WOODINVILLE — High school cross-country (XC) running is an outdoor sport where teams and individuals compete on a 5-kilometer course over natural terrain and in all types of weather.
For the past few years, as my children have been involved in the sport, I’ve had a front-row seat watching many of these high school athletes discovering their talents, setting personal records and finishing courses that seemed daunting.
As a non-running mom of four children who love to run cross-country, I wondered what makes someone want to run in all types of weather conditions, up and down seemingly never-ending hills. So, I headed to a WHS meet to find out.
“XC is a cool sport because you are constantly bettering yourself,” said junior Anna Shobe. “For me, it’s more of a mental sport. It helps me de-stress and figure out problems.”
Cross-country is both an individual and a team sport as runners are judged on individual times, and a point scoring method judges the team. The top five finishers from each team have their place scored, and their finishing places are added up for the team score. The lowest score wins.
Training and practice are crucial to a successful cross-country season. A typical practice consists of sprinting hills, running through neighborhoods, core workouts, and even yoga.
Freshman Spencer Gudmunson believes, “you get out what you put into something. With running you get better with every practice even on those cold, rainy, muddy days.”
Distance running can be a miserable sport unless athletes are encouraging each other,” Coach David Weed said. “It warms my heart to see an advanced runner reaching down to a beginning runner and urging him or her along. XC really is a team sport.”
Coach Jennifer Bolibol finds she is motivated to be a better runner by watching these high school athletes.
“When you know a kid has been working hard in practice and then you see them go above and beyond themselves in a race it makes me practice what I preach in my own races. XC is really a race within a race. You race against yourself. And you don’t have to be the number 1 runner to have a great race.”
Cross-country is more than just running long distances over grueling courses. It’s a place to make friends and improve your performance each time out.
“I first started XC for the social aspect,” senior and team captain Grace Cirillo said. “But the longer I run the more I improve my techniques and the faster I get. I feel accomplished with each PR.”