By A’ser Mostafa
While we watch the high school cross country team improve and break times throughout the season, we can also take a look at the middle school cross country program and see how it helps prepare younger runners for competition, not just in cross country but in other sports they may choose in high school.
“When you run, you are in pain. There are simply no two ways about it. Every second, you have a choice, to continue the pain, or to stop the pain. Cross country isn’t about running, it was never about running. It’s about learning how to stick with something when everything inside you tells you to stop. That isn’t a running truth. That’s a universal truth,” says middle school cross country coach Kolby Granville when asked about how cross country can prepare runners for life and sports outside of cross country.
Many middle school runners continue the sport when they enter high school. The sport is very good at preparing young runners for the challenges of running the 3-mile races that high school runners face. They do this by running 5-6 miles at their meets as opposed to 3 miles at high school races.
“Junior high and high school are very different. At the junior high level we compete in the Xterra Trail Race series against the general public, instead of through inter-school meets. So, a few things are different. First, our races are 5-6 miles instead of the 3 miles for high school. Also, the general public is allowed to participate in our races,” says Coach Granville about the differences between high school and middle school cross country.
Coach Granville also adds, “Our races are typically on a rocky, single-track mountain trail, while the high school typically runs around a grassy field, like a soccer field. And last, we have more random events like doing a ropes course, doing a color run, as well as going ice blocking.”
Perhaps the most important factor to take from the middle school runners is how they progress with the season. “By the end of the season, the cross country runners from the junior high are tough as nails. They can take more pain, run more miles, bleed more blood, and spit further than anyone else, from any sport at TPA,” says Coach Ganville.
“They are so fast, they can turn off the lights in the bedroom, and be in bed before the room is dark. Chuck Norris once tried to run cross country with us, but he was too slow so we dropped him at mile 6,” Coach Granville jokes.
At the end of the season the middle school runners become tougher mentally and physically because of their experience. “I get to see scared children become bullet-biting, bear-wrestling adults,” Coach Granville says about his runners.
With the cross country season a little more than half over, it will be exciting to see new runners from the 8th grade suit up for the high school team next year.