Running in the Family

Siblings share the sport of cross-country


Blake Royer (left) and Rylan Frueh watch a video while waiting to run at the Liberty Bell meet on Sep. 10. Blake and Rylan both have older siblings who got them into cross-country.

Blake Royer (left) and Rylan Frueh watch a video while waiting to run at the Liberty Bell meet on Sep. 10. Blake and Rylan both have older siblings who got them into cross-country.

In English, the metaphor “blood is thicker than water” is used to say that family ties are stronger than friendship ties. People tend to follow the paths of their family members, creating family cultures with incredibly strong influence. This can be seen in cross-country, where as the years go by, certain last names stay on top of the scoreboards.

This article will cover three sets of siblings — the Manns, the Bakers, and the Royers — for whom cross-country runs in the family. You could say that chocolate milk is thicker than water.


Vivian Mann first ran competitively in her elementary school PE class. When she got to middle school, she did what her older sister Alana did — joined the cross-country team.

“I do enjoy pushing myself,” she said. “[It’s a] feel-good sport.”

Vivian and Alana are “super close,” and Vivian looks up to her older sister.

“Even when I’m having a bad day and don’t want to talk to anybody at all, Alana’s always uplifting me and being positive, and even when it’s super annoying, I feel like I need it,” Vivian said. “She’s just great.”

Last year and the year before, the two ran cross-country together at Castle View.

“We always pushed each other so that we would be on the same team, varsity,” Vivian said.

Alana graduated in 2022. Vivian is a junior, and while she no longer has her sister running alongside her, she still has her in mind.

“It was definitely weird, her not being here this year,” Vivian said. “I really enjoyed having Alana for two years of my cross-country season. Now I feel like I can move on with her legend … keep doing what she did.”


During the 2021-22 school year, Ethan Baker was wrapping up his four years at CV, while his sister Ciara was just starting hers. They made the most of their year of overlap.

“We did everything together,” Ciara said. “[Cross-country] was the one sport that we could do together, because boys and girls can do it together.”

Ethan had gotten his sister into cross-country, and when they practiced together, he inspired her.

“He helped push me to be the runner I am today. He brought so much effort every single day to practice — that made me want to try to do better every single day,” she said.

During their year together at CV, Ethan was there for Ciara. She treasured having a brother to share high school with.

“He understands the trials and the struggles and the triumphs and he can be there to give me advice, and he brings me joy,” she said.

Last year’s cross season — and Ethan’s running career — culminated in the NXR meet in Arizona in November. After the season they had shared, it was an opportunity for Ciara to be there for her brother.

“It was just us two and my parents, and it was his last cross-country race for his life. It was so much fun to see his joy of getting a PR for all four years of high school, and being there to support him in his last big cross-country milestone,” she said.


Another set of siblings who run are Jayden, Blake, and Keeghan Royer. Jayden is a freshman in college, Blake is a sophomore at CV, and Keeghan is in seventh grade. Jayden and Blake ran together on the CV team last year.

Jayden and Blake get along, in their quiet way.

“Me and my little brother [Keeghan] fight all the time, but me and [Jayden] are closer. We get along with each other well,” Blake said.

“We’re hermits,” Jayden said.

I asked each of them if Blake looked up to his older brother.

“I have no idea. Maybe,” Jayden said.

“Definitely,” Blake said. “I look up to Jayden in a lot of ways” — not only to his running, but to his personality, self-assured and unconcerned with being like everybody else.

Like Ethan Baker and Alana Mann did for their siblings, Jayden inspired Blake to start running cross-country. When Blake joined, people on and off the team already knew Jayden, making it easier for Blake to make friends — “a shortcut to knowing people,” in Blake’s words. The drawback to this was that some people saw him as Jayden’s brother instead of as himself.

“A lot of teachers are like, ‘you’re Jayden’s younger brother, right?'” Blake said. “Jayden came here before me and he carved a path for me and I know more people because of that, but in another way, I wish I got to carve my own path.”

While at first the team saw him that way, since then Blake has set himself apart. He is already running faster than Jayden did at the same point in his career.

Cross-country gave the two brothers something in common. They would talk about it when Jayden drove them home.

“We always talked on the way home from practice, usually about practice, about whatever workout we were doing or whatever run we did that day,” Jayden said. “I drove him to school, too. But we never talked on the way to school.”