By Jessica Palisca '22
The night of Thursday, October 15th was the last home race for the North Cross cross country team. Seniors Daniel Byrnes and Allison Hammond were honored by the coach, Ed Dickenson, before the varsity races started.
“Our first senior is Allison Hammond. She’s been running with us since she was just a tiny little thing and she’s grown with the program,” Coach Dickenson said. “She was that steady, kind person who helped to bring other runners out and keep them motivated. She had some injuries off and on, but she never let that get her down. She always kept coming back, doing her best and setting that great example.”
“I have loved being captain for the past few years” Hammond said, “Watching the younger and new runners make personal records and surpass their own goals has been awesome”
Allison suffered an injury last year that kept her from competing, but she found other ways to stay involved by cheering on her teammates and directing runners and spectators around their course. She has yet to pick a college, but knows she will be going into a career of health sciences.
Coach Dickenson also praised Daniel Byrnes. “I still remember when he was this high and if you know Daniel, you know cross country is his second sport. But he always puts so much heart into it, every season he just keeps coming back. He wanted to come back this year and try to be more of a leader on the team which I appreciated. Daniel's main sport outside of cross country is swimming, which he does year-round,” Dickenson said. “We could not be more proud of him.”
Byrnes has many accomplishments in swimming. He is a two-time Virginia Independent (VIC) conference MVP, four-time all-state award winner, holds the NCS record in the freestyle, 200 and 500 meters, team MVP for the past two years, and competes on the national level. Daniel has committed to Johns Hopkins University, where he plans to swim for the Blue Jays.
“My experience on the cross-country team has been great, even though I can’t make it to a lot of practice and meets.” Byrnes said, “It has always been fun and a great workout.”
He said his favorite memory was when a teammate brought his trumpet to practice and played ‘Kelpy G’ on the roof of a shed at the Patrick Henry High School track.
It has been a long but enjoyable road for these runners who have been on the team for six to seven years.
When asked what advice they would give the younger people on the team Byrnes said, “Make sure to show up to practice as much as you can and drink lots of water because you will feel so much stronger and better in races. You will regret the pain and suffering if you don’t do that.”
“Cross-country is as much a mental sport as it is a physical sport” said Hammond, “So, you need to be mentally tough when the pain sets in. When I’m running, I tell myself positive motivational statements to encourage me to keep running.”
Both seniors want to run for a college club or continue running on their own time next year. These two individuals show a lot of love for this sport and their presence will be greatly missed next cross-country season.