Maria Carrillo Cross Country Basics:
Team Philosophy: High School sports should be fun and rewarding for student athletes across a wide spectrum of ability! The coaches’ goal is to create an environment where each individual is valued and respected, each participant is committed to the success and well-being of the team, and where the consistency and quality of training commonly results in significant individual improvement and team competitive success.
We welcome any student athlete that is willing to make the commitment to consistently work toward our common goals, regardless of fitness or ability. However, we also want to respect the competitive aspects of our sport and we require our athletes to achieve a minimum fitness level prior to allowing them to represent MCHS in competition. Our minimum fitness standard is currently 14:00 for 2 miles on the track for boys, 16:30 for girls. In our experience, these goals can eventually be achieved by almost every able-bodied teenager who is willing to go through the effort of getting in shape. We love to help them get there and will provide the support and opportunity if they are willing to stick with it!
The coaches will devote most of their attention recognizing effort and relative improvement, no matter whether the athlete finishes first or last. The fastest runners already get automatic recognition for finishing at the top and getting awards! We want to encourage our future fast runners and to build a supportive team culture by focusing on the process of getting better, no matter where you happen to rank today.
Benefits of cross country: for a few, competitive running is an activity they will be able to pursue in college, and their cross country accomplishments might help as part of their college entry process. For the vast majority, the benefits of participating on our team are developing transferable life skills in a supportive environment: life-long fitness, goal setting, teamwork, pushing through personal boundaries, and developing great friendships.
Training: Our training is designed to allow our athletes to achieve their best in a 3 mile race. This generally involves three principal modes of conditioning – (1) cardiovascular conditioning, (2) endurance or blood-lactate threshold training, and (3) speed repetition or running economy training.
Cardiovascular training is meant to result in adaptations which will improve athlete’s ability to deliver and use more oxygen in their major running muscles (measured by VO2 max). This training mostly involves longer, sustained running at a relatively comfortable pace.
Endurance or lactate threshold training is designed to improve the body’s ability to clear blood-lactate at extended levels of high intensity effort (sustaining effort near VO2 max) This training will involve running some form of intervals at somewhat higher intensity (either on trails, on hills, or on the track) with short recoveries.
Finally, speed repetition/running economy involves shorter but fast running intervals, technique drills, and strength circuit conditioning. The goal of this type of training is to adapt the athlete’s neuro-muscular systems to be able to run at racing speeds with greatest efficiency.
We tend to design each practice to emphasize one of these components, and will generally alternate emphasis so we are not doing the same type of conditioning on successive days. We will change the mix of training, duration, and intensity depending on the athlete’s needs and where we are in the season. Since we have over 80 runners at various levels of fitness and ability training each day, we will generally break into groups targeting a range of duration and intensity to optimize each athlete’s training.
There is a fourth critical element of training that we sprinkle throughout – perhaps the most important of all - we call it fun and good cheer! We try to complete some serious workouts with as much goofiness and humor as we can!
After-school workouts generally last 2 hours – this includes travel up to and back from Annadel or Howarth Park on days when we don’t practice at school. We also ask runners to join with a few friends to complete one long run on their own over the weekend. Depending on the runner this should be at least 40 minutes of continuous easy running and somewhat longer for more mature and experienced athletes.
Total weekly mileage will vary greatly by athlete. Novice runners that have never trained for distance running may start out running perhaps less than 20 miles per week while a very few juniors and seniors that have been running year round through their high school career might be in the mid to high 40's a week at some points in the season. In all cases, we seek to match the duration and intensity of training to the runner's fitness and current needs (ie, "more" is not always better -- we are looking for the optimal level of stimulus that allows the athlete to get faster without risking getting injured, worn out, or sick).
Competitions: High School competition will range between 2 and 3.1 mile courses. Some competitions will involve many teams (invitationals, championship meets), while others will include perhaps 4 to 6 teams (interlocks), and others will have just 2 or 3 teams (league dual or tri meets). The larger invitationals might offer special races by grade (an “only freshman” race, for example) while the smaller competitions might offer only Junior Varsity (JV) and Varsity divisions.
We usually schedule around 12 competitions per season, but the coaches will focus on certain meets for the various training groups within the team. In other words, each runner is only looking to run “their very fastest” at a few meets. We will use the other meets to practice certain racing specific skills or hold some runners out of some meets altogether. The general focus is to allow each runner to achieve their best at the very end of the season.
Team Scoring: XC is like golf in that a lower score is better! In most competitions, a team’s score is determined by the sum of the place finishes of the team’s top 5 runners, although some special meets will use the top 3 or 4 runners. Example – a team that has their top runners finish 1st, 3rd, 4th, 6th, and 8th would score 22 points (1+3+4+6+8 =22 – good enough to win any meet!)
Varsity and Junior Varsity: Some competitions limit participation to only 7 varsity runners, others allow us to enter more than 7 in a varsity race. In the past, we have typically designated our top 9 or 10 or so runners as Varsity. Most meets will offer Varsity and JV races. A few meets like Stanford Invitational and post season meets like NCS and State are limited only to 7 varsity athletes. The North Bay League offers a league championship meet for Varsity (top 7) and JV divisions – so everyone is expected to participate.
We will award varsity letters to any boy that runs 16:59 at the Spring Lake course and any girl that runs 20:59 or faster, regardless of their overall ranking on the team.
We take great pride in our Junior Varsity program. The JV provides a developmental opportunity for future varsity runners and a place to participate for all athletes who achieve our fitness standards. The top JV athletes at MCHS would typically be Varsity athletes at most other local high schools. In 2009, our boys JV team was faster than all but 5 other Sonoma, Mendocino, and Lake County high schools’ Varsity teams, and our girls were faster than all but 4 other's Varsity teams! From the look of things so far this year, the 2012 JV teams may do even better...!
MCHS Competitive Legacy
We’ve managed to win some cool stuff while we were having all this fun! In fact, the Cross Country team has arguably been the most successful sports team in Maria Carrillo’s history. Each year we look forward to the challenge of adding our mark to this legacy - come and join us!