By: Dan Murphy
Fall high school sports offer plenty of excitement—a big kickoff return for a touchdown in football, the perfect cross and header for a goal in soccer. But one of the most exciting spectacles in high school sports is more subtle, and takes a discerning eye to see.
Watching cross country runners gut it out over a long and challenging course is a thing of beauty. Cross country isn’t easy, and it takes student-athletes who have a toughness equal to what it takes to be an offensive lineman.
High school cross country hands out more than its share of lessons and teaches student-athletes plenty.
- Teamwork. On the surface, cross country looks like a sport where individual runners try to do their best. But each runner doesn’t really attack the course alone. It’s easier to reach the finish line when you run with your teammates. Motivation and encouragement come from runners wearing the same jersey.
- Mental Toughness. Distance running has a lot to do with focus and forgetting about the miles while keeping in mind what you need to do to get to the finish line. You need your brain to be able to overcome the burning in your legs and your lungs.
- Discipline. Sprinting out ahead of the pack may be the urge, but unless you’re one of the best runners in the country that strategy won’t likely work. Resisting that urge and picking your own pace is a better way to run.
- Determination. The conditions at a cross country meet aren’t always ideal, and it’s not unusual to have to run a course that’s cold, wet, rainy and slippery. But good runners aren’t bothered by elements out of their control. They go to a cross country meet to run as well as they can, regardless of the environment.
Cross country isn’t for the faint of heart. It tests the mind as much as it tests the body. It’s a high school sport that doesn’t get a lot of recognition, but it certainly should.