What is Cross Country?
CROSS COUNTRY IS A TEAM SPORT
The places of each team’s top five finishers are added together for a team score. Each athlete’s point total is arrived at by simply counting their place. For example, if an athlete finishes in 8th place in a race he/she scores eight points for their team. The team with the lowest score wins the race. Although only five runners score for a given team, on the varsity level seven runners may compete. The sixth and seventh runners serve not only as insurance but may also add to the score of opposing teams by finishing ahead, or displacing, those teams’ scoring athletes.
Because five to seven athletes score in cross country, the team dynamic plays a crucial role in the success of the team. A team with two or three outstanding runners can be beaten by a team with five good runners. Each team is only as good as its weakest link. With this in mind it becomes imperative to foster the team dynamic in practice and in meets. Athletes must learn to work together and constantly encourage each other to be their best. Additionally, team members must realize that they represent not just themselves, but all of their teammates, their coaches, and Haverford High School.
CROSS COUNTRY IS ALSO AN INDIVIDUAL SPORT
Despite the importance of the team, cross country is often times individualized. Although others may encourage you in races and practices, ultimately it is only you who will do the work and succeed, or give up and fail. There are no time outs or substitutions in cross country; that is one of it’s beauties. Individually you will make tremendous leaps. There will, of course, be physical gains, but the more important benefits will be on the mental side. Cross country will teach you the value of hard work, patience, mental toughness. You will be a better person for having competed on the Haverford Cross Country Team.
Everyone can compete in cross country. You may be successful in cross country with any body type. Haile Gebrasellasie, arguably history’s finest distance runner, stands 5’6 inches tall and weighs 110 pounds. Other Olympic medalists have been as tall as 6’7.
Nobody sits on the bench in cross country. If you are healthy and have attended practice regularly you will compete in meets. It makes no difference if you are the fastest athlete or the fiftieth fastest; you will compete.
CROSS COUNTRY IS A PURE SPORT
Cross country is not a game. Cross country does not need a ball. Cross country does not need a myriad of convoluted rules to become interesting. It is pure and simple. The first person across the finish line wins. He scores one point. There are no field goals or extra points. There are no infield fly rules. Run fast to win. That’s it.
CROSS COUNTRY IS THE GREATEST SPORT
We think so. But we’ve been involved in cross country—each of us—for many years. We can only hope that by the end of this year, or by the time you leave Haverford you will agree with us.
CROSS COUNTRY QUOTES
“The footing was really atrocious. I loved it. I really like Cross Country; you’re one with the mud.”
– Lynn Jennings
“The secret of cross country is to do everything we do on the track… and take it into the bush.”
– Mike Koskei, former national coach of Kenya
“When I was about 14 or 15, and running in a pretty muddy cross country race, one of my shoes stuck in the mud and came off. Boy, was I wild. To think that I had trained hard for this race and didn’t do up my shoelace tightly enough! I really got aggressive with myself, and I found myself starting to pass a lot of runners. As it turned out, I improved something like twenty places in that one race. But I never did get my shoe back.”
– Rob de Castella
“The start of a World Cross Country event is like riding a horse in the middle of a buffalo stampede. It’s a thrill if you keep up, but one slip and you’re nothing but hoof prints.”
– Ed Eyestone
“The freedom of Cross Country is so primitive. It’s woman vs. nature.”
– Lynn Jennings
(Special Thanks to David Frank, Portland Central Catholic, for this)