When asked about what makes their team special, North Shore girls cross country runners Nicole Schneider, Sophie Rosencrans and Kate Gilliam, as well as coach Neal Levy, all had one answer in common — they run for each other. In a sport that can be easily mistaken as one of individual achievement, the team of 24 runners place a large emphasis on cooperation, pushing one another to be better and to do everything they can to make sure every member of the team succeeds.
Their willingness to work together comes through during actual races as well, as groups of runners employ a pack running technique. In doing so, runners pace themselves with their teammates, helping them maintain a fast speed throughout races through constant motivation. Since only the top five runners per team are accounted for when it comes to scoring, this pack consistently puts the team at the top of the scoreboard.
This has cultivated a culture of remarkable success for the team, as it recently won its 154th straight league cross country meet. The program experienced its last loss back in 2007, and since 2006 has won 13 consecutive Nassau County championships, as well as a pair of state championships in 2010 and 2011. The runners will be shooting for their 14th county championship at Bethpage State Park on Nov. 2.
Levy has coached the team since 2004 and has always pushed the idea of runners racing for the team, not personal gain. “It’s really important to me that the athletes that I coach understand that it’s about the bigger picture,” he said.
This is a message that has resonated with his runners for a decade and a half, as alumni are constantly returning to North Shore to speak with the newest crop of girls on the team. This serves as a strong motivator for generations of runners, something which most of this season’s team members greatly appreciate.
“You really realize, when you see how many people are still invested in the program,” said Gilliam, a sophomore, “how important it really is and how we’re working for something bigger than ourselves.”
“It’s incredible, and a little unbelievable sometimes that this just happened,” said Schneider, a senior, after the 154th straight victory. “It’s been really awesome and a lot of times I just think about the girls who were on the team in the past when I’m running and use that as motivation to just keep going.”
While all of his teams have been special in their own ways over the years, Levy said this year’s is the closest-knit. He said they are constantly pushing one another to improve but doing so in a supportive, friendly fashion. This was confirmed by Schneider, who said that each girl genuinely cares about all the others. They are all great friends, she said, and hang out all the time, even outside of the cross country context.
Rosencrans, a junior, said the team also shares a deep passion for cross country, which she feels is the main reason why the program has been so successful for such a long time. Each runner wants to do well and put forth their best effort, an attitude which has been engrained in members of NSHS’s girls cross country team for generations.
After the Nassau County championships on Nov. 2, a select few North Shore Vikings will be eligible to participate in state qualifiers on Nov. 9, with the potential to compete in the state championships at SUNY Plattsburgh on Nov. 16. They may also be able to compete in the Federation State Championship, which would pit North Shore’s best runners against counterparts from all other schools in the state, regardless of size or whether it is private or public.