Field trip time for the Asotin Junior High cross country as we headed to Chief Timothy Park with the high school team to explore the course for Saturday's race. With only three returning eighth grade runners, and no seventh graders, the trip opened up a few eyes to the process of getting ready for a race.
Coach Cowdrey walked the kids through the check-in procedures, and simple things like how to line up at the start. Experienced racers take it for granted, but for kids facing a race for the first time, everything is daunting.
We ran and walked the course, taking note of the turns and describing what they could expect in a race - the crowd at the start, the habit of young runners to roast off the start line, how to present themselves into the turns, to watch for the other runners on the course beside them.
Pretty much the kids were allowed to run themselves out, to find out how it felt to actually be on the course. The wiser older kids paced themselves, and I could see the two girls, Maia and Carmen, making some mental notes of the footing. They also did a great job of working with the younger kids when things got to rambunctious with pace.
Along the way, we practice some things for hills - a couple of the runners were massively over-striding at first. Fixable and they catch on quick. The same thing with using their arms on the uphills.
I had a chance to work with the more experienced racers on some tactical things that they could do mid-race, including a demonstration of the effectiveness of a well-timed surge. After I surged out on a turn and short uphill, we talked about how it made them feel - and what it would make other runners feel in race conditions.
A group went out for a second loop, a group stayed behind, and one bright young lady grabbed her school books and studied.
What really made the day personally gratifying is having more than one of the kids tell me they were loving cross country - one asking if the season could go all year. That's kind of cool for this part-time coach