by cross country/track runner and staffer Kaleb Korta
To say my last 12 months has been an interesting ride would be an extreme understatement. I am a life-long Alaskan, born and raised, and after three years of competing for the University of Alaska Anchorage I made the difficult decision to part ways with Alaska in the summer of 2019. My head coach retired, the University was facing massive budget cuts, and not much certainty surrounded the future of the program. Although my time at UAA was cut short, there were many experiences that made a lasting impact on my life. Among them, was our coach’s mentality and approach to cross country and its constant adversities. There are many things that happen throughout a race that we have ZERO control over. The rain, wind, temperature, and race course are all things that no matter how bad we want to, we will never be able to change. What we do have control over, however, is our reaction to these adversities. He ingrained in us that it was these reactions that would separate us from our competitors and make us more adaptable as athletes, but also outside of the sport as well.
So, when things kind of went sideways for me at UAA, my reaction was to take a step back from school, see some new scenery, and spend some time just simply enjoying running. I packed my life into my Subaru Forester and headed down the Al-Can to my new home in Bellingham. After a few months I started working at Fairhaven Runners and Walkers.
It was around this time that I started thinking about the possibility of going back to school. I finalized my decision in early March and committed to running for WWU starting the fall of 2020. After being removed from collegiate running for nearly a year, I was stoked to have the opportunity to do it again with WWU XC/TF.
Then Covid-19 happened.
A few race cancellations, a slight hiccup in our schedules, and a couple weeks later we would be back in business, right? Wrong.
Colleges began closing left and right, and the remainder of the indoor season was immediately canceled. The cancellation of the outdoor track season followed closely behind. Fortunately for me, I wasn’t enrolled in school at the time so I wasn’t missing out on these collegiate seasons. Although my roommates and I were bummed about the track season, we were confident that things would be sorted out during the summer and cross country would be back in full swing. I kept on cranking the summer training like usual, logging long miles and exploring new trails with my roommates/future teammates. Covid had absolutely changed the world around us, but we were thankful that we could still get out and run. I tried my best to keep in mind what my coach had consistently preached in the years past. What could I control?
With all the downtime I had in the new Covid-19 reality, I, along with my roommates/teammates, were starting to get really fit just enjoying each other’s company on long runs and adventures in the mountains. Excitement was building for the upcoming cross country season, the team was coming together, and Covid cases were dropping nationwide. Then, as we awaited announcements on the fate of fall sports, cases began spiking again. While the status of our season was deliberated on, I already knew what the outcome would be. In early July our conference voted to cancel ALL fall sports and many other conferences began to follow suit.
I’m not going to lie and pretend that I was all positive or very optimistic about my future in the NCAA. After a few days of allowing myself to feel this massive disappointment I started to circle back again to what I could control. Ultimately the safety of our community is the number one priority and recognizing that fact helped me realize this is so much bigger than one kid’s (my) cross country season. It’s shitty and definitely not ideal but again, what could I actually control?? I do not know when my next opportunity to toe the line will be. It may be a few months, it may even be a year. But I do know that in the meantime I will be getting really freakin fit, and I will be ready when that time comes around.