryan ’21 entered the fall season of her Junior year at Andover with little running experience, looking for a change from her previous middle school fall sport of soccer.
“Before Andover, I had run a couple of charity 5k races with my dad and uncle when I was younger, but other than that I hadn’t run before. I’ve always played sports—I did soccer all my life until I came to Andover—and I decided that I wanted to mix it up, I wanted to try something new. I can’t imagine my life without the cross country team, they’re the first team that really welcomed me,” said Ryan.
According to Head Coach Rebecca Hession, despite having no experience with cross country, Ryan made an immediate impact on the team her Junior year.
“While cross country was a new sport for Abby, she arrived with significant skills in the areas of teamwork and work ethic. Moreover, Abby’s positivity and enthusiasm made an immediate impact on the team culture,” said Hession.
Because Ryan understands what it’s like being a newcomer on the team, she extends a supportive hand to all new members, according to Hession.
“In Abby’s case, she showed up on the Great Lawn as a ninth-grader with no racing experience and developed into a varsity contributor and Captain. She was welcomed to the team by the same passion that she now extends to the class of ’24,” said Hession.
Now, according to teammate Natasha Muromcew ’22, Ryan’s leadership promotes a tight-knit sense of community on the team.
“I think most of us have all just gotten really close to her because she’s just been such a supportive teammate and she’s really been just a pillar of the team because of how kind, nice, and enthusiastic she is. She’s just a very natural leader,” said Muromcew.
Ava Sullivan ’23 added, “She was kind of like an older sister to me on the team. She was always there to help me not even just within cross country, but anything outside she was always there, always checking in on me, so she was a really great person to get to know and is a great leader for the team.”
According to Ryan, her favorite part about cross country is the ability to connect with her teammates.
“I think that cross country recruits a great crop of people. I’ve been so fortunate to meet some of my really close friends on this team. I think that it’s great that you have it during the fall because we have a big team, we have 35 right now, and it’s always been a pretty big team, so you get to meet so many people,” said Ryan.
Ryan consistently supports her teammates both in practice and in races when the team is competing against one another, according to Sullivan.
“I remember multiple times where I’d be in a race near her on the trails, and she’d be giving me words of encouragement while I was running. It’s really hard to do because when I run it’s hard for me to use that extra energy to talk and mess up my breathing, but she’s always one to continue to push you during the race. She just continues to get you through all of the hard parts,” said Sullivan.
Although many teams this fall must operate in new ways, the cross country program has been able to work similarly to how it has in the past.
Ryan said, “We don’t have a lot of contact so we are pretty lucky that we can operate pretty similarly to how we had been operating in the past. We do a long run on Monday, then we do some sort of modified workout or just some tempo work or hill work on Tuesdays, and we’ll continue to do either a workout or a full team Zoom on Wednesdays. That’s something new that we’re bringing this year that I’m really excited about because you get to connect with the entire team.”
Ryan has been able to keep the team connected during the Covid-19 pandemic, whether her teammates are on campus or remote, according to Hession.
“Connection to the community is incredibly important to Abby. She shares joy and enthusiasm whether it’s leading a campus run or a Zoom session. A goal in our program is that showing up for cross country makes a good day great and a hard day a little bit better. I know her teammates will agree that a run with Abby always brightens your day,” said Hession
Editor’s Note: Abby Ryan ’21 is a Sports Editor for The Phillipian.