For Andover Girls Cross Country Captain, Ashley Song ’23, running stride-for-stride behind Claire de Saint Phalle ’22 in last season’s championship race is her favorite cross country memory to this day. This season, she hopes to cultivate a team with similar support systems, where runners of all levels have inclusive teammates to run alongside.
Song began running in sixth grade on her middle school track team; however, she made the switch to cross country just a year later, mostly for the more noticeable team environment. Despite her extensive running experience, Song still empathizes with the newer members of Andover’s team.
“As a leader, I do well by connecting with people and making people feel included. My biggest thing is inclusivity. Reaching out to people saying ‘hi,’ even though you don’t know them very well, especially with the freshmen and the lowerclassmen. Because I’ve been in their place before, I know what it’s like, and I’m willing to step out of my way to try to make them feel more comfortable by striking up a conversation with them,” said Song.
Though only being on the team for two weeks thus far, Dilnawa Kizghin ’25 has found her transition to the new environment smooth, in great part due to Song’s constant presence. Specifically, Kizghin appreciates Song’s approachability.
Kizghin said, “Well, I haven’t been on the team for long, but from what I can see, I think that she’s very welcoming, and she’s very nice. I definitely do feel comfortable around her. And I am willing to work.”
According to Song, one of the challenges that comes with being the only captain of the team is the immense energy and action she must put into the team. Though she realizes being tired is a natural response, she hopes to become more comfortable leading a team of 30 runners throughout her captaincy.
Song said, “I never realized that I had a social battery. I thought that it was unlimited, but it’s draining. I get tired after practices now…. I guess I’m just not the kind of person who could give an endless amount of energy.”
Ashley Vinton ’23, however, believes one of Song’s greatest strengths is the amount of energy and enthusiasm she brings to practice everyday. Vinton shares similar sentiment to Kizghin, highlighting Song’s care for every person on the team.
“Every day she shows up, and is there to run, and is checking in with people…. She’s a very loud and vibrant personality, which I think is really good for a cross country captain because sometimes it can be a really big program. And so being like, a loud person can help with that. But she’s also very compassionate. She genuinely cares what’s going on and she just wants to make sure that everybody’s okay and is having a good time. She’s always been the one cheering the loudest in the past seasons and she cheers for every single person. I think it’s just kind of her spirit,” said Vinton.
Song acknowledges that many members of the team are trying cross country for the first time. Despite the wide range of experience and commitment levels on the team, Song strives to create a joyous community for all.
“I think the quality I try to uphold as a leader because I think it’s so important is to foster a community because not everyone comes [to Andover with] cross country experience. Like many try it for the first time and not all of them are coming to be very competitive. Some people just want a community, they just want a group to stick with. I want to be able to provide that for them,” said Song.
Editor’s Note: Ashley Song ’23 is an Illustration Editor for The Phillipian.