The following are some of the most frequently asked questions by parents and athletes who are new to the sport of Cross Country. The questions and answers are meant to provide some insight and information into the great sport of Cross Country and the Salem Cross Country program.
#1: WHAT IS CROSS COUNTRY?
Cross Country is a varsity team sport which involves competitive distance running on a variety of terrains over a distance of 5,000 meters (3.1 miles) in high school." Cross Country courses can be found in parks, golf courses, fields, woods or parks ... anywhere a 5,000 meter course can be set up. There are basically three kinds of competitions: dual meets involving just two teams, jamborees involving six to twelve teams and invitational meets involving as many as thirty teams.
#2: HOW DO YOU KEEP SCORE?
Cross Country is a bit different than many other sports because in our sport the LOW score wins just like golf. A team s score in a meet is determined by simply adding the places of the first five runners for that team. Therefore, if you are a math wizard, you will quickly determine that a "perfect score" (as low as a team can get) is 15 (1+2+3+4+5). Look at the sample dual meet below and see how the score of the meet was determined.
Even though Team A had the top runner and 2 of the first 3 places, Team B - because of better team balance and "pack running" - wins the meet 27-28.
#3: HOW LONG IS THE SEASON, PRACTICES, AND HOW LONG DO MEETS LAST?
Our program begins in June with our "Day 1" training run where you will meet your teammates and receive your summer training program. Our season officially begins with mandatory practice in mid-August. The Michigan High School Athletic Association sets the official first day of practice as the second Monday in August. Our meets usually begin around the first of September, and the final competition of the season is the State Meet, which is always the first Saturday of November.
We will promptly begin our practices at 2:35pm and they usually last around two hours. 5:00pm is a good general time to keep in mind for an "end point" for practice. Please have your rides pick you up at that time unless otherwise stated.
The length of competitions vary quite a bit. A dual meet is over fairly quickly - the girls race, the boys race, and everyone goes home! That usually takes around an hour-and-a-half to two hours with warm up and cool down. Invitational meets are longer. On a typical Saturday during the fall we may leave school at 7:00 a.m. and then return at 2:00 or 3:00 in the afternoon. Whenever we travel, a time schedule will be available for when we leave, when we run, and approximately when we will return home.
#4: WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO RUN "VARSITY" OR TO RUN "JV”?
In dual meets the terms "varsity" and "JV" mean nothing. In a dual meet, both teams line up all their runners, the gun goes off, and everyone runs. In invitational meets, there are normally two separate races, a varsity race and a Junior Varsity race. In the varsity race, each school is allowed to enter its seven top runners In the JV race each school can enter as many runners as they wish. Our varsity runners for a given invitational meet are determined by the competition(s) previous to the invitational. Unlike picking a "starting 5" in basketball, our seven varsity runners "pick themselves" based on their performances in previous meets. It is not uncommon to have the seven varsity runners vary a great deal during the course of a season as runners improve, injuries occur, etc. The coaches will make the final decision for varsity at the Conference, Regional and State Final competitions based on a variety of factors. These factors include, but are not limited to, attendance, work ethic, attitude, physical and emotional health, foot speed, potential, development over the season, past experience, competitiveness and current varsity status.
#5: IS IT NECESSARY TO SPEND MORE THAN $100.00 FOR GOOD RUNNING SHOES?
The good-news answer to this question is NO. Of course, more can be spent, but a good pair of running shoes can be purchased for $65-$85. Another thing to keep in mind is that a cross country athlete really needs only ONE thing as far as equipment goes - shoes. No bats, gloves, sticks, racquets, pads, etc. Just shoes! When it s time to buy shoes, your best bet is to go to a running store like Tortoise and Hare or Running Fit. Once you're in the store, tell them two things: 1) what you need the shoes for (that will help them point you in the right direction) and 2) that you are a member of our team (that means a 10% discount!). If you do not go to a specialty store like those listed above make sure you get "running" shoes and NOT "trail" or "cross training" shoes. Shoes should have a good amount of support and cushioning for your athlete because imagine the amount of foot strikes there are in the 300 - 500 miles they will put in over a season.
#6: HOW MUCH DO WE RUN IN PRACTICE?
There is no simple answer to this question because it varies so much. With 40 or 50 athletes on our team, it is obvious that there is a wide spectrum of abilities, experience, and even age. With that in mind, our basic approach is to not have our athletes do or run anything that they are not READY for. That means on a given practice day a four-year veteran with perhaps 2000 miles behind her in her high school career might be running an 6-8 mile workout while her teammate who is new to the sport might be running 3 or 4 miles. Also, it is not always the distance that is the most significant aspect of our training; more often than not it is the intensity of what we run that is the most telling part of a workout rather than simply how far we go. One of the other main goals in our practices is to always be progressing - to hopefully run more (and faster!) than you did in the past. If an athlete ran 2 miles without stopping last week, then she may be able to go 3 miles this week. If an athlete ran 3 repeat miles in 7 minutes last week, then she may be able to do 4 of them this week. We have a quality summer training program that will get your daughter ready for the fall season and develop her into a quality distance runner.
#7: DOES EVERYONE RUN IN EVERY MEET?
The simple answer is YES! There are only two exceptions, The Regional and State Finals limit teams to their varsity athletes only which is their fastest seven runners. ALL team members run in ALL competitions except if an athlete is injured or sick. If an athlete is injured or sick the coach will decide if it is a smart decision to compete that day or to take the day off. Everyone participates even if you are injured on competition days by helping out the managers and cheering on your teammates. No one sits on the side. We win as a team and we lose as a team. Together we will compete.
#8: IF I GO TO A MEET AS A SPECTATOR, WHAT WILL I SEE?
A lot of what a spectator will see during a competition is based on what kind of course it is. On some courses you can see virtually every step of the race because of how the course is set up. While on other courses you may be able to see only the start, the finish, and a few segments of the race here and there. By the nature of the sport, even the spectators are "active" during a cross country race. There are no bleachers to sit in, and many spectators literally run (or at least walk briskly!) from one part of the course to another to see as much of the race as possible. It is a great spectator sport where you can literally be only a few feet away from the action!
#9: WHAT ABOUT INJURIES?
Though it is unlikely to have serious injuries in Cross Country (broken bones, etc.), it is not uncommon - particularly for runners new to the sport to encounter some sort of injury problem. By far the most common injuries we experience are related to "stress" or "overuse." Sore muscles, shin problems, aching knees, and hip problems are some of the more common injuries we face. Most of these injuries come from the body trying to do more than it is actually ready for. If injuries do occur, we generally try to follow this procedure: consult with the coach and/or trainer, follow the procedures prescribed by the coach or trainer (icing and extra stretching, for example), and take time off if necessary for the injury to heal. As noted above, the more experience a runner has, the stronger that runner is, the more miles that runner has, and then there is less chance of injury. A very high percentage of our injuries come from athletes new to the sport and who have only a minimal running background. Proper stretching, weight training, quality nutrition and sleep habits along with training on softer terrains with appropriate shoes will decrease your risk of getting injured. Sometimes 'like' injuries do occur, but we will do everything in our power as coaches and a program threat is reasonable and prudent to keep you safe and running. If an injury occurs please use the "R.I.C.E." method. Rest-Ice-Compresion-Elevation to start treatment of your injury.
#10: WHAT ABOUT DIET AND SLEEP?
These are two areas we as a team try to talk about throughout the course of the season. Regarding diet, we talk about and emphasize the importance of "healthy eating" when involved in an endurance sport like Cross Country. Rather than discussing healthy eating in general terms, we distribute lists of specific "good" and "bad" foods; those foods that can actually help one s performance and those foods that are simply empty calories or that may interfere with one s performance. Your body is a high performance machine and if you don't put enough quality fuel in it, the machine will not reach its full potential.
The same goes for getting enough rest. For the first month or so of the season, this isn't much of a problem: school is just starting, everyone seems to be rested, there s a lot of energy. Then as the weeks go by and the homework piles up and the miles pile up and the former eight hours a night turns into six hours a night proper rest becomes more of an issue. If an athlete s performances begin to falter in mid or late October, it often is because she simply is "too tired" to run up to her potential. And once that point is reached, it seems very difficult to turn this situation around. It seems that once a certain point is reached, it is nearly impossible in the relatively brief amount of time we have to restore the rest and energy levels that might have been there on September 1st. A night or two of "catching up" is not enough to recapture the 15 or 30 seconds that have "mysteriously" been added to a runner’s time.
#11: I REALLY WANT A LETTER JACKET, SO HOW DO I EARN MY VARSITY LETTER?
Every team and program is different, but here at Salem we believe in hard work and earning your varsity letter. Your varsity letter can be earned in the sport of girls cross country by accumulating seventeen varsity points throughout the season. The point system that we use is located on the form page. Longevity, breaking time barriers and finish place all play a role. There are seven other rare ways to automatically earn a varsity letter:
1. Compete for Salem in Cross Country for 4 years and never earn a varsity letter by points.
2. Run "varsity" in at least 12 competitions.
3. Break 20 minutes in a varsity race.
4. Qualify for the State Finals as an individual.
5. Run varsity on a unit that wins the KLAA Finals.
6. Run varsity on a unit that wins the Regional Finals.
7. Run varsity on a unit that qualifies for State Finals.
#12: WHAT DOES MY DAUGHTER NEED FOR THE FIRST DAY OF CROSS COUNTRY PRACTICE?
Your daughter will need all of the permission slip paperwork signed and turned in to the coaches. You will need to have a completed, signed physical administered by your doctor before the first day. Each athlete will need the medical consent and eligibility forms turned into the coaches. Each athlete will need appropriate running apparel, shoes and water. Please bring your inhaler if necessary. Please also bring a positive attitude that is ready to work hard toward team and individual goals. We, as a team, also require you to bring in a royal blue three ring binder that will stay in our team room to keep all of the paperwork organized.
#13: MY DAUGHTER REALLY WANTS TO JOIN CROSS COUNTRY BUT CAN NOT ATTEND TRAINING CAMP. WILL SHE STILL BE ALLOWED TO COME OUT FOR THE TEAM?
The emphatic answer is YES! Training camp is a tradition started before Coach Gerlach that has been carried on throughout Coach Dave's years. If you have a family vacation planned or work that you can not get out of you do not need to attend camp. Training camp is totally optional. Workouts will be given to those athletes that can not attend camp to be completed on your own under adult supervision. An athlete can attend camp for as long or short as they want. We have many athletes that have had to only attend for a couple of days because of prior commitments. Transportation will have to be arranged to and from camp prior to departure. Camp is a wonderful time where you train hard, but also have a lot of fun getting to know your teammates and learn about our program.
#14: BETWEEN PAY TO PLAY, TRAINING CAMP AND THE TEAM CLOTHING ORDER, THERE SEEMS TO BE A LOT OF MONEY INVOLVED IN BEING A MEMBER OF THIS TEAM. WHAT FUNDRAISING OPPORTUNITIES DO YOU OFFER TO HELP OUT WITH THESE COSTS?
We have many fundraising opportunities to the athletes and their families to defer some of the costs involved in being a part of this athletic program. Obviously no team or organizations work for free. During the summer we have three car washes scheduled where the athletes and/ or their parents volunteer their time working and we divide up the time worked at all three by the amount of money earned. That money will go directly back to the families to defer camp cost or a portion of the clothing order. This summer we will also offer Little Caesar Pizza Kits. This program will help your daughter with options to fundraise as much of the cost as possible. We also offer an opportunity to get pledges for time, distance or flat amounts at the annual 15 hour relay. Pledge sheets will be available at the summer parent meetings or in the team room (1604 Salem). The Captains will be organizing several "bottle drives" in which the athletes will meet at a designated families house and head out into the neighborhood collecting can door to door. After the cans are taken back to the store, the money will be split up between all of the girls that worked that evening. For further team fundraising information refer to our fundraising page here.
#15: WHAT IS THE TEAMS POLICY ON PARTICIPATING IN CLUB, A.A.U, O.D.P. OR RECREATIONAL SPORTS TEAMS DURING THE CROSS COUNTRY SEASON?
This is kind of a loaded question. We as coaches and a leadership team at Salem Cross Country, feel that it is important to be involved with activities year round in order to be a well rounded individual. We encourage athletes to participate in other athletics when not involved with the Salem Cross Country comes first. Training and competing for your high school has to be a higher priority. No athlete will be allowed to miss Cross Country practice or competition to attend a club or AAU practice without consequence. With that being said, if an athlete chooses to be involved in another sport at the same time as Salem Cross Country's fall season that is to be up to them and their family; but understand that Salem Cross Country practices and competitions will come first and will not be missed for outside sports functions. The consequence for participating in another sport during high school cross country are obvious. Risk of injury increases tremendously. Fatigue and inability to compete at your highest level in your competitions along with risk of letting yourself and your teammates down when being counted on if an injury occurs in the outside sport.
We as a coaching staff and organization have adopted the policy: If a Salem Girls Cross Country athlete leaves practice early to participate in a club, Olympic development, recreation or any other outside sport during the Cross Country season, then that athlete will lose one varsity point and may be suspended for the NEXT (1) competition. If a Salem girls Cross Country athlete does not compete in a Salem Cross Country team competition because they were participation in a club, Olympic development recreation or any other outside sport, then that athlete will lose two varsity points and suspended for the next (1) Salem XC competition. Multiple infractions will have stiffer consequences.
We as a coaching staff strongly discourage the participation in outside sports during the high school cross country season. This is due to the increased risk of injury and the demanding nature of the sport of Cross Country. Please be aware that participation in these outside club, AAU. recreation or Olympic development teams is your choice and understand the increased risk of injury and letting your high school team down that may be counting on you if injury and/ or fatigue occurs.
We expect that AAU and Club coaches to understand the importance of competing for your high school. We also expect the same courtesy from those coaches and teams that we will give them during their high school sports season. We promise you that we will not ask you to run several miles after going to a practice for two hours because you are also a cross country athlete. Please also understand that these are young adolescents that will be running four to eight miles a day during practice at Salem. Then fatigued athletes will try to go and practice or compete in a different sport and the risk of injury to these young bodies skyrockets. Some of our athletes can pull off two sports at one time, some also find it very difficult to practice at 100% for both sports; other athletes have been plagued with injuries and been unable to participate for either team. This is something each individual athlete and their families need to make and informed decision on.
We as a coaching staff and program recommend against participating in two or more sports during the Salem Cross Country season due to the injury and fatigue factors. We don't make you run during other people's seasons, so why is it a requirement for them during the cross country season? We are very willing to work with other programs and sports teams so please don’t hesitate to ask the coaches. We are also not saying that participating in other sports is prohibited, but that we recommend against it for the above reasons and the above consequences will be enforced.
#16: DOES SALEM GIRLS CROSS COUNTRY HAVE A TRYOUT, A TEAM STANDARD OR DOES EVERYONE AUTOMATICALLY MAKE THE TEAM?
The Salem Girls Cross Country team is considered a "Non Cut" program where everyone is accepted and encouraged to try and make the team by passing the team competition standard. "Cutting" implies that coaches look at athletes while putting them through drill and game like situations and then pick their teams based on needs and talent level. I, as the head coach, do not believe in making cuts for my team. I do however believe it is very important to have a team competition standard and hold my potential athletes accountable for off season training. I also believe that it is important to not put any young lady in a position where they may embarrass themselves or the program if they are not a qualified high school distance runner. Therefore, all female athletes will have multiple opportunities in late July and August to run a four mile course located in the vicinity of the high school. First year athletes that want to be a member of the team as an athlete must complete the four mile course in 38:00 minutes or under. This is 9:30 minute per mile pace. Second through fourth year athletes that want to be a member of the team as an athlete must complete the four mile course in 36:00 minutes or under. This is 9:00 minute per mile pace. Athletes that fail to meet the team competition standard, but would still like to be a part of the Salem Girls Cross Country Program; will be offered a managerial position. Athletes that have been on the team before and fail to meet the team competition standard the following year may choose to be a manager or continue to train with the team until the team competition standard is met. These athletes will not be permitted to compete until they meet the team competition standard. We also have a team standard for our training camp due to the intensity of the training program. Female athletes that wish to attend our training camp must be able to run four miles with out walking under forty four minutes in order to be able to attend.
#17: IF SOMEONE IS INJURED, DO THEY STILL NEED TO COME TO PRACTICE AND COMPETITIONS?
The answer is yes. If you make a commitment to be a part of this program and team, then you have an obligation to your teammates and coaches to be present at practices and competitions. There is plenty of work that can be done to help out at both practice and competitions. There is also many team functions and items that are discussed at the daily team meetings which an injured athlete would miss out on if they are absent. If there is no work to be done during practices then the injured athlete should still check in with the coach and the coach may give the athlete the option to go home or stay and do homework. If an athlete is injured, they may do rehab biking, swimming or weight training at the high school during practice time but will still stretch with the team. If the injured athlete is doing outside of school rehab, then they will be excused from practice as long as there is a doctor’s note for those missed days. If an athlete has a season ending injury, the coaching staff will determine where the athlete can help the team and what days they should be present at practice. The day before competitions and competition days the injured athlete will always be required to be present. If an athlete is injured and stops coming to practice without a doctor’s note, the team and coaching staff will assume the athlete made the choice to quit the team and forfeit all varsity points obtained before the injury.
#18: WHAT IS EXPECTED FOR ATTENDANCE AT PRACTICE AND COMPETITIONS OF THE ATHLETES?
Attendance is an absolute must in a TEAM sport such as cross country. This not only includes being present at practices and competitions, but staying for the duration of the entire practice or competition. Poor or inconsistent attendance not only impacts your conditioning, but also poses a serious threat to camaraderie, dependability and teamwork skills that are developed in the common struggles overcome in workouts. These skills are not only crucial to the success of our team, but are also lifetime skills that make interscholastic athletics so valuable to our team. If you miss a day of practice you need to bring in a note signed by your parents or teacher explaining where you were. Sign in and sign out before and after workouts in the coaching folder. Missing practice for any other reason besides family business, death in the family, make up exam, severe illness, or other excused reasons may result in suspension from one race or loss of varsity points. You are expected to still workout under the supervision of your parents if you have an excused absence other than illness. Missing a meet for any reason other than the above or items cleared through the coach may result in suspension for one race and loss of varsity points. Athletes are expected to stay for the duration of the competitions to cheer on their teammates unless cleared by the Head Coach prior to that competition. Be on time to practice and all organized events. Practice begins promptly at 2:35pm daily in room #1604 unless otherwise noted. Practice lasts until approximately 5:15pm. (20 extra pushups for entire team if late without a written excuse) All athletes must ride the bus with the team to meets unless cleared by the coach beforehand. Athletes that miss the bus for any reason will be suspended for that days race and lose one varsity point. Athletes suspended from the team 3 times will lose varsity status and be dismissed from team. A team member whom is absent from practice more than 5 times or tardy more than 10 times will be dismissed from the team. Additional infractions will result in more sever consequences.
#19: WHAT ARE SALEM GIRLS CROSS COUNTRY'S TEAM RULES AND CONSEQUENCES FOR BREAKING THE RULES?
A copy of our team rules can be found at SalemXCTeamRules07.doc . If a team rule is broken, suspension, varsity status lost, dismissal from team, or varsity points taken away will be the discussed consequences with the coach, captains, team, parent group, principal, or athletic department if deemed appropriate. The Head Coach reserves the right to make decisions and levy consequences for Salem Cross Country rules. Each individual situation will be dealt with fairly, separately and with the team’s best interest in mind. Athletics and extracurricular are an extension of the school day and are a privilege. School and athletic department rules also apply. Do not embarrass yourself, school or this team. Life is full of choices. Think before you act!
#20: WHAT IS THE NUMBER ONE ISSUE WITH ENDURANCE ATHLETES THAT COACHES SEE?
#21: DOES SALEM GIRLS CROSS COUNTRY HAVE A BOOSTER CLUB?
The answer is yes, but it is under construction at this time. Please visit our booster alumni page for more information.