HELENA — The Carroll College cross country team is flying high after opening the 2021 season with a boom, notching two team wins at the Frontier Conference preview in Dillon. Across those two wins, the Fighting Saints saw seven total top-10 finishers in the first race of the season.
When looking at the Carroll finishers, it was a mix of upper and underclassmen that scored well, a welcome sight for third-year head coach Shannon Flynn.
“It's been really fun to see that, and I think that's pushing us to be better," said Flynn. "Trying to figure out who's going to be able to work together in the races to make us better overall as a team has definitely been an emphasis.”
With Carroll aiming to make another splash at the University of Montana Invite on Friday, members of the team credit the early success to their depth.
But what's the reason the Saints feel like they're able to rely on anyone and everyone on the roster? Running’s hard, but doing it together builds a bond.
“Running is a sport where you're going through something difficult, usually most days you're at practice. And when you're going through those difficult things over and over with the same guys, and teammates across from you. That's what's going to build a bond together,” said Spencer Swaim, the lone senior on the men's team.
“One of my good friends Van [Gottwals] told me -- he said, 'Ducks fly together,' and that's really stuck with me because the whole team is working together," said freshman Mark Richter. "We're a big family here.”
One of the bright sides of this season for many of the runners is, compared to last year, they’ll get plenty of opportunities to continue to build that bond as teammates.
“I think we're mostly just excited to have more meets on the schedule this year," said junior Reghan Worley. "To be on that like fall time frame -- where last year we were doing a little bit of fall, a little bit of spring, a little bit of winter. We were kind of all over the place.”
Between the men's and the women's squads, each team has just four upperclassmen with two of them being seniors. With over 20 underclassmen dotting the two rosters and some solid success to their credit early, the Fighting Saints feel like they have a chance to be a quality program for quite a while.
“We're gonna have a good program for a really long time, because we have that depth and we have like a good freshman class," said freshman Andria Mourich. "Heck, just a good team in general because we see a lot of talent in the upperclassmen as well.”
The Saints will toe the line on Friday at the University of Montana Invite in Missoula.