On Saturday November 7th, the Minnehaha Academy Boy’s Cross Country team, made up of seniors Chris Schold, Bjorn Anderson and Jacob Gray, junior Gabe Satoskar, sophomore Tristan Tew and freshmen Maxwell Gifford and Anthony Guarnera, ran state along with individual qualifier sophomore Ava Perez Erickson. Aside from the stress of running at state, the runners had another affliction to deal with during the week leading up to the meet: Norovirus.
“Monday we had a team meal, and we’ve done things like this at my place before,” said head coach Christian Zimmerman. “We had dinner, played video games, we all touched the same controllers, played foosball, played ping pong.”
Monday and Tuesday all of the coaches and runners felt fine; during the workout on Tuesday, Zimmerman felt that the runners were reaching their goals exceptionally well.
On Tuesday night, Zimmerman woke up at 11:30 PM feeling bloated. “I held out until 4:30AM before I started puking my guts out,” he said. What he did not know at the time, but was to learn the next day, was that all of his assistant coaches and state runners were going through the exact same thing.
“I got a call from Minnesota Center for Disease Control, asked me a bunch of questions, said ‘We think it might be Norovirus,'” said Zimmerman. Norovirus, also known as “Winter Vomiting Bug” can have an incubating period in the body of 48 hours, meaning it could have been caused by a variety of different sources at the Monday night dinner or afterwards. Food poisoning, on the other hand, was ruled out, because its effects are felt within 24 hours of eating the food.
“I remember thinking that I’m not going to tell anyone else this, but ‘how will we race?'” said Zimmerman, referring to Wednesday.
After a light jog on Friday, during which the team said their legs felt fine but their stomachs didn’t, the team did race on Saturday.
“The first mile was just not good,” he said. At that point, Zimmerman was thinking that the boy’s team could’ve easily been 16th out of 16 teams. “They moved up after the first mile, and finished tenth. After Wednesday, finishing tenth out of 16 teams is saying something,” said Zimmerman. “In races, any little doubt that comes in can drag you down, and a lot of them did a great job of fighting that off.”
Moving forward, Zimmerman is going to focus on cleanliness at team meals, to ensure that no diseases are transmitted.
“The year that we all puked our guts out and still beat teams at state, that’s how we’re gonna [remember it].”