On Tuesday, junior Grace Henrich will have cheerleading practice at 6:00 in the morning, then she’ll go to class all day until her cross country meet at 4:30 p.m.
Tuesdays and Thursdays are meet days. They’re also the only days she has cheer practice in the mornings.
“It’s pretty hard, I get pretty worn out,” Henrich said.
She’s also on the dance team. And the tennis team.
But cross country has a special place in her heart, it’s literally family. The Henrich siblings started the tradition in 2003, when Daniel, the oldest, started running as a sophomore. From there, the list goes on: Stephen, Rachel, Elizabeth. Now, it’s Grace and Matthew, her eighth-grade brother. Adam will be next.
“I used to run with my sister, Elizabeth, and I was able to keep up with her fairly well, so I thought it would be something I would be good at,” Henrich said.
Like Elizabeth, she is good at it. Henrich is a two-time state qualifier, a trend that the Newman girls cross country team has kept for four straight years. Under head coach Mike Schutt, the girls team has made it to state seven out of the last 10 years. This year, they return all but two of their girls from the state meet last year.
The team’s success has drawn an increase in participation. There are currently 56 cross country runners from seventh through 12th grade, but Schutt also attributes that to people like Henrich.
“Kids look up to her, they know how hard she works,” Schutt said. “In cross country, it’s obvious when you put in work you’re going to improve, you’re not always going to be the best runner, but you’re going to improve. They see that with Grace, she’s very encouraging of younger kids.”
Henrich doesn’t just follow the family legacy, her passion for running stems from the community atmosphere, but also self-improvement.
“I love the atmosphere, all of our teammates are so supportive of each other,” Henrich said. “When you’re running you always have someone to encourage you. You get to know yourself better and you are able to push yourself. It’s kind of like an individual sport, so it’s all on you depending on how you do.”
As a junior, Henrich has two years left on the team until she leaves for college, where she isn’t planning on continuing her career. She wasn’t able to compete at state last year due to illness, but this year she wants to return for the third time with a 5k time in the low 20s.
Dressed in her bright pink tank top, with her brown hair pulled back, she runs to catch up with the rest of her team. They’re running a 3.3 mile route, one of the shorter workouts she’ll have leading up to the home meet on Tuesday.
“I had a girl one of the first year’s I was here that told me she liked everything about cross country except for running,” Schutt said. “Because of the atmosphere and the friendships you develop and the lessons you learn. Every sport has lessons, but in cross country, it’s a little different in that way.”
The Newman Catholic cross country team will compete today at Mercy West in Mason City at 4:30 p.m.