When not typing up a “varsity letter” sports column or making edits for common sense as an editor-in-chief, I am usually lacing up my Hoka running shoes and training with this school’s cross country and track teams. Being both a sports columnist and student-athlete creates an interesting dynamic, as my experience on the course and the track helps me to relate and connect with the athletes who I report about in ways that I would not be able to otherwise. Last Saturday, I saw the flipside of this dynamic after our latest cross country meet, the DCXC Invite, as this time I was the one doing the talking. Being the interviewee was quite the enlightening experience.
To give a bit of backstory, I have run for this school’s cross country team since I was a freshman and have competed on the varsity team all four years. One of the premier races each cross country season is the DCXC Invite, a unique meet that features eight races, one for each grade and gender. Though it ultimately does not impact championship standing and is a month before championship season starts, DCXC has served as a measuring stick for our team against the best teams from around the DMV area and a test of our own fitness. After fourth, second and third place individual finishes my first three years, I was aiming for the top spot in my final race at D.C.’s Kenilworth Park.
Facing top competition and a mud-soaked course, I came across the line in third place, short of my goal but a strong result nonetheless. After my race, reporters from two publications, RunWashington and MoCoRunning, pulled me aside for post-race interviews, and I was more than happy to oblige.
Based off my experience as a newspaper writer, I knew my way around the typical interview. But as the interviewee, I was faced with challenge of formulating answers on the fly and concisely and accurately communicating my thoughts. Throughout the interview, I tried to balance providing insightful and quote-worthy commentary about the race performances with taking care in choosing my words, as there was always the potential for my quotes to be interpreted the wrong way.
The differing angles of each interview also took me by surprise. Whereas RunWashington editor-in-chief Charlie Ban questioned me primarily about my individual race, MoCoRunning’s Kevin Milsted asked me to speak about the team aspect of the race (our boys’ team won the team championship) and adapted his questions once I brought up leadership roles. The result- one race, yet two totally distinct stories.
Reading the articles after their online publication was a strange phenomena itself. Seeing my name and my quotes in each article was surreal, especially given my years as the one writing the articles. I scanned each article word by word, checking that every minute detail reported accurately. Of course, even the best articles might not line up perfectly with reality, and my heightened attention to detail gave me newfound appreciation for the value of accuracy in journalism.
Perhaps my greatest takeaway was an awesome feeling that I experienced after reading through the articles- a validation of the performances of myself and my team. Both publications are primarily centered around distance running in the DMV area so part of their job is to cover high school cross country meets, but seeing me and my team featured in articles written by credible professionals gave me the impression that our performances were important and relevant.
When I boot up my computer for my next Varsity Letter column, I will do so with new perspective and an appreciation for both sides of the journalistic equation.