Cross country is a numbers game. It's all about the time. The quicker the time, the better. The sport is also about endurance because as the name implies, it's more than a run down the block. This year's Utopia Cross Country squad is primarily girls. But don't worry guys, there are two male sophomores on the squad. The way the Utopia coach looks at the sport, it's about confidence and who you've run against before.
“When you compete against a small school, the students may think they are fast,” Utopia cross country coach Melannie McFarland said. “It doesn't mean they'll be able to run fast against the students from a larger school.”
Most of high school runners are returning from last year, but two are new.
“A few freshmen have joined the squad,” McFarland said.
At a meet, the students compete as a team and are also placed individually, depending on how they finish. The results may be about time, but to get that time, it's all about conditioning.
The students run a sprint twice a week. The boys do two runs a week at their race distance of three miles or 5K. The girls do two runs a week at their race distance of two miles. All the students do a long run once a week. They will run one or two miles more than the race distance.
The junior high runners train in the morning and the high school runners train in the afternoon. Cross country competition is not one speed all the way down the course.
“Runners sprint at the beginning of the race to get in good position,” McFarland said. “Then they settle in for the long run. Near the finish, they sprint again to finish strong.”
Cross country, like its distance, is for the long run.
“The longer you stick with it, the faster you see your time,” McFarland said. “Some girls have been in the program for five years. They are getting into good conditioning. Their times are dropping.”