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Sophomore Caitlyn McFarland decided to give cross country a try with the Indians this fall and found out that she loves distance running. (Photo courtesy of Caitlyn McFarland )
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Caitlyn McFarland has always loved running. This fall, Caitlyn took her passion to the paths when she joined the North Haven girls’ cross country squad as a sophomore. Caitlyn enjoyed her experience with the team as she challenged herself by competing in long-distance races.
“It took a little convincing from some of my distance friends, but once I started captains’ practice over the summer, I knew cross country was what I wanted to do,” says Caitlyn. “To me, running was always something I’d do for fun. It was a good stress reliever and something that was fun to get your mind off things.”
Caitlyn competed for North Haven’s indoor and outdoor track teams in her freshman year. She primarily ran in the 55 hurdles and the 300 during the indoor season and did the 100 hurdles and the 200 with the outdoor squad. It wasn’t easy for Caitlyn to transition to long distances with the cross country team, but she eased into it throughout the summer and was ready to go at the beginning of the fall season.
“I knew I had to both physically and mentally prepare myself. I definitely took what I ate and drank more seriously and was drinking a lot of water, especially over the summer,” Caitlyn says. “Captains’ practice was honestly amazing. I had a great experience with my captains, who were very encouraging. We started slow and gradually progressed over the summer.”
Carl Jackson worked with Caitlyn as head coach of North Haven’s girls’ cross country and outdoor track squads. Jackson says that Caitlyn has a wealth of opportunities in track now that she’s immersed in the world of distance running.
“Caitlyn has high energy. Cross country was a new sport to her after she did track and field in the winter and spring of her freshman year. She learned this sport over the summer and contributed right away,” says Jackson. “Caitlyn opened up a new venture for herself, because she can now run the 800 and 4x800 relay.”
Caitlyn agrees with Coach Jackson. Now that she’s gained some experience as a distance runner, Caitlyn thinks she’s going to focus more on the longer events when she gets back on the track.
“I hope to do the 4x8, because it’s a team relay. I enjoy watching them, and I think it would be great to be in,” she says. “I love the 800, and I’d be OK with the mile and maybe the two-mile, but I haven’t fully thought the two-mile out yet.”
When Caitlyn started running cross country this fall, her initial time was 28 minutes and 28 seconds. She was happy to see that time drop with each and every meet. Caitlyn ran a personal-record (PR) time of 26:12 for North Haven at the SCC Championship and then finished with a mark of 26:23 in the Class MM State Championship.
“My first meet, I didn’t know what to expect, but my goal was to hit a 26:00 by the end of the season. Through the progression of the season, I PR’d almost every meet and ended my season at 26:12,” says Caitlyn. “I was off from my goal, but it just amazes me that I could PR by that much. I wouldn’t be able to do it without the support of my teammates, captains, and coaches.”
Caitlyn is aiming to trim three more minutes off of her time by her senior season. She’s already putting in the work that will be necessary for her to get there.
“My goal by senior year is to break a 23:00,” Caitlyn says. “I’ve been doing a strength and conditioning program this offseason until indoor starts. I run at least one to three miles a day, so my goal is to definitely hit that 23:00 by my senior year.”
Caitlyn feels thankful to have found a home with the North Haven cross country program. At first, Caitlyn thought that running cross country would simply be a way for her to stay in shape for track. However, it’s turned out to be so much more.
“A lot of people think of cross country as this sport that conditions you to keep in shape for your other sports,” says Caitlyn. “I didn’t think I was going to want to do distance, but I didn’t think I’d enjoy distance as much as I did.”
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