An Introduction to the Sport of Cross Country

WHAT IS THE SPORT OF CROSS COUNTRY? Cross Country, as the name implies, is mainly a sport for distance runners. The sport is more complex than it seems on the surface in that it is a team sport as well as an individual sport, with the emphsis being on the team. Elaborate scoring and statistical data are kept on all races which stress team victory rather than individual excellence. HOW FAR DO CROSS COUNTRY RUNNERS RUN? There is no definite distance or method of running a course. Each course differs in length, terrain, obstacles, etc. Most high school courses are about two to three miles long. The recent trend is towards three miles. Junior College usually have courses of from three to four miles in lenth,and colleges have courses as long as four to six miles in length. HOW DOES CROSS COUNTRY DIFFER FROM OTHER SPORTS? Cross Country running differs from other sports in that skill and athletic ability are secondary to success. Boys who usually are not big and strong, and who lack athletic skills can make good runners. This type of boy is usually not wanted by the coaches of the other school sports. The beauty of the sport of Cross Country is that it meets a need for this type of boy. Cross Country is also without peer in teaching mental toughness. It takes real self-discipline, and just plain "guts" to put in the type of training that distance runners have to endure to become successful in their sport. In other words, hard work and determination are more important requisites to success in this sport than is athletic ability. HOW DO YOU KEEP SCORE IN A CROSS COUNTRY MEET? The team with the lowest score wins the meet in the sport of Cross Country. Each team may enter as many men as they want in each race; however, generally only seven run in the Varsity race. The first five men to finish from each team count in the scoring. The sixth and seventh runners of a team do not score but may add to the score of other teams. The score is figured by simply adding up the order of finish of the five top placers of each team. For example: Prospect runners take first, fourth, seventh, tenth and eleventh. This adds up to 33 points. If Lynbrook runners place, second, third, fifth, sixth and eigth, Lynbrook would win the meet 23 to 33. Team times are also figured in the same manner. The times of the top five runners for each team are totaled, thus teams can be ranked throughout the nation, on the basis of their team time. IS CROSS COUNTRY A NEW SPORT? Yes and No. Cross Country as a sport is new to the Western United States, at least on the scale that it is now being conducted. It has been populr in the Mid-West abd East for the last half century. Cross Country running in Northern California became popular in the late fifties. Forrest Jamieson of Terman Junior High and formerly of Palo Alto High School was the spark that set Cross Country running off back in 1952. Today, almost every high school in Northern California has a Cross Country program. The average high school cross country team totals approximately 35 to 45 participants. Many of the bigger high schools have squads numbering as many as sizty athletes. In the last decade, cross country ranks as the fastest growing high school sport in the United States. WHAT ARE CROSS COUNTRY WORKOUTS LIKE? Workouts vary depending upon the philosophy of the coach in charge of the program; however, at Lynbrook long running on various types of surfaces with a varying degree of difficulty are stressed. Pre-season workouts are the most important phase of training. The goal is to accustom the body to stress gradually. We are gradually improving the efficiency of the heart and lungs as well as toughening both mind and body. All of the pre-season training is done on grass at school, in the paths over the hills, or on the roads leading to the hilly area. The stress is on the change of terrain, as we try to run some place different each day. Above all, we want to break the monotony of running in circles on a track. In short, we stay away from the track oval. The main goal of pre-season traning is total mileage. We aim at running at least five to 10 miles a day. As the meets begin, we believe in a gradual transition from distance running to interval training called the "Degrees" which are done around our grass area. Here you are trying to go a known distance in a given time with a certain rest period.