North: An In-depth Look at a High School Cross Country Team

The North High Women's Cross Country TeamWhen the sky turns silvery blue with those big puffy clouds and the first leaves threaten to turn from green to gold, even while the temperatures say it’s still summer, cross-country season begins. In power-house districts, mostly concentrated in wealthy suburbs, huge teams of teens congregate in parks for repeats, drills and strides through meadows and trails. But in some, like Eastlake North, a Division I school in the working class suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio, it can be more challenging to amass a dominating team. Other area high schools of similar size have dozens of girls spread out over freshman, JV, and vasity teams, but North has a total of ten: ten inspiring, determined girls you will get to know over the course of this season.


I wasn’t sure what to expect. A local financial planner somehow got hold of my business card and wanted to meet me. In particular, he wanted to discuss whether there was an opportunity for his business, the financial planning thing, and mine, this here running website, to work together. Under normal circumstances I might have blown him off assuming it was going to be a sales pitch; who’s got time for that? But for some reason, I agreed to the meeting.

With my three year old in tow, I was greeted by James Schleicher (SHLĪ-ker). When he charmed Jane so I could grab a coffee for me and a treat for her, I knew I liked this guy. He told me he was coaching a girls cross-country team and he was nervous. Would he be able to connect with them? Would he steer them in the right direction? His enthusiasm mixed with self-doubt was endearing. He wanted to do right by these girls he barely knew. And I wanted to help him.

And that’s how we came up with our plan to feature his team on Salty Running. I’m always on the hunt for someone in the running world who’s interesting to interview, or for special races to cover, or any kind of story you might want to read. And here, across from the table at my local Panera was all of that ripe for the picking.


Throughout the fall, we’ll bring you different stories, profiles, race recaps, and more about the Eastlake North High School Girls Cross-Country Team. We don’t know where the season will take them and we don’t know where they will take us, but as we’ve gotten to know these young women we’ve already been inspired, and we know they have a lot to teach us all.

We have matched each of the ten athletes up with a Salty Running mentor, who will get to know her, cheer extra loud for her, and get to know her for us. And with that, here’s a preview of the team you’ll soon be getting to know much more about!

The Team

Coach JamesCoach James:  The head North girls’ cross-country coach. He’s extroverted to the extreme, with a warmth that draws the athletes in and energy that infects them and inspires them to dream big.
Coach RobCoach Rob: As the veteran North boys’ cross-country coach, he is  amentor for the less experienced coaches and a guiding light for the entire team.
Coach NicoleCoach Nicole: One of two assistant cross-country coaches for North. She’s a kindergarten teacher by day, and a runner herself who is always quick to share the insights she’s gleaned from her own running experiences.
coachjustinCoach Justin: The second of two assistant cross-country coaches for North and also the head swimming coach. He serves in the U.S. Coast Guard and is a huge motivator and cheerleader for his team.
SydnieSydnie, Grade 12: Sydnie is the leader on and off the grass and works for every one of her achievements. Salty mentor: Paprika.
AshleighAshleigh, Grade 12: Ashleigh is warm and friendly and has the potential to be one of the fastest on the team. Salty mentor: Dill.
NathalieNatalie, Grade 11: Nathalie is pretty no-nonsense, loves animals, and has a lot of untapped running talent. Salty mentor: Spearmint.
VidhiVidhi, Grade 11: Vidhi is more worldly and thoughtful than most adults. If she strings together consistent training and doesn’t fall prey to over-thinking, she can exceed her goals by a lot! Salty mentor: Basil.
MolleeMollee, Grade 11: Mollee, a thrower in track, might very well be the hardest worker on the team. She is focused and runs with purpose. Salty mentor: Poppy.
HannahHannah, Grade 11: Hannah is creative, and quick-witted. She’s quiet until she comes out of her shell, and is often found hamming it up with her teammates. Salty mentor: Caraway.
CaitlinCaitlin, Grade 11: Caitlin is a newer runner who comes to the team with experience as an archer! Salty mentor: Tea
LydiaLydia, Grade 10: With a background in synchronized swimming, her grit is a bit of a surprise. She pushes herself harder than most everyone else. Salty mentor: Bergamot.
CalinaCalina, Grade 10: Calina doesn’t let asthma get in her way and she’s learning to push through her limits a little more each practice. Salty mentor: Cilantro.
CheyenneCheyenne, Grade 9: The baby of the team, Cheyenne is learning the ropes and pushing herself through a lot of mental challenges. Salty mentor: Pumpkin.

Wish them luck as they kick-off what is sure to be a season to remember!North Girls Cross Country

Did you run high school cross country and, if so, what lasting impact did it have in your life?

Chapter 1: The War on the Shore

Chapter 2: North to South

Chapter 3: Mentor Cardinal Classic

Chapter 4: The Brecksville Dip

Chapter 5: A Tale of Two Races

Chapter 6: Showing up in Strongsville

Chapter 7: The Gilmour Rise

Chapter 8: Into the Woods and Out Again

Chapter 9: The Conference Championship

Chapter 10: Rangers on Three

Chapter 11: The Lone Ranger

Salty Running boss and mother of 3 little ones with PRs of 3:10:15 (26.2), 1:25:59 (13.1) and 18:15 (5k). I love to write about running culture, mental training, and fitting in a serious running habit with the rest of a busy life.

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  1. I can’t wait to see what the year hold for the ladies. Running cross country in high school was one of the best decisions I ever made. It made high school more fun, but also helped shape the way I approach life.

  2. This was a fantastic idea and wonderful photos. Looking forward to more.

    XC changed my life as I became a runner for life, it will change their lives too!

  3. I love everything about this so much. I mean, for starters I love that the coach reached out to you for advice on coaching and helping young women…it shows he cares about his job and his athletes. Even more I love that SR is teaming up, and taking it a step further to mentor and spotlight these young women. MUCH needed bright spot in the running world if you ask me

  4. This is SO cool! It’s like your own reality series 🙂 Can’t wait to watch the season unfold for these girls.

  5. What a fun feature! Looking forward to reading along… To say XC impacted me would be a huge understatement. What started as a lark for my 14 yr old self turned into a core part of my identity. Happily been running for 24 years and look forward to many more! Good luck, team!

    1. I couldn’t agree more! Even not running most of the 11 years after high school, I always knew I’d go back to it. Even as a teenager, I knew running was an important tool to become my best self. So glad we still have it in our lives 🙂

  6. I love this so much!! As someone who didn’t run HS, I am so excited to follow the team’s season. Welcome to Salty Running, Eastlake North!!

  7. I love this feature idea! I wish I’d tried out for middle school XC! But the tryouts clashed with the debate team orientation session, so I skipped tryouts – can you say #nerd – and back then my primary ‘sport’ was ballet!

  8. I’m so excited for this. I feel bad because I actually never ran XC in school since I am a late bloomer in running. But that doesn’t mean I can’t be a great cheerleader and support person 🙂

  9. Couldn’t love this more!! I went to North! Funny at the time I hated running and I thought those cross country girls were crazy. Oh how things have shifted 🙂 Looking forward to seeing more features about the team!

  10. What an awesome idea – I look forward to following along! I ran cross-country in middle school and the first couple years of HS, but never stuck with it long enough to get past the painful part of running. But, it was my first real foray into sports, which led to rugby, which eventually helped me find my way back to running.

  11. I ran cross country at North in the late 90s, and now I coach cross country and track in Columbus. It will be fun to follow their season. Go North!

  12. I’m a former North High School Lady Ranger cross country runner – late ’90’s as well. Loved those years of cross country. Still a very avid runner today. How wonderful this profile is! Good luck ladies!

  13. Oh my god! My girlies!! ❤️❤️❤️ Graduated in June, and can honestly say that Cross gave me some of the best memories ever. ??