Samantha Drop, a junior runner for both the Georgia cross country and track teams, has always loved to run. She started running cross country in middle school after her twin sister and fellow Georgia runner Jessica Drop began playing soccer.
“I wanted to do a sport too,” Drop said. “I wasn’t very good in other sports, but I was good at the running part.”
Drop started running track in high school, but cross country remained her favorite season. Now, while she also enjoys being a member of the track team, she still has a preference for cross country, in part because she feels more connected to her teammates during the cross country season.
“For track, you only contribute to the team if you get top eight and get points, but cross country it’s a team thing,” Drop said. “You are as a team trying to get the least amount of points, so if you do bad you will really affect the team.”
The private settings of cross country meets also appeals to Drop.
“I like that the crowd’s not watching you the whole time, so you can go into the woods do your own thing and then come out and be in a different place,” Drop said.
The team aspect of cross country is a major factor in the preferences of both Drop and sophomore runner Skylar English. Through their relationships with their teammates, Drop and English are able to maintain a positive attitude throughout difficult training.
Distance coach Patrick Cunniff notices the team’s effort to help each other during the intense practices.
“I think we do have a lot of time at practice [to bond] and the kids do that shared suffering daily in practice,” Cunniff said.
Although English has not competed for the track team yet, she believes that the cross country team offers a closer friendship and is more reliant on teamwork.
“During the track season … everyone does different events, even on the distance side and it does get a little spread apart,” English said. “The team culture is so fun in cross country because we are always together, so you really get to know your teammates.”
The cross country team recently traveled to Nashville, Tennessee, for the Commodore Classic at Vanderbilt. Georgia is currently preparing for its next meet in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, on Oct. 5. Cunniff uses every away meet as an opportunity for team bonding.
“Early in the cross-country season we like to mix and match roommates or put older runners with younger runners,” Cunniff said. “I think that’s one of the first times they are spending that time together.”
The Bulldogs are aiming to advance to nationals for the first time since 2017. They hold each other to high standards and celebrate each win as a team victory.
“There’s no better feeling than knowing your team accomplished something,” English said. “Seeing your teammates and being with them in a race knowing that everyone is hurting towards the same goal and that really pushes you.”