‘Our sport is every other sport’s punishment.’
These were the words that the principal of the Anglo-American School of Sofia used to open the CEESA Cross-Country Tournament last Thursday, November 17, where runners from TIS competed. Running is not always the most popular sport, and yet, gathered in the gym were 160 students, who were all there, not because they were being punished, but because they love to run.
Over the following two days, teams of middle and high school students representing 13 schools from within the CEESA region competed over distances of 2.5 km to 5 km. As a combined middle and high school meet, it was one of the largest CEESA events ever hosted, in addition to being TIS’s first CEESA event. TIS sent nine athletes to compete. In the middle school division, the TIS girls were represented by Mara Bondare, Katerina Schmitt, Zoya Schmitt, and Arina Strakhova; Devon DiMatteo, Roque Ramilo, and Jaehun Lee made up the boys team. The TIS high school was represented by Emma Shiffman and Arslan Kasimov.
Cross-country running is a tough sport. Last Friday and Saturday were no exception. Thanks to several days of rain, the course turned into a 5 km long mud slick with several steep and slippery hills, as well as a stream crossing, along the way. As a result, the competition was no longer just about speed, but also about simply being able to stay upright. Most runners fell at least once on the course and all runners finished coated in mud. Muddy shoes and clothes could be found draped over all of the radiators throughout the entire tournament. TIS runners do not get many opportunities to run on trails, but they handled the conditions admirably.
While all of our runners did very well and we are proud of all of their accomplishments, a few of our runners deserve special mention. In the middle school division, Katerina Schmitt handedly won both the 3.5 km and 2.5 km races, coming in over a minute ahead of her next competitor. Devon DiMatteo also had two top 10 finishes, coming in 5th and 7th in the 3.5 km and 2.5 km races, respectively.
In the high school division, Emma Shiffman finished first on Friday in the 5 km and then placed second in an even muddier 3.5 km race on Saturday. Additionally, our middle school team, known for their loud and unique cheers, was awarded the Sportsmanship Trophy at the end of the competition. It was a great showing at our first competition and we look forward to heading back next year.
AAS Sofia were wonderful hosts and put on a great event. In addition to extremely well-organized races, they also provided our runners with many cultural and social opportunities. Some of the highlights included a city tour and a trip to the mall on the first day of arrival; performances of traditional Bulgarian music and dance, including a dance workshop, as well as a bonfire and fireworks at the end of the first day of races; and a series of non-competitive relays, including an egg toss on the last day of the event. Everyone went out of their way to make sure that we were being well taken care of and we thank them for all of their efforts.
The TIS cross-country season is not quite finished, however. This Sunday, November 23, the entire team, including all of our athletes who did not travel to Sofia, will compete against several local schools at the botanical gardens. We hope you will come out and support the team!