After the team’s third place finish at Interschols last season, Andover Girls Cross Country Head Coach Keri Lambert returns once again to create a welcoming environment for students varying in running experience, fulfilling the variety of goals team members may have.
Home to 35 runners, members of the team come with a range of experience in running. According to Lambert, her priority is to cultivate an inclusive and friendly team environment.
“As a coach, I strive to meet students where they are so that Cross Country can be as welcoming a sport as possible, no matter a person’s fitness level or experience with running. Team members come into the Fall Season with a vast array of goals; some hope to attract interest from college coaches, others hope to simply race their first ever 5k and make good friends along the way,” wrote Lambert in an email to The Phillipian.
According to Captain Ashley Song ’23, Lambert’s commitment to the team is evident, whether that may be through emphasizing team values or initiating separate conversations with runners.
Song said, “During preseason, we did a lot of work talking as a team about what we want in this shared space between the Girls and Boys teams…Coach Lambert took the time to take notes during the Girls team conversation/meeting and typed up summary notes afterward, which I’ve kept. I think it speaks to her dedication not just to the sport but to the community and team.”
With half the team being lowerclassmen, Lambert wants to create a space where everyone feels comfortable expressing themselves and showcasing their talents. Lambert hopes to further develop the depth of the team in order to place at the championship meet at the end of the season.
“This year PAXC [Phillips Academy Cross Country] has a ton of young energy and talent, so I’d like to nurture that and help these new team members establish good habits and mindsets that will serve them and the team well in years to come. Competitively, this is a rebuilding year for the Girls team, so I hope to see folks commit to getting a little bit stronger every day with the hopes of finishing in the top three at our championship meet in November,” wrote Lambert.
Lambert continued about the diverse community of runners in PAXC, and how there is something for everyone in the sport. According to Lambert, being on a cross country team can help one develop healthy habits and skills crucial to life outside the sport.
“No matter the person and their aspirations, though, I hope that what they’re taking away from the sport is a strong sense of the importance of balance—balancing hard workouts and recovery runs, balancing having fun and staying focused, balancing academics with athletics, balancing being competitive while not taking yourself too seriously, balancing being ambitious without tying your worth to your successes or times, etc. So much of being a good Cross Country runner is learning how to listen to and respect your body (and soul!) in order to balance its many needs and wants,” wrote Lambert.
Song elaborated on Lambert’s care for her runners. At the end of the day, Lambert prioritizes health over performance, according to Song.
“Coach Lambert has been making sure we stay on the safe side, always trying to keep small injuries small. I’m glad that she’s been so sensitive and receptive about this side of things,” said Song.
In the future, Lambert is looking forward to seeing both Boys and Girls Cross Country teams unifying as one program. She hopes to see both teams grow stronger not separately, but as one team together.
“I hope that PAXC continues to merge its Boys and Girls teams so that we are one more united program. I really believe that all-gender athletics spaces can be profoundly beneficial in a ton of ways, so I’m committed to seeing our athletes embrace working together and supporting one another as much as possible,” wrote Lambert.