by Allyus Fritz-- Fairfield Ledger--
Samantha Bell was seeking a fresh outlook.
Bell was living in Hilton Head Island, S.C. She felt that the people there were superficial. The wealthy community that Bell grew up in was not providing the acceptance that she needed. She wanted to feel something real.
The search for boarding schools that would take her elsewhere began. Her mother stumbled across the Maharishi School of the Age of Enlightenment while searching for boarding schools online. Even though none of her family members practiced transcendental meditation, Bell was intrigued by the practice even though she had her doubts.
“I was like ‘wow mom this sounds like a cult,’” Bell said.
Bell would soon find out that it wasn’t like a cult at all, and it’s exactly what she was seeking. She enjoys her new lifestyle and the people that she has met at MSAE. What she eventually found in Fairfield can be embodied in a single event.
Bell, 16, is the only girl on the MSAE cross-country team, which is made up of six runners overall. The team ran at Keokuk earlier this season, and Bell was enduring a tough race. The five males on the team had already finished their race and were waiting for her to approach the finish line.
Bell didn’t think she was going to make it. This is her first year running cross-country, and she simply wasn’t ready for the grind of it yet. Just when she was about to quit, she saw her teammates approaching her. Shouting words of encouragement, they ran beside her for the rest of the way.
“People on the team have been really supportive of me,” Bell said. “It’s awesome because I’ve never been part of a team before.”
This is the first year in more than a decade that MSAE has an official cross-country team. Sports at MSAE are traditionally more about camaraderie than winning, and this team in no exception.
Supporting teammates should be one of the main goals of every team, but the MSAE cross-country team makes it a priority. The unique nature of this team can be said for all the teams at MSAE. Students from all around the world are put together. In order to succeed, they must find a common ground and strive towards the same goal. Many are away from family members and running competitively for the first time.
Lalith Kumar, 15, and his brother Suraj, are from Singapore. Kumar’s family didn’t come to the United States all at once, so the move was tough on him in the beginning. The school and team have given the Kumar brothers the personal interaction that they needed to be comfortable in their new environment. The other runners on the team, Jordan Town, Alex Hoffman and Donovan Schroeder, all have spent their lives in the United States.
Coach Brandon Hyde, a Fairfield native, only ran a year of cross-country in high school. Hyde recently has started participating in half marathons. He runs at practice with his team not only for exercise, but so they know that he supports them in every way.
“For me it’s less about diversity and it’s about making sure that they feel equal,” Hyde said. “Some people are faster than others, but running together makes them realize that they’re part of a team.”
Bell shoves Hyde into the “tough love” category of coaches. This may be true, considering how Hyde trains his runners. Each practice begins at Boom Fitness and has three stages. The first is a weighted run. Each student takes a medicine ball with them and runs for a mile and a half. Hyde doesn’t worry about stretching out because the students meditate in the late afternoon right before practice, meaning each of them is already relaxed and loose. Next comes cardio, and lastly the team goes on a multiple mile run together.
Each runner says they enjoy the team and it gives them a chance to be competitive. Schroeder may have said what his team embodies in the best fashion.
“This is a great way to get in shape and be competitive. You’ve got to make sure everyone feels included but also challenged. We do a great job of that.”