In partnership with the Matt Wyble Team of Century 21 New Millennium, the Severna Park Voice’s Student-Athlete of the Month series seeks to recognize the many student-athletes in our area who make an impact not necessarily by way of statistics or stardom, but by their unique contributions. The quiet leader, the solid role player, the glue guy or gal, the community voice on or off the field — those are the kids we seek to recognize. Do you know a young person in our community making a positive impact through sports? Nominate them by contacting Colin Murphy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the sport of running, individual excellence is the headline-grabber, and the fastest times speak for themselves in identifying the cream-of-the-crop ability.
But the top runners at any distance will tell you: training partners and teammates make all the difference.
That’s a big part of how Severna Park’s Matthew Bateman and Stephanie Brenneman shine for the Falcons.
As members of Severna Park’s highly successful cross country, indoor track and outdoor track teams, Bateman and Brenneman have excelled in their roles as leaders and team captains, embracing their places — often out of the limelight — for the betterment of everyone around them.
“Matthew and Stephanie are both fantastic leaders that help make everything go smoothly,” said Severna Park assistant coach Justin Marvel. “They are hard workers that are irreplaceable.”
Both Bateman and Brenneman are highly capable runners — Bateman runs a 4:30 mile and was part of Severna Park cross country’s state championship lineup last fall, while Brenneman runs a 6:17 mile that ranks in the JV range for the Falcons — but neither occupies the very top spots for the exceptionally deep Severna Park cross country and track teams.
Brenneman, a junior, has established herself as a leader and force of positive encouragement within Severna Park’s team-centric culture.
“Stephanie is a big motivator in workouts, cheering for every person down the line,” said teammate Grace Cambon. “She’ll be out of breath cheering every person’s name as they run. She gets the team to be more cohesive, gets girls hanging out, and she always has a positive attitude, and she does it all with a smile on her face. She brightens the team.”
From running extra warm-up or cool-down laps with teammates to helping the freshmen navigate pre-race jitters, Brenneman said she’s another limb of support in a strong family tree of Severna Park cross country and track.
“I think my role on the team is, I like to believe I’m a positive person and can encourage my teammates and make them feel welcome and included,” Brenneman said. “Us having each other to work off of and encourage each other, it feels like a family, so I just like being a part of that. I really give everything to my teammates, who make me feel like a part of the team.”
Bateman, a senior, is a strong runner in the 800-meter, the mile and the two-mile. His name often follows teammates (and best friends) Alex Chaisson and Garrison Clark in placements, but they cite both his work ethic and strong times as a motivating factor in their success and that of the team.
“He’s right there with us every day. He’s working hard and getting the job done, and everybody’s looking at him like, ‘If he’s working this hard, I’ve got to work this hard,’” said Chaisson.
Clark noted how much Bateman has improved over the course of his high school career as indicative of his drive and as a model for others seeking to reach their potential.
“Maybe freshman year he was lower on the team, then sophomore and junior year he made a huge jump, and everybody saw what he was doing, and they came to realize how hard he works,” said Clark. “He’s not only a leader as a captain, but people look to him and want to be like him because he pushes himself harder than anyone I can imagine.”
Chaisson lauded Bateman’s ability to return from injury as a junior, and Bateman noted that his running injury forced him to become stronger mentally and establish deeper resolve to commit to best training practices.
“That was kind of my turning point as an individual because I sat out for awhile trying to heal,” said Bateman. “I was watching my friends work really hard during these workouts and stuff, and I was like, ‘I’ve got to start taking this really seriously.’ My times actually got better after my injury because I had this mental change more than a physical change. That injury kid of pushed me forward instead of setting me back, and it helped me get back to being able to run with my friends.”
Bateman’s character aligns with Severna Park’s team-centric culture, and he sees himself as someone who slots into wherever his coaches put him and does his best to strengthen the whole unit.
“Something that I’ve learned through the years and developed while being on this team is how important the group is, not the individual,” said Bateman. “Cross-country is a very team-oriented sport. That’s where our strengths come in, when we’re working for each other and working as a group.”