Jacob Sanford’s unusual traditions in cross country have brought unity to the team


Jacob Sanford

Jacob, who is leading the pack of runners during a meet.

Teamwork can come in many forms: in sophomore Jacob Sanford’s case, in the form of running with three shoes for two miles. When a fellow runner lost a shoe during one of the cross country team’s meets, Jacob didn’t think twice about scooping up the left-behind clothing and carrying it back for the remainder of the run in order to return it.

While this seems a little odd, this type of behavior isn’t unusual on the FHC cross country team because of the strong bonds and thoughtful favors they do for each other. Apart from the athletic aspect, Jacob joined the cross-country team for the tight bonds that the members have—not to mention the interesting pre-meet rituals, such as carrying a large stick onto the spirit rock

“I think one of the boys came up with it,” Jacob said. “They’ve been doing it for a long time. It’s a good sense of tradition. It also helps form a sense of team—a sense of togetherness before the big conference meet.”

Despite the longevity of traditions within the cross country team, Jacob has found success in competition and new experiences. This year, for the first time in 20 years, both the men’s and women’s teams went to the state competition.

However, this wasn’t achievable through just independent training. Even though each runner has a solo job, the team’s scores come together, so in actuality, cross country is very much a team sport. Since Jacob and his teammates recognize this, they have been able to support each other in order to be at their peak performance, especially with support from their seniors.

“There was really good team leadership from the upperclassmen,” Jacob said, “and I think the team really worked together as a group [at states]. It’s a team sport. We’ve got to work together to try to win.”

It’s a team sport. We’ve got to work together to try to win.

— Jacob Sanford

That’s exactly what the cross country team did—win. Perhaps it was not in the traditional aspect of what winning is, or even a golden first-place medal, but it was still a victory in the eyes of the cross country team.

Between strong leadership and absolute dedication, the team saw high scores at even the state meet.

“Going to state’s was a big thing for us,” Jacob said. “Just to get to go there was a great experience. We placed the highest we ever had in team history this year, so that was a great experience.”

Because of both the competitive and recreational aspects of the sport, cross country is highly centered around balance, and not just regarding between the legs that are trained harder than any other sport. Independence and codependence must be appropriately balanced in order for each runner to come together as a team, and serious competitiveness and laid-back training need to be leveled out as well.

Due to the lack of a radical attitude one way or another, Jacob was drawn to the cross country team. While the team regularly attends meets and works hard to be successful at races, there are no cuts, and the team as a whole is very nonexclusive.

“I heard that it was just a nice group and a fun activity,” Jacob said. “There are no cuts, so anyone can do it. That’s how I got into it.”

Jacob, between participating in athletics and creating fun-loving bonds, has found a home in the cross country team. In order to be successful as they were, the team certainly had to work together, and this sprouted from group jokes and unusual traditions.

The open and welcoming environment of the team that Jacob was drawn to extends to others as well. Whether or not someone is a great runner, Jacob believes that people should join the team to have a sense of belonging and community.

“I think it’s very good to join [cross country],” Jacob said. “Everyone’s very nice and very friendly—everyone works together. Everyone there is willing to be your friend and to help you with whatever. It’s a good experience and a good opportunity to be with a team.”