To the Bozeman Cross Country Team (athletes and parents),
Thursday marked the end of another “full team” season in cross country. So, naturally I have been quite reflective over the past 18 hours, hoping that most of your thoughts bring about happiness and a sense of accomplishment. For me the 2013 season has been most recognizable for marks of improvement. While not every individual would agree (for themselves), there truly was some big leaps, of which I am proud of.
Summer miles. I can still reflect back on my summer running program, 25 years ago. We were challenged to run 300 miles over June, July, August. While 300 miles is a lot to wrap your head around (it certainly was for my team; 3 of us made the goal on a team of about 20 runners), it is proving to be a necessary ingredient for programs that produce great results year after year. So where are we now? I have learned that one benchmark for mileage is not right for everyone. Our incoming runners are quite honestly, overwhelmed if the goal is 300 miles. Yet, our committed, long time 17 and 18 year olds are finding benefits from mileage bigger than I was challenged by. I am pleased by the fact that around 20 of our runners completed the summer challenge that was designed for their experience level (younger runners at 225miles – older runners hitting 500 miles). Has it helped our teams to run at a higher level? Hard to argue against. This year’s Varsity teams are currently running faster than any Bozeman teams of the past. Years ago a young man running for MSU said, “There are high mileage guys, and there are guys who don’t do as well with high miles. Until you absolutely know who you are, through experience, you should error to the side of big miles.” I think he’s right.
J.V. Boys and Girls with amazement over new found P.R.’s. Perhaps one the most rewarding aspects of coaching a team of 90-100 high school runners is that many will come with little experience, as well as little vision as to their potential. I will never not find excitement with the brand new runner who just realizes that their 3 mile time was just run at a faster pace than their 8th grade mile. Or how about the team’s faces, when it is announced that “so and so” just P.R.ed by over a minute? How about the look on the kids face when he/she sees the team’ s complete approval? Although our final home dual rarely sees those huge drops in time, it’s my hope that we can put more stock in the season as a whole; a season where some of our newer runners improved by over 3 minutes.
7 of 7 in Helena. In 2012 when the J.V. girls got second to Billings West ( a good team, yet a team that we were better than), I felt that a bit of the hunger or desire was fading from our team. I was worried, perhaps a little, that we weren’t quite living up to what our T-shirts professed. “Never let good enough, be enough” Well a bunch of seasoned, newly determined gals, along with some “fresh blood” took to the line with a different look in their eyes than the previous year. A perfect score of 15 was the perfect answer to my previous concern. Bozeman’s girls do have fire, and heart, and grit. And for the J.V. boys, that wild-eyed look of “teach us how” and “help us get there” was a joy to work with. Without a season victory, the boys toed the lined believing that that day was the day. On their best team performance of the year they pulled off the victory; not by sneaking up on Hellgate but by laying down the challenge from the opening minute of the race. Bozeman’s J.V. boys had the lead at the 1/2 mile and held strong throughout. For the Varsity girls, it was 7 girls under 19:00, a first for any girls team in Montana, and perhaps even more impressive was the 1 – 5 average of 18:05. Will they continue to see improvement that could bring a team time average under 18:00? I believe so. For the boys, how about winning every race fro #7 through #1? Capping that incredible team day was Jason’s epic battle for first. How good is this boys team? In 2008 the State meet was won with a 15:46 (on a good weather day). I believe this team could have 5 -6 boys beat that time.
Time trial turn-out that looks like a full blown meet. When you hold a time trial and over 200 parents, neighbors, grandparents, younger siblings show up, you feel a sense of ” this program really means something to a lot of people”. I won’t soon forget the feeling I had when recognizing that the N. parking lot of the LDS church was packed and folks were now parking along the neighborhood streets.
So what now? We will all meet for a team-wide celebration of accomplishment within the next two weeks. (Invitations coming in the mail.) A select few will keep training for Regionals. 18 athletes are preparing for State in Missoula on the 26th, and I am thinking and planning for the future. What have I learned this year that we could do better with next year? With so many Seniors how will the personality and commitment take shape for those returning? Many of my co-workers at Chief Joseph Middle School will comment or ask regarding the season’s end (still coming), “Do you look forward to having the winter off?” My response, “Yah, it’ll be good to take a break for a couple of weeks, but I will be happy to back running with the kids before Christmas break.” With 20 years of experience now, my wife will tell anyone, “It’s pretty much gotta be a year round thing. You can’t take a few months off, whether a coach or an athlete.”