So you have a child that wants to go out for Cross Country? Good for you! Cross Country (XC) is a wonderful sport of a lifetime that encourages both individual and team participation and a love for running. XC is also a great way to get in shape for other sports and develop endurance. If you are a ‘newbie’ parent and have a ‘newbie’ son or daughter that wants to try Cross Country, here are a few things to help you get started. After reading through the new parent guide if your child is interested in joining XC see our page How to Sign Up for JLHS XC.
What is the Sport of Cross Country?
The Sport of Cross Country is a competitive team sport offered in the fall of the year for both girls and boys. Teams consist of five or more runners who all race together at the same time against the other teams. The top five finishers from each team are used for scoring and their finishing places are totaled to see which team wins. The lowest score wins. High school freshman races are 2 miles long and Varsity is 3.1 miles (5K). The races often take place on courses in public parks and parents are allowed to attend and cheer them on from anywhere on the course. The great thing about cross country at this level is that everyone who tries out for the sport gets to compete. Even though the first 7 runners to finish are considered the “scoring team”, everyone still gets to run and try to contribute to the team’s scoring. There are no cuts, and no bench to sit on and watch while others play!
The philosophy is simple:
Have fun, train hard, and race well.
How Can I Help?
Your first question as a parent might be “How can I help my son or daughter get started?
As in any sport, it’s very difficult to come out for the team at the start of school with little or no pre-training. Pre-season summer training is essential to building a fitness base for intensive workouts and races during the season. We here at JLHS start practicing in the middle of July, 3 days a week until school starts. This way young runners can slowly build strength and indurance and avoid injury. Athletes are given a training program to follow which will allow them to be the best runner they can be.
Food intake and proper nutrition are essential for any athlete and particularly so for a runner. You can assist by having the proper foods available in the house and planning a proper meal for race day. Avoid fatty and fried foods, and carbonated (soda) or acidic drinks. Encourage small portions of easily digested food eaten about 3 hours before racing. A lot of these foods will be in the form of carbohydrates. Make sure plenty of water is made available. It can actually be fun learning about foods and how food affect performance together!
Shoes & Equipment
The best thing you can do for your son or daughter is to take them to a running store that specializes in running and the equipment needed for getting started. ESPECIALLY good shoes!! You do not necessarily need to go “all in” from the start but proper equipment to get started is important. Proper fitting shoes will reduce or eliminate injuries in most cases. There are many different types of shoes based on your child's physiology and running form. Getting the wrong shoe can cause more harm than good.
This includes (most importantly) the proper running shoe with the proper fit. Running stores have training sales persons to assist you with this.
Runner's High in Freehold, Miles Ahead in Wall and Road Runner Sports in Shrewsbury are all exellent places to get shoes. Mention that your son runs XC and usually they give you a discount!
For warm weather running or cold weather running, proper attire can also be extremely helpful. This would include shirt, shorts and even socks that aide in wisking away moisture during very warm weather and proper cold weather running gear as well.
How Can I Watch the Race?
FACT: XC is the ONLY high school sport that has a team national championship! But before we get there, let's check out some local races!
When you arrive at the meet, first locate the start and finish, then try to scout central points where you can see as much of the race with as little moving around as possible. Maybe follow along with some of the other parents, as well. Many of the courses we run are detailed on our courses page so you know the general layout. During the race, you can move from point to point along the course to cheer the runners as they pass. Be careful, however, to stay off the runners’ path and out of their way. Rules also forbid running alongside a competitor to pace or encourage them.
At the finish of the race, the runners file through the finish chute. At this time, it’s OK to greet them but they will need to walk around a bit/recover before engaging in a lot of conversation.
XC races usually are run in any conditions, especially muddy! Kids love that! So be prepared.
JLHS XC Q&A?
I can't do cross country, I'm not very good.
Anyone can do cross country. We don't make cuts. Our coaches will train you to run the races based on your abilities. We have runners who run 16:30 and others who run 25:00 for the 5K. We all train together but with workouts tailored to make you a better runner. The coaches take just as much pleasure seeing our slower runners improve as they do seeing our fastest guys set a PR (personal record).
I hear that high school XC races are marathons?
Not at all! Marathons are 26.2 miles!!! Freshman XC races are 2 miles (some are less). Varsity XC races are a 5K (3.1 miles) and most are over in less than 20 minutes.
My friend told me that XC makes you slow.
Many college sprinters run XC to build strength and endurance. Many top high school XC runners run under 4:30 for a mile, the best can run under 4:10!!. That's 62.5 seconds per lap on the track, four times in a ROW!! That's not slow, that's awesome. XC builds strength and mental endurance.
Isn't running miles around the track boring?
Cross Country races aren't on the track, but on wooded trails, grass and varied terrain. It can be like a mud run also if the weather cooperates! Cross country courses are all different and that's what makes it interesting.