The Student News Site of Prospect High School


Let your voice be heard!
  • We love guest contributions! Contact Editor-in-Chief Brooke Michalczyk.
The Student News Site of Prospect High School


The Student News Site of Prospect High School



  • 11 PM
    36 °
  • 12 AM
    35 °
  • 1 AM
    35 °
  • 2 AM
    35 °
  • 3 AM
    34 °
  • 4 AM
    33 °
  • 5 AM
    33 °
  • 6 AM
    33 °
  • 7 AM
    32 °
  • 8 AM
    32 °
  • 9 AM
    32 °
  • 10 AM
    32 °
  • 11 AM
    34 °
  • 12 PM
    34 °
  • 1 PM
    36 °
  • 2 PM
    36 °
  • 3 PM
    37 °
  • 4 PM
    38 °
  • 5 PM
    38 °
  • 6 PM
    39 °
  • 7 PM
    39 °
  • 8 PM
    45 °
  • 9 PM
    46 °
  • 10 PM
    38 °
  • 11 PM
    47 °
December 6
40°/ 28°
Partly cloudy
December 7
39°/ 32°
December 8
52°/ 39°
Patchy rain possible
December 9
55°/ 40°
Patchy rain possible
December 10
35°/ 31°
Patchy rain possible
December 11
37°/ 29°

This poll has ended.

What breakfast food do you prefer?


Sorry, there was an error loading this poll.

New XC coach shares wisdom, becomes wiser

(Photo courtesy of Justin Peabody)

Looking around at the towering city skyscrapers and winding concrete roads of Chicago, new assistant girls cross country coach Sarah Harden cut through a sea of energetic spectators cheering on her and her fellow marathon runners at the Chicago Marathon on Oct. 9, 2022. 

Similar to her experience in the 2021 Chicago Marathon and the 2023 Boston Marathon, the October race seemed like a breeze to her through the first 15-16 miles of the marathon. However, that changed around 16 miles in, when aches and fatigue settled in and made the rest of the race more challenging for her. 

“It was pretty much the worst experience ever in the last few miles … probably the worst of any I’d ever raced in my life,” Harden said.

Fortunately, Harden was running with one of her former teammates from high school, who motivated Harden to persevere through the pain. Since Harden and her teammate ran at a similar pace, Harden focused less on her individual speed and more on keeping pace with her teammate for the remainder of the race. She ended up finishing the marathon in 2 hours and 52 minutes, which is the fastest marathon she’s ran to date.

“Looking back, I ran the time that I wanted to run,” Harden said. “I was really happy about that. It’s always fulfilling to … reach the goals you’ve aimed for … I’m at a point where if I ever want to run a marathon again, that’d be great; hopefully I can improve on my time, but if I don’t run [another] marathon, I can walk away from that experience feeling happy with what I’ve run and feeling like I’ve accomplished that goal.”

Although she has never coached before, Harden has essentially been running her whole life. She’s experienced plenty of competition under her belt at the middle school, high school, and college levels in addition to her marathon-running experience. Having raced for Hersey High School’s cross country team, Harden frequently went head to head with Prospect’s cross country team, giving her a preemptive glance at the immense talent within Prospect’s program. This eventually motivated her to work for Prospect as an assistant volunteer coach this season.

After graduating from Hersey, Harden became an Exercise Science Major at Taylor University. Due to her long-established love of running and kinesiology, she became a personal trainer for the university’s athletes and is now in Physical Therapy (PT) school at Rosalind Franklin University in Chicago. She plans to complete her graduate studies this November with a Doctorate degree in PT.

In the meantime, Harden decided that coaching as a volunteer at a local high school would fill the spare time she had amidst the research she is doing for her studies. 

“When I was thinking of which high school to go to, Prospect was kind of the obvious choice, because they have had a long-standing reputation of just being a good program of good people, so I just thought it would be the best opportunity I knew in the district to continue to learn and to get some coaching experience,” Harden said.

After several years of working with people one-on-one through her PT job, Harden’s new coaching role is working with a team of 64 athletes. Harden’s main focus is to connect with each athlete and get to know them as well as possible so she can understand their own personal needs.   

“I’ve learned that you need to be very intentional to step out of your way to get to know people on an individual level when there’s so many of them,” Harden said.

One way Harden does this is by joining small groups of athletes on runs during practices, presenting an opportunity to make each athlete feel at ease.

Junior Veronica Znajda, who is on the girls cross country team, appreciates that Harden often does their workouts with them.

“I think [Coach Harden running with us] is definitely helpful because she’s like right there experiencing it with us and she knows how hard it can get … it helps to have someone doing it with you as, like, anything in life, you can just lean on them,” Znajda said.

While Harden is eager to hone the athletes’ abilities so they are race-ready, she, along with head girls cross country coach Pete Wintermute, recognize that with this competitive mentality comes pressure on the athletes to perform at a high level. After winning the state championship and earning fifth in Nationals last year, Wintermute and Harden hope to manage the pressure to live up to last year’s success.

“We have to realize that, as we go to meets, people know who Prospect High School is,” Wintermute said. “ … we’re no longer hiding under the radar, and there’s a lot of eyes on how every kid performs, but we really have tried to take a step back and say a lot of that was past history, and it was great to celebrate in the moment, but ultimately, we need to take care of ourselves and focus on what we do well this year. When the gun goes off, it doesn’t matter how fast you ran last year.”

To inspire the athletes to be successful this season, Wintermute invited Harden to stand in front of them and share her competitive stories at Hersey and Taylor as well as her success in marathon running. 

Harden’s accomplishments include these accolades: she earned fifth place in the mile at the state meet during her senior year at Hersey and at Taylor, and she was a 10-time All-American athlete in both track and cross country, a title awarded to the top 16 all-state athletes in the country, because she earned fifth in the Cross Country Nationals during her junior year.

 By sharing her accomplishments and credentials, Harden gave the girls on the team living proof of the feats that can be accomplished through commitment, passion, and self-care. 

“[The athletes] definitely seemed interested in [my running history],” Harden said. “A few of them have asked me questions about it since then, so I think it is something they hopefully want to mirror in their own careers and can learn from.”

Through Prospect’s cross country program, Harden is eager to embrace the collective team spirit that she was surrounded by throughout her athletic career.

 “All the girls on the team are great people … what I’ve always appreciated about teams in general is that they offer you the opportunity to do something you couldn’t do by yourself,” Harden said. “None of these girls could go and win team championships by themselves … so I think that’s very special,” Harden said.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover
About the Contributor
Justin Peabody, Copy Editor
Hi everyone! My name is Justin Peabody, and I am a Copy Editor for the Prospector. I am currently a senior, and this is my second year on staff. I enjoy producing news and feature stories the most, but I have dabbled a bit in opinion writing as well. Outside of journalism, I run Mid-Distance Track. My favorite event is the 800 meter! I can solve the 3x3 Rubik’s Cube in under 3 minutes (if I’m lucky, under 2 minutes).

Comments (0)

The email you enter will not be displayed on your comment.
All ProspectorNow Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *