Belhaven’s Cross Country team gained two extra-ordinary runners this year. But one of them doesn’t run. He rides, usually with a sucker in his mouth and the wind blowing his hair. It’s never been out of the norm to see Coach Christie Barber (’97) running with the team, but not only is she back with son Truman in a jogging stroller, she is competing with the team. When she found out she had one year of eligibility left, Christie jumped on board the Cross Country team with her usual grit and determination. And Truman came right along after her…well, technically he led the pack in his mom-powered stroller.
Since 2001, Christie Barber has been building the Cross Country team, both physically and mentally. She has always been an integral part of the team, so the transition from only coach—to coach AND teammate—has not been as difficult as one would imagine. In fact, Senior Jessica Gunning views it as an advantage.
She says “It’s encouraging because she understands what it’s like to race: the tired muscles, the mental strength required, and what it feels like to cross the finish.”
For all involved, the 2008 season has been a learning experience. The team members have learned a lot about developing their strengths to continue their growth as a team next year.
The women’s team saw the most successful year they have ever had, claiming a hard-earned victory over cross-town rival Millsaps College at the Jackson State Invitational. The men’s team has young talent, so this was a building year for them. They fought hard for their placements, and with discipline and effort, they did see improvement during the season.
At the Mississippi College Invitational, Belhaven claimed sixth place out of eight teams on the men’s side, while the women registered a fourth place finish out of seven teams. Despite some challenges, the experience gained by this year’s team should pay dividends next fall.
Coach Christie Barber says “The men’s Cross Country team will return 5 of its strongest runners next fall, including sophomore Thomas Kazery who led the men’s team in ’08. The men should be contenders for the conference championship as they build on this season’s foundation.” She also remarks that the women’s program enjoyed its most competitive season to date with three women qualifying for the NAIA national championship race. Coach Barber looks to build upon that success. Though they are losing Christie as a runner, as well as Senior Jessica Gunning, Christie says she “expects great things from five returners and fresh talent.”