It’s taken more than fancy footwork to put Ursuline on the brink of history among girls cross country programs.
The Bears will head to the TAPPS state meet seeking their 15th title, which would tie a record. And along with arguably their most talented squad ever, they’ll bring a tradition of hard work and consistency that’s unmatched among their private-school peers.
Ursuline has won the past two TAPPS Division 1 crowns, and four of the past five. The team has never finished outside the top three at the state meet. Three runners already have multiple gold medals, and this team as a whole has finished with the best times of any squad in school history.
“They’re really accomplished, and they’re going to be really tough to beat,” said Ursuline head coach Jonathan Moody.
Ursuline already was a strong program when Moody took over a decade ago. But he’s spearheaded an effort to bolster participation in the sport. This year, the Bears have 69 athletes running at all levels, including many newcomers.
“We’ve created a really positive culture,” Moody said. “Bigger doesn’t automatically mean better, but it just so happens we’ve gotten bigger and also better.”
In terms of race times, this year’s Ursuline team is its best yet. Six of the seven varsity runners have run 5 kilometers in less than 20 minutes, compared to one or two runners in an average season.
Because of TAPPS rules, the Bears only run 3,200 meters at their district and state meet. However, they compete at the 5K distance early in their season, often beating some of the top public school programs in the area.
“We’ve been able to hold our own against some really successful programs,” Moody said. “That equips us for success in the shorter races during the second half of the season.”
One key for Ursuline has been the emphasis on how faster individual times contribute to the overall team score and feed into collective success, said senior Caroline Miller, who has been the top runner for the Bears during each of the past two years.
“Our top girls realize that it’s no longer an individual sport. We’re in it for each other,” said Miller, who has verbally committed to run in college at Tulsa. “When each of us strives to get better, then the team strives to get better.”