Opinion: What is Cross Country about?

By Gerardo Lopez, Clarion Staff Reporter

This year the John F. Kennedy high school cross country team had one of its best seasons in 10 years, with every single division sending at least one student to Sac-Joaquin sections.  That event that determines who goes to the state meet. While it is arguably one of the hardest sports Kennedy has to offer, not many people at Kennedy seem to know what cross country is or who it’s played and even though the team had one of it’s best seasons, it is not announced or advertised like all other sports. 

Cross country is a team running sport with varsity (seniors and juniors) and junior varsity (sophomore and freshman) divisions. The races are 2 to 3 miles long and are run on outdoor, off-road terrain. The team works together to run the shortest times and gain the least amount of points, similar to the golf scoring system. There are also more than a hundred players per race, and the start has a distinctive sound of all the racers which some people say sounds like a stampede. The courses can be diverse with some courses at parks and others at schools, and some local and some far away. Almost each course has some unique feature that makes the course memorable to the runners like high altitude, dust, or wetness.  

Regional locations of cross country meets on Google Maps. Map data and screen capture by Gerardo Lopez, Clarion Staff Reporter

Cross country is also a challenging sport because the distances are long ranging from 2 to 3 miles and often contain obstacles like hills. The races are competitive with runners giving everything they have to try and win.  At the races there are sometimes ambulances and first responders for the runners who faint of exhaustion or have a cramp. In fact, at my first race I remember that the race was slightly delayed because a runner had collapsed and the paramedics were getting him off the course.  The practice routine for cross country is tough because it is done to prepare the runners to be ready for the often unpredictable conditions of the races. The training routine involves long runs, circuits, tempo, and track work.  

Make no mistake, however, this sport isn’t all doom and gloom. Runners often get to see beautiful courses all over Northern California – from Truckee to Sacramento –  and experience sweeping landscapes of lakes and mountains. Since cross country is a team sport, players often become close friends and are supportive, making it easier to improve almost every single race. 

One of the reasons I believe cross country does not receive much attention is based on the graphic above. Some of the meets can be far from Sacramento and not everyone is willing or able to drive long distances to watch. Another reason may be that cross country is a sport with very long courses and this makes it harder for the audience to watch the runners. 

So as a whole you can see why cross country is such a tough sport and the students who run the races deserve recognition like all other sports at Kennedy, it might be as simple as running but the environment is highly competitive and the courses make the sport even harder equating them to their counterparts here at Kennedy.

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