By Cassady Faircloth
Palm Beach Atlantic University’s men’s and women’s cross country teams are growing in multiple ways.
Women’s cross country has more than doubled in size this year, while the men’s team is still working on expanding.
This season the cross country team is being recognized as more of a competitive and varsity sport.
“We did more purposeful recruiting for this year,” said interim coach and Athletic Director Bob White. “Just because this is a new program, we need to not get frustrated about the more established teams and focus on individual improvement.”
White is encouraging the athletes to focus on running “one race at a time.”
“Even if they only improve by a few seconds, it is still something to work off of,” White added.
The cross country team was the first PBA team to actually practice at the incomplete Hillcrest site. In order to improve the team’s performance they use the rugged path at Hillcrest. They also run in different conditions to prepare for races in various locations and weather.
With returning captain and senior Gina Battista having participated in last season’s NCCAA National Championship, she provides both experience and motivation for her teammates. Battista placed at 108, where the top five women and men of the teams compete.
“She readily makes herself available to the entire team for encouragement and that extra push that you sometimes need to sustain you,” said freshman Chalice Howard. “She pushes both herself and her teammates to become the best they can be and truly goes out of her way to ensure that our team is encouraged and thriving.”
Some athletes to watch are returning seniors and captains Gina Battista and Kyle Pryce, sophomore Stephen Tucker and freshman Kyle Mason.
“We work together so well, and I am just so blessed and privileged to have such great friends and teammates,” Captain Gina Battista said. “We cheer each other on, congratulate each other after reaching a goal, motivate each other to work harder every day and above all love each other.”
For next season, White hopes to recruit international athletes on the men’s team and strong transfers for the women’s team.
The cross country team has competed in four races so far this season, including the Walt Disney World Invitational, which was held on Saturday, Oct. 10.