At Mike’s American Grill, girls’ cross country team starts off season hungry for success

The heavenly aroma of hickory smoked baby back ribs with a side of crispy sweet potato fries wafts into the air as the girls’ cross country team strolls into the restaurant. As a waiter of Mike’s American Grill shows the girls to their tables, the teammates have a chance to bond, reminisce and converse through their shared interests. The cross country season has officially begun.
Mike’s Night is a special night for the girls of cross country because it is a tradition that the team has been a part of for many years.  It takes place each year in August during the first or second week of practice. This night is a chance for the girls of the team to get dressed up in sundresses, take pictures and go out for dinner.
“I look forward to Mike’s Night every year because it’s nice seeing everyone dressed up and not in sports bras and sweaty like in practice,” senior Emily Steele said. “It’s a great bonding activity for everyone from the alumni to the freshmen, and it displays our love for one another.”
Along with the girls who are currently on the team, the alumni join them for the night. It is a way for the younger runners to see past runners who have excelled in the program.  Mike’s Night allows runners to see old friends and teammates that have graduated.  It is also a chance to connect with one another and become acquainted with each other.
“I get to see teammates that have graduated as well as show all our new runners just what it is like to be part of our family,” senior Sara Gregg said. “The food is great and we all joke about how different everyone looks when their hair is not always pulled up in a sweaty ponytail.”
The girls plan this night months in advance because they have to make reservations for more than 70 girls. Mike’s Night is solely for the girls of the team, not the boys. The girls take group photos and grade photos before heading out to dinner. The photos allow the girls, many years later, to go back in time and remember their very first Mike’s Night. Afterwards, the team members carpool to Mike’s American Grill and have dinner there. The alumni of the team are present for both parts of the night.
“Mike’s Night is such a heartwarming experience, because it’s the night where runners realize how much they are cared for on this team,” alumni Hasini Bandara said. “I will never forget my first Mike’s Night, and I hope to be apart of many more to come.”
Mike’s Night is an opportunity for the girls, specifically the freshmen, to understand how close of a family the team becomes. It allows the girls to get to know one another better before the beginning of the season.  Not only does it bring the girls together, but it forms a strong sense of unity and creates many memorable moments as a group.
“I look forward to Mike’s Night every year,” Steele said. “Mike’s Night is a great way to show freshmen what type of family we are and how strong our bond as a family is.”
Similar to Mike’s night, the guys of the cross country team have a night called Glory Days Night. Although this tradition is more recent than Mike’s Night, both nights serve the same purpose: to gather the whole team together for a bonding dinner.
The guys do not dress up and take pictures before the dinner; however, they do rent out the back party room of Glory Days and enjoy a fun night together.
“I enjoy this night because it’s always tons of fun to be around the team and laugh together,” senior Kevin Monogue said. “It’s a great opportunity with such a big team for everybody, especially newcomers and freshmen, to get to know each other well.”
Whether it is Mike’s Night or Glory Days Night, talent is not a factor. Running is pushed to the side and the fight for first place is thrown out the window as the teammates genuinely get to know each other as the season starts off with a bang. They get to see different sides of each other rather than their competitive sides. This night is truly about the team.  The girls finish off the night with a large smile on their faces and the final bit of a delicious, flourless chocolate waffle.
“I am definitely looking forward to the start of the season,” junior Emily Potter said.