On a cross-country outfit that features about 100 runners between its boys and girls squads, it isn’t difficult to sometimes get lost among the masses.
But three siblings from the same family can take solace in their ability to lean on each other when things aren’t going as smoothly as they’d like. Those times have been rare this year, however, for Braden, Emi and Ensley Hammond.
Braden, a senior, and Ensley, a freshman, are varsity runners for Columbus North’s powerhouse boys and girls teams and will compete in today’s state finals at the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course in Terre Haute. Emi, a junior, is a JV runner, but saw her personal best drop by nearly a minute-and-a-half this year.
“It’s a lot of fun having two sisters on the team,” Braden Hammond said. “It’s great that we can talk about stuff on the ride home.”
Braden Hammond said the trio talk about how they ran in practice and how they can improve.
“It’s really motivating,” he said. “Sometimes, if I’m ever feeling down about a run, I have two cheerleaders who both know what is going on and how to best deal with those.”
A JV runner the past three years, Braden Hammond has had a breakout senior season. He has a personal best of 16 minutes, 31 seconds for 5,000 meters and finished 26th in 16:35 at last week’s Brown County Semistate.
“He’s good for the team because he’s optimistic and enthusiastic and energetic,” North coach Rick Weinheimer said. “At the same time, he races to the best of his ability and has gotten better and better all season long.”
Ensley Hammond entered the Bull Dog program with high expectations following a strong middle school career. But with a junior and three seniors among the top five runners, she hasn’t had the pressure of having to be a frontrunner as a freshman.
“It’s very helpful to have them on the team,” she said.
Ensley Hammond has improved throughout the season. She ran a personal-best 19:30.1 to finish 23rd at semistate.
“It’s not surprising, but it’s very exciting for me,” she said.
Meanwhile, Emi Hammond has lowered her personal best from 22:18 to 20:50 this year. If she can get down into the 19s next year, she’ll have a shot at cracking the top seven.
“Emi is a terrific leader, and she is always asking what she can do to help out the group,” Weinheimer said. “It’s nice to be a leader, and it’s even better to be a leader who is showing the way in your training.”
That’s especially the case when one of younger runners is her sister. The past two years, it’s just been Emi and Braden.
“That was fun because I had a sibling on the team, and we could talk about running at home, and he could let me know what was going on since he was older,” Emi Hammond said. “But it’s been different having a sister on the team because she’s on the girls team with me.”
Braden, Emi and Ensley are the three oldest of Jason and Janeen Hammond’s eight children. Northside Middle School seventh-graders Adalen and Aaron Hammond and elementary students Talmage, Zadie and Callie Hammond are all runners, just like their siblings on North’s second-ranked girls and fifth-ranked boys teams.
What: Boys and Girls Cross Country State Finals
When: Today, 1 p.m. (boys) and 1:45 p.m. (girls)
Where: LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course, 599 S. Tabortown Rd., Terre Haute