Cross-country runner Alyssa Sanders finishes up a race. Sanders was named one of the team captains for this season. - Photo / Rowan Athletics

In the fall of 2019, Rowan’s women’s cross-country team took home the winning title for the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) Championship. Coming in second place with a time of 22:40.9 was Alyssa Sanders, who was chosen to be team captain this season along with senior Madison Edwards and junior Dianne Ferraro.

Achieving the honor of being a team captain for the first time two years ago came as quite a shock to Sanders.

“I have been a team captain of the cross-country team for three years now, and I was very shocked at first because I was not an upperclassman,” Sanders said. “However, I loved having the opportunity to be a role model for the big incoming freshman class.”

Sanders is a 21-year-old senior at Rowan majoring in translational biomedical science. She is from Pitman, New Jersey, and has been running cross-country for eight years since her freshman year of high school.

Being a student athlete is not just about competing in sport for her, but also working together with the team.

“I love how close you get as a team since it is a much smaller team than track or any other sport,” Sanders said. “So you get to build a close relationship with the other girls. One thing I love about cross-country is the high-mileage training, which was something I used to dread but now I have grown to love it.”

COVID-19 has postponed all fall sports, but there is hope for a brighter spring season. Right now, student athletes are working on strengthening their skills and staying positive for the coming months.

“I would like to see the girls grow as runners and not get too discouraged from not racing,” Sanders said. “I think this is a great time for all athletes to grow a strong love for their sport and develop a strong work ethic.”

And even though sporting events are not happening, Sanders choose to see the positives.

“As disappointing as it is not having any races, it presents a great opportunity for training and building strength,” she said.

While student athletes feel discouraged that sports have been put on hold, team captains Sanders, Ferraro and Edwards will help lead their teammates to success.

“I want to be able to lead the team with a positive outlook on the situation at hand,” Sanders said. “I also want to lead by example by doing the mileage so that way the underclassmen can see with hard work and consistency, the results will come.”

In her time as a cross-country athlete and team captain, Sanders has achieved much. Not only has she earned the NJAC All-Conference first-time honors and took first place at the 5K Philadelphia Metro Championships, but she has also been named a Rowan Scholar-Athlete of Distinction. And with hard work as a team, comes big reward.

“I think the greatest achievement of the team was winning NJACs last fall,” Sanders said. “We all worked so hard that season, and it was so great to reap the rewards from it.”

For those who are just starting in cross-country, Sanders has this to say:

“A piece of advice I would give someone starting out is to not get discouraged because it may seem hard and impossible, but if you show up and do the work you will see improvements and that’s the best feeling.”

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