The motto of the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School Boys Cross Country team is “Nothing great comes easy.”
“We faced a lot of obstacles this season, mental and physical,” said head coach Jason Belinkie. “We talked about [the motto] all the time. The harder we work and the more we have to go through to get to that point, the more fulfilling the end result is going to be.”
That’s exactly how it turned out. On Nov. 13, the team beat the competition and took the gold at the Maryland Private School State Championships. It was the school’s second Maryland state championship since 2017. About 50 students grades 6 through 12 belong to the team, and of the seven CESJDS athletes who ran in the championship, three finished in the top 10.
“To be able to come back after a year off competition and win it was incredible,” said Becky Silberman, the school’s athletic director. “The running program is the most popular at school. It really is a team and a unit and a family. They do team brunches. They have team gear. It’s really such a great culture and a good reflection of the Jewish community.”
The championships were split up into two 5K races — one for high schools with more than 400 students and one for smaller schools. A point system determined the winners.
Competing in the 10-school smaller school division, Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School edged out the second-place team by three points.
Belinkie said that when he started coaching the team 14 years ago, expectations and participation were low. The team that garnered two state championships in four years and won six out of the last seven league championships illustrates the importance of support, high expectations and success, he said.
“It’s not about individual performance,” he added. “It’s about everyone trying to get better. No matter where you are on the team, you can have your own goals and methods of success. Everyone at the end of the season can feel like they achieved a lot.”
The state championship win was even sweeter coming out of a year where there were no formal competitions at all. “It shows how hard you train,” Silberman said. “Our league was completely shut down last year, so our kids had to keep up their training without much of an incentive. To be able to come back after a year of no competitions and be able to win was really important for us.”