Running a 5k With a High School Cross Country Team Is Best Way To Compete

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The Spotswood 5k ran by the high school cross country team and locals. Running a 5k With a High School Cross Country Team Is Best Way To Compete

There were some circling around the parking lot in a jog. There was some stretching, and yet, even more, doing drills in a large pack. No matter where you looked there were yellow Chargers jerseys that popped out against the dreary grey and rainy morning. They were the Spotswood High School cross country team and they showed up to compete. Which is why running the Spotswood 5k on Saturday was one of the best races to compete in for multiple reasons.

The Event

Held on September 8th, in Spotswood, NJ, at the high school, participants of all ages came out to run despite the light rain that fell. According to race organizer Paul Wasserman, turn out for the Spotswood 5k was down about 10 percent, with the rain most likely culprit. But the weather was ideal for runners who desperately needed and was a nice change of pace after the recent heat of the lingering summer days, and less humidity made it easier for runners to breathe.

With DJ Wacky Willy proving the soundtrack of the morning with upbeat tunes to get runners pumped, the event kicked off with a mile fun run.

Then runners and walkers were encouraged to make their way to the starting line for the 5k. As the humble crowd huddled forward, it was the Spotswood High School cross country team that made their way to the front of the pack of over 100 runners.

Photo Credit: Paul Wasserman

With a countdown warning, Wasserman blew the horn and the racers were off. The course included 3.1 miles through the neighborhood surrounding the high school, which is mostly flat and fast. There were aid stations—the final posted by the Spotswood Pack 35 Cub Scouts—and volunteers stopping traffic to let runners race on by. Police and EMT assistance were also on hand for the event.

After the runner crossed the finish line, refreshments including bagels and fruit were served while the DJ continued to play music before awards and raffle prizes were handed out.

Can’t Out Run The Cross Country Stars

During the race, even those front of the pack couldn’t catch the heels of the high school cross country team. “What it’s like to be young again,” one middle-aged finisher said to a friend after hearing of a high school winner’s time.

Running alongside high schoolers is a humbling experience for anyone who takes their passion for running seriously and is past their teenage years. For some, their time on a track team might be their running prime. Others who found their love for running later in life, clocking in the numbers of these kids seems almost superhuman. No matter where you are in your own running, their times are nothing short of impressive.

This is why competition against them in a race is the worst—and I say that in the best way possible. There is no chance anyone can beat these cross country runners. They have the speed that is long sought after and do so effortlessly. Hats off to their hard work.

18-year-old Joseph Harold crossed the finish line tape first with a time of 17:09.0. That is a 5:31 pace! On his heels was Anthony Nobile, 18, with a time of 17:51.3, followed by Jack Welsh, 16, with 17:55.2.

Top runners take the lead at the Spotswood 5k. Photo Credit: Paul Wasserman

And while the runner won’t be out running these cross-country stars, it’s a fun attempt at trying to catch them throughout the race (even if this is impossible). That makes it one of the best kinds of races because the runner is pushing themselves to run that much faster. This often leads to a PR.

Some Town Feel

What also makes this race a great race to run is the fact that it all about the community.

The race was small, but nothing less than being nicely organized. It has a certain charm about it that allows runners to be active (in the literal sense) in their neighborhood.

“Spotswood is a very small community and the Spotswood Recreation department sponsors the yearly 5K/Fun Run event to inspire our residents to get out and participate.,” Wasserman told RunnerClick.

This meant running with friends, family, and neighbors. Spouses with their little ones in tow rooted on their parents. At the finish line featured lots of cheerleaders as well. “One great thing about a small town race is that almost everyone knows each other and we all cheer for our friends and neighbors,” said Wasserman.

“We don’t have all the bells and whistles of a big race,” Wasserman said. But that doesn’t mean that is was poorly organized. In fact, Wasserman recruited about 20 volunteers that include past and present board members from the Spotswood Recreation department and their families to pull off the 5k.

It actually is refreshing to be stripped away from all the frills of a big race and put the focus on the at of running itself. The race was still time chipped using RFID tags, included a professional timer, and all participants went home with event T-shirts. The trophies for theta winners were also among the nicest seen among local 5ks.

And participants could clearly see how much Wasserman cared about the event as he took photos and chatted with finishers.

RunnerClick’s Lauren Keating finishing the 5k. Photo Credit: Paul Wasserman

More Than Team Spirit

What is also great about this event is that that 100 percent of the proceeds go to Spotswood High School programs. It truly is an event for the kids and run by a lot of those who attend the school. The Spotswood 5k is free to register for the high school’s athletes. Both girls and boys cross country teams participated and really did have that school spirit as they crossed the finish line proudly. Among age group winners was Wasserman’s 17-year-old daughter with a time of 23:14.6.

When it came to awards, it wasn’t only about the fast cross country runners. “Some years ago I was talking with the high school track coach and we both agreed that it wasn’t fair for athletes to win awards over our residents and other participants,” Wasserman said. “So what I do is create a separate category of winners just for high school athletes.”

These high school winners receiver specially inscribed medals. The rest of the awards ceremony focuses on the non-high school athletes so that all participants have a fair shot at earning their trophy. Trophies are awarded to the top three male and female finishers, and medals are given to the top age finisher.

For those who live in New Jersey, the Spotswood 5k is a great way to strive for that PR and run with some really fast athletes, who represent Spotswood High School proudly.


  1. Spotswood Rec, Spotswood 5k, Race Website