Hello! The high school cross country season ended yesterday with the state finals at the MIS track near Brooklyn, MI. Needless to say, this event drew a huge number of people from all over the Lower Peninsula (the UP has its own meet, which this year took place on Oct. 20th in Munising).
We made the trip to support our daughter's high school, which had one boy and one girl competing (they were individual qualifiers from last week's regional in Allendale). With so many spectators in attendance, it's hard to cheer on the runners, but we tried our best. We watched the start of their races (Division 3) at about 1/2 mile out from the starting line, then headed over to the finish line to yell our fool heads off for them. Our runner in the boys' race had a very strong performance, and hats off to our girl runner, who finished 5th in her race - good enough for all-state honors! There's a great photo of her nearing the finish line here.
We also cheered another local school, Saugatuck, which competed in the Division 4 races. There were other high schools from our area in attendance as well, and a recap of how local runners performed can be found here.
The end of this cross country season meant the end of our daughter's involvement in the sport, as she graduates from high school in the spring. Through her, we have seen her school's team evolve from a club sport with a limited schedule to a varsity team whose runners have received all-state honors. This progression, which has happened in a rather short time span, is a result of the hard work and dedication by coaches, student athletes and yes, the parents as well (I'd say at least some dedication is involved with us parents helping to run home meets and cooking up team dinners - glad to have done it though!)
Neither my husband nor I were involved in team sports while in high school (I might have considered cross country myself, but my high school didn't have a girls' team then), so being involved in one now was new to us! Although there were times when I would have preferred to sleep in on Saturday mornings (one meet in previous years had us getting up at 4:30am to get our daughter to school for a 5:30am departure to Carson City), it got to be a routine with us.
This year we ended up as unofficial timekeepers at the one and two mile marks. I got pretty good at identifying our runners from long distances away so that we could be aware of when they were approaching those mile markers.
Try writing down those mile times in pencil on the coach's list while standing out in a chilly, pouring rain! That's what I did during a meet at Calvin College a few weeks ago. (getting those times at our school's races that day meant that we stood out in the rain for nearly 1 1/2 hours). But as I watched all the runners in such poor weather I was full of admiration - you have to be tough to run under such conditions! (However, our daughter says that they don't really even notice the rain during such races).
Of course, other sports demand mental and physical toughness as well. But what makes cross country unique, I feel, is that each course is different. Some are relatively flat but others have challenging hills. Try running up a steep hill in 80+ degree weather - then imagine having to do it twice in a race (as the team did at the Saranac course early in the season). Even hillier is the course at Hesperia! See what I mean by tough?
Cross country is also unique in that it seems to allow for a wider range of abilities than other high school sports do. In cross country, everyone on the team races from start to finish - there's no riding of the bench as one tends to see in other sports. Injury or illness are the only factors than prevent a runner from competing on a weekly basis. We have seen kids who are developmentally disabled running in meets, as well as a vision-impaired student-athlete. Good for them! These kids are likely to be more at risk for injuries in the sports that involve more contact, so I'm glad that they could participate in a school sport via cross country.
In short, it was a great run (no pun intended) for our daughter while it lasted, and cross country is something we will always promote, especially to those parents who'd like to see their kids involved in sports but aren't sure if they're cut out for other team sports. It's a great sport!