So a few years ago, my son Brendan decided he wanted to start running and joined the Sylvania Southview High School cross country team as a freshman. He is that guy in the back row pointing up toward the sky with the glasses. He did pretty well and made the varsity squad his first year. Now, a junior, he is the first Southview runner to make it to the state cross country tournament since 1990 after finishing ninth overall last weekend at the Ohio regional finals in Tiffin, OH.
Being in football and mostly soccer when I was growing up, I really never knew anything about the sport of cross country, other than there was a lot of running involved. So I had a lot of learning of my own to do that first year he ran cross country. I didn't even know how far they ran for each event. Turns out each race is 5K in distance and the terrain varies depending on the course location. They can be flat, hilly, wooded, open field. grass, mud, gravel, etc. or any combination which is usually the case. In spectating these events, there has to be some pre-planning involved that includes studying the course map to plot out the points you can run to so that you can cheer on your team as they pass by. These points usually at least consist of the start, the finish and a few points in between depending on how motivated you are to run around that particular day. I call cross country an active spectator sport since you can't really just sit in one place and watch. Relocating is always a necessity. And the event is usually over in about 20 minutes (16.02 in my son's case) so the majority of the time you are standing around waiting.
Now having watched this sport for three seasons, I have picked up on a few things. Apparently there is a lot of strategy involved with how the runners pace themselves. It is more of a mental sport than I ever knew. Also, it is important to always look before crossing the course so that you don't take out a straggling runner. And always scream as loud as you can to root on your kid and his teammates. The only thing I still trying to figure out is the team scoring of these things. It is kind of like golf where you want the lowest score, so more points are awarded the further back each runner finishes and then they are tallied up.
In any event we are off to the Ohio state tournament which is held at a drag strip in some town called Hebron, Ohio, this weekend where Brendan will be competing against the very best the state has to offer. As always, I, along with many other family members, will be there plotting our intercept points to cheer him on. If you couldn't tell, I am pretty damn proud of him.