In the Locker Room with Women’s Cross Country


Photo by Alex McNicoll, Sports Editor

ITLR – From left to right: Joy Castro-Wehr, Abby Bellows, Julia Denlinger, Rosie Kerwin

Alex McNicoll and Julie Schreiber, Sports Editors

This week the Review sat down with juniors Rosie Kerwin and Abby Bellows and sophomores Joy Castro-Wehr and Julia Denlinger, members of the Yeowomen cross country leadership council, the team’s newly developed alternative to captains. They discussed the role the council plays in addition to the team’s expectations emerging from a historic 2016–2017 season for women’s track and field, during which they took home their first outright North Coast Athletic Conference indoor and first ever outdoor title.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

For the first time, you guys have a “leadership council” this year instead of team captains. What prompted this change in leadership?

Rosie Kerwin: Creating the council was a decision that was mostly a response to the way the team was led last year. The people who weren’t satisfied with last year’s leadership wanted to change it. We really wanted to get more people involved in the decision-making process of the team this year.

Joy Castro-Wehr: The council was definitely an effort to make a team environment that really focuses on team cohesiveness. We want to be a team that goes through things together, and our decision-making should be a process with consensus and input by everybody, not just selected seniors.

What has the leadership council brought to the team so far that’s different from last year?

RK: Definitely more voices and opinions are heard this year. Also, we’ve been way more productive early on because there are more council members than there were captains in the past, and there are definitely more people invested in the team bonding that takes place during down time.

JCW: One new idea that emerged from the leadership council was this new “support buddy” system, where each of us has a teammate that we check in with daily about running, schoolwork, and life in general. It helps unify our large team and makes the team less of a hierarchical system.

We’ve heard you guys mention how much fun you all had during preseason camp in Cuyahoga Valley. What made your preseason camp so enjoyable this year?

RK: Well, camp is about running, but it’s really more about team bonding. As the leadership council, we decided that we wanted to use camp to focus on positivity. We really carried that spirit through the whole time.

Abby Bellows: No one really even had to put in a conscious effort to make the team dynamic positive or fun during camp. It kinda just happened on its own. Everyone was just working really hard at running and working really well together automatically. It was great.

The 2017 season was a historic one for women’s track and field, capturing both the indoor and outdoor NCAC titles. How will cross country use that momentum going into this season?

RK: We had two great track seasons, and we really want to carry the energy from last year into our cross country season. We’re really focusing on positivity right now and carrying the spirit and energy from winning together last year.

JCW: We all still feel really excited by the championships. It’s super fun to be a part of a team that has a lot of success and momentum behind it, and we especially want to communicate those feelings to the first–years and demonstrate to them that the successes of the team really come from team bonding and building a team culture.

What are you expecting from the new freshman class? How are they assimilating to the team?

JCW: They’re awesome!

Julia Denlinger: We have seven on the women’s team and four on the men’s team, and they’re all fabulous. Not only are they seamlessly blending into the team culture, but they’re also contributing so much to it and bringing lots of new elements to the team, too.

What is one change you are hoping to see from last season into this season?

RK: We definitely want a more cohesive group this year. We run in workout groups during practice, so it’s easy to just section off into our groups all the time. We really want to change that this year.

JD: We also want to be more thoughtful about inclusivity and mental health. We want to be constantly checking in with each other and making sure everyone’s on the same page and feeling that their voices are heard.

What are the most crucial races this year? Which events are you most looking forward to or training the hardest for?

JCW: Usually we have one home meet, the rumble, but this year our conference meet will also be at home.

JD: Put it in the article that everyone should come to the conference meet.

AB: The rumble is Oct. 14, and conference is Oct. 29.

RK: We hosted conference for indoor last year, but I don’t know if we’ve ever hosted conference for cross country before. If we have, it must’ve been years ago.

AB: The energy the whole weekend when we won indoor conference last winter was so fun, and we really want to capture that again more than anything. The rumble is a really big deal because everyone competes, but at conference we only get to take our top 12. We really want to do well at both, and we want everyone to win at both races.

RK: We have a really young team too. We only graduated two people from our top eight, so we feel really optimistic about the way things can go this season.

What are your goals for conference play this year?

All: To win!

RK: Right now, I think we’re in a good place, if all goes well.

JCW: But also, we really want everyone to have fun. We’d love to win, but at the end of the day, we really care about the camaraderie and the love that our teammates have for the sport and for each other.

RK: We’re really focused on our team dynamic this year and working really well together, and all the success rolls off of that. Really, that’s the best way to prepare for a winning season.