I sat across from CB cross country coach and science teacher Mr. Danny Delgado ’79 at lunch on a cold November day. Before I could start the interview, several of his students and athletes looking for his attention had to be shooed away. Mr. Delgado is perhaps best known for his longtime role as the […]
I sat across from CB cross country coach and science teacher Mr. Danny Delgado ’79 at lunch on a cold November day. Before I could start the interview, several of his students and athletes looking for his attention had to be shooed away.
Mr. Delgado is perhaps best known for his longtime role as the charismatic head of the CB cross country program. The majority of students are probably aware of Coach Delgado and the team’s presence on campus, but that’s where the depth of their knowledge about the sport ends.
As a member of the team, I’m well acquainted with the ins and outs of training, the rigors of racing and practice, and the mental and physical blocks that one must overcome to play this sport. But he tells me that his team is still chronically misrepresented in the minds of non-participants. One clear piece of evidence for this is a frequent annoyance of Mr. Delgado’s.
“Sometimes people ask me, ‘How’s the track team?’ I say that I don’t know and they’ll have to ask Coach Morla.” He laughs to let me know that he’s not really too mad about it.
But the oft-commented comment proves his point. “Nobody understands the sport,” he posits. “They don’t realize that it’s not about the running.”
It might be revelatory for non-runners to realize that the physical isn’t the important part, but this idea has come to be the core of the program. Although Mr. Delgado puts a lot of stock in the exercise component of the sport, “the character part is by far the most important.”
“A lot of it centers around [the athlete’s] willingness to endure,” he says emphatically.
Cross country is simultaneously a team sport and an individual sport: team in the sense that you have the responsibility to do well for something greater than yourself, but individual in the sense that only you put in the effort to drive yourself to the finish line during a race.
“When you’re out there, there’s nobody to cover for you,” Mr. Delgado says concisely.
Because of the weight of this this individual responsibility, the coach admits that he gets “somewhat defensive about my kids because, in a lot of instances, they can’t rely on the team to carry them.” Unlike team sports like soccer or football, your own performance in a race is your result without any help from your teammates.
The important role that personality traits play in cross country is exemplified in the team this year. Instead of a “rebuilding” season like Mr. Delgado had expected, 2021 turned out to be an excellent year for the Falcons.
“At the start of this year, nobody, including me, expected us to do very well,” laughs Mr. Delgado. “But somewhere along the way, the freshmen decided that they could do this.”
Despite a lack of senior leadership, a loss of athletes and conditioning over COVID, and the loss of nearly all of the previous varsity runners, the Falcons’ team started to take shape with the help of determined freshmen and work ethic.
“Guess what?” asks Coach Delgado with a satisfied grin. “We ended up with two teams at state. Not one team and an individual, not a couple of individuals. Two teams. It’s only happened twice in my 20 years [coaching].”
The varsity team’s outstanding performance this year goes to show how far determination and “grit” has gotten them, even when starting from rock bottom.
But the positive messages about cross country aren’t just from the coaches.
Isabel McCormick (’22) joined the team this year, as a senior — a tough social situation for anyone. What she’s found, however, is the “inclusive community” that she feels is unique to this sport.
“I really did grow socially from cross country. Everybody is non-judgemental and so supportive in everything, even the little things, like cheering on everybody from the sidelines even if you’re having a horrible race, or in last place, they’re still cheering you on. It’s a really positive environment and it’s helped me be more confident socially.”
Michele Ratliff (’22) has ran varsity cross country for all four years. “[Cross country] has given me an opportunity to do things that make me feel proud of myself.”
“I feel like I’ve grown as a person,” she says. “It’s made me more comfortable with failing, but it’s also made me able to succeed.”
“Races, specifically, are really mental,” she elaborates. “If you’re able to learn to overcome the struggle, you’ll be able to succeed in other aspects of life.”
“My hope is that runners leave the program understanding more about yourself and what you’re capable of,” says Mr. Delgado. “These ideas of resilience, perseverance, determination — they matter in life.”