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The Air Academy Girls Cross Country team made history earlier this month at the Nike Cross Country Nationals. The team made up of seven girls became National Champions, placing first at NXN in Portland, Oregon.
"We trained so hard to get there so it was really rewarding to even be at Nationals in the first place," teammate Tessa Walter said. "The fact that we won was a huge shock and we were all super excited.”
The team was paced by senior, Bethany Michalak who finished second out of 150 runners.
“I feel like the past week I’ve been processing everything with the win and my place individually," Michalak smiled. "It’s been crazy.”
As the only senior, the team follows Bethany's lead.
“I’ve been running with Bethany since I was 7, so I’ve always looked up to her," teammate Jordan Banta said. "She’s such a team player and she’s such a good leader."
After placing 7th at nationals a year ago, Air Academy captured Colorado's first-ever team title, tallying 61 points.
After eight seasons coaching the Kadets, Chuch Schwartz realizes how rare this accomplishment is.
“It’s very difficult," Coach Schwartz said. "It takes a lot of focus, a lot of energy, and a lot of things people don’t see.”
The teams' two freshmen agreed and said they've grown a lot this past season.
“It’s not only physical," freshman Mariah Hook explained. "You have to work with your mind a lot and you also have to be a team player.”
"I'm just feeling overall more confident in myself and my running abilities," freshman Chamorra Cooper added.
Air Academy was ranked second nationally for most of the year, chasing Niwot High School for that top spot.
“We’ve been going 1-2 all season," teammate Lauren Myers explained. "At regionals, we placed second, but we knew we had so much more in us so it was so exciting going into nationals feeling so confident."
"We knew it would be close, I could see all the Niwot girls around me while I was running," Banta explained. "So it was just amazing when our parents waved over that we won, it's just a moment I’ll never forget.”
The seven girls say the feel more like sisters than teammates which might just be the secret to their success.
"We run for something bigger than ourselves, we run for each other," Michalak said. "I think that’s what really helps us succeed.”
"We’re just so close," Emily Beers added. "It's just so much fun to be together all the time.”
This talented group of young ladies will get to rest their legs for a little while before the track season begins in the New Year.
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