Sports are an essential social outlet for class 2024 freshmen

Zack Bukovec looking good

Zack Bukovec looking good

Zack Bukovec joined Garfield’s Cross Country team the summer before his freshman year in search of an excuse to get outside during quarantine (and, of course, to get “FAST”).

During middle school Zack didn’t run on a cross country team, so he stepped into the world of COVID athletics without much context. Cross Country’s social distancing policies, like forming small pods for practice or avoiding competitions, are just part of Zack’s new normal. 

Just because it’s normal doesn’t mean it’s not disappointing, though. “Time trials are kind of like races,” Zack said, before adding “I wouldn’t know, though, I’ve never been to a race.” Competitions won’t return until the spring, which gives Zack plenty of time to reach his goal of getting his 5K under 24 minutes, but also a long wait for the full cross country experience.

In the meantime, sports like cross country serve an important social function for freshmen who aren’t able to meet other students in person. “I’ve met a lot of new people in cross country,” said Zack, “we have groups of 4-5 people. Along with that, it’s completely socially distanced,” which while safe, is hardly the social experience of previous years.

Cross country is an endurance sport, so it always takes serious motivation to make it to the end, but with quarantine and no competitions, that willpower can be even harder to summon. Zack said that when in doubt “I just tell myself that if I don’t finish the race how I want and I stop it will bother me. That makes me try.” He continued that “when I’m done with a hard practice I feel really good.”

Despite that, if things were up to Zack, he would push back the Saturday practices (because, like us all, he thinks he could use some “SLEEP”). Between school, sleep, and practice, Zack makes time to play with his new puppy Bella – but absolutely no running with her, since she would go out of control. Perhaps Bella will break the 24 minute barrier on her own.