What is Cross Country?
This is certainly a common question for those individuals who are unfamiliar with the sport. To keep it simple, cross country is a team running sport that takes place during the fall sports season. Cross country runners train during the summer and throughout the fall while participating in races throughout the fall. During the season high school athletes take part in a 5K (3.1 mile) race and junior high runners take part in a 2 mile race.
There is no way I can run a 5K or 2 mile race! We have heard this over and over again, however once someone tries cross country they realize it is possible. We have trained runners who could run no more than the distance of a football field without stopping the first time into runners who could run for miles. Some of these runners also improved so much they were part of state qualifying teams! The truth is anyone can run cross country! Everyone is encouraged to participate regardless of natural abilities as hard work is the key to success and will result in personal growth. It doesn't matter where you start, if you put in the work you will improve!
In cross country no one is cut, there are no substitutes, and there is no one sitting on the bench. Everyone is guaranteed the chance to participate in all regular season and league championship meets! All that we require is you come to practice, commit to the team, and give your best effort!
Parent involvement and support is an important ingredient to our program’s success. The cross country program is a lot of fun to be around and there are many opportunities for collaboration and involvement. We conduct many activities and events including team meals, team trips, cookouts, hosting cross country meets, and team fundraising. Without the support of parents and families we would be unable to do what we do.
Summer Open Runs
In order for runners to reach their full potential during the cross country season there are a couple of things that runners and families need to do. The most important thing runners can do is attend summer open runs. Open runs are optional, but they allow opportunity for team-building and gaining physical shape. The most important thing to have before running a race is a solid base of miles. When athletes participate in summer training they are able to gain a solid base of miles which allows them to gain the fitness level needed to participate in a race. If attending open runs is not an option, it is highly recommended that runners run on their own.
Watching a Cross Country Meet
For those that are experienced with cross country watching a cross country meet comes with relative ease. However, if you are new to cross country attending your first meet might be a bit overwhelming. To state it simply, there are a lot of things going on at a cross country meet. There are tons of teams and runners everywhere, races going off every thirty minutes, and a sea of fans.
The first thing you need to do when you arrive is find out where our team camp is located (we normally try to have parents or fans get to meets early to reserve a shelter for our team, if this is not possible we use our large black pop-up tent). Once you find the team camp you will be able to interact with the rest of the runners, families, and fans. An hour or more prior to a race, athletes will begin stretching and then they take a warmup run with teammates about 40 minutes prior to race time. After completing their warmup, athletes return to the team camp and change into their racing shoes/spikes. The team then walks together to the starting line where athletes complete more stretches, preventatives, and run-outs. Officials will blow a whistle approximately ten minutes prior to the race and instruct all athletes of the rules and expectations. Once the meeting is complete runners return back to the starting line and complete any final stretches and rituals they choose to do before the race. Finally, the official blows a whistle to have everyone take their marks on the starting line and then the gun goes off!
This is where having a plan or following someone that has been there before is important. There are usually two or three central areas you can stand to watch the runners during the race. At the end of a race the runners are guided through a finish chute. Once runners exit the chute it is okay to greet and congratulate them. However, as all cross country runners come to find out cross country is a TEAM sport. When runners exit the chute it is very common (and expected) for them to wait at the finish line until all of their teammates have finished. After all teammates have finished, the coaches will meet with the runners and instruct them to complete a ten minute cool-down. This is an easy jog that helps runners “shakeout” their legs after exerting extreme intensity for a long amount of time. After the cool-down is finished the results are normally posted and trophies (if we have won one) are brought back to the team camp for celebration and pictures.
*Note* This is a general overview of a typical cross country meet intended to give parents and runners an idea of what to expect if they have never been to a cross country meet before. Runners and families are also encouraged to stay at the meet or arrive earlier to cheer on all of the other Seneca East runners. You will be certain to find out cross country is truly a TEAM sport and parents and families are our biggest fans!
Cross Country Vocabulary Words, Abbreviations, & Phrases
Often times you might here coaches and runners use words or abbreviations that you might not understand if you are unfamiliar with the sport. This is why we have created a section designed to help parents and fans have a better understanding of cross country.
5K – Is a high school race distance. A 5K is a race that is 5,000 meters long (3.1 miles).
Top 5 – the top five runners on a team during a race are those that count towards the team score.
Varsity – In year-end races like Districts, Regionals, and State teams are only allowed to run their varsity runners. A varsity runner is a member of the team who is in the top 7. *Remember, all runners participate in all meets until the District meet.
Finish Chute – An area at the finish line that runners must file through to ensure officials have the correct place for each participant.
Warm-up – An easy run that is completed before intense workouts and races to help loosen up the body.
Cool-down – An easy run that is completed after intense workouts that helps shakeout muscles.
Run-out – A run-out is something runners often do before a race while waiting for the race to start at the starting line. This helps runners to stay lose and relaxed while preparing for a race.
Tiger Review – Each week of the season all runners will receive a Tiger Review. Tiger Reviews often contain information and results from the previous week’s meet. It also provides runners with support and guidance to help them prepare for the next meet.
Mile Splits – When reading the Tiger Review each week you will see mile splits listed. This shows the pace for each runner as they completed each mile of the race. Remember, the last mile will actually be 1.1 miles as a 5K race is 3.1 miles.
Pack Time – The amount of time between a team’s first and fifth runners. The lower the pack time the better the team will place as long as the pack is in the top part of the race.
Personal Record – Often referred to as a PR, personal records are when a runner reaches a time that he/she has not achieved before.
Cross Country Meet Scoring
Cross country meet scoring is a complex system if you have not seen it before. However, after you understand the way meets are scored it makes sense. Each runner that crosses the finish line on a team is scored by the place they receive in the team race. The top 5 runners’ places from each team are added together to produce a team score. The lowest score wins the meet. *Note* Runners 6 and 7 on each team serve as “displacers” which mean they can add points to other team’s runners. Any runner after runner 7 does not count into team scores, but they can still win awards and place at meets. If the meet is tied after the first 5 runners are scored the 6th runner serves as a tiebreaker.