- The National Park Service will keep Beach Drive closed to through traffic year-round in D.C.’s Rock Creek Park, following the traffic patterns that have been in place most of the last two and a half years.
- Northwood High School alumus Obsaa Feta, running for Miami University, won the Mid-American Conference Cross Country Championship.
- John Champe High School alumna Bethany Graham, running for Furman University, won the Southern Conference Cross Country Championship for the second year in a row.
- Loudon Valley High School alumna Ava Gordon was named Atlantic Sun Freshman of the Year.
- Heritage High School alumuna Weiti Kelati won the USATF 5k road championship for the second year in a row, held at the Abbot Dash to the Finish Line 5k in New York City.
The call went out on a Saturday — “does anyone have an Army Ten-Miler bib?” The race was the next day.
Responses on a message board wished the runner luck and others tried to start an impromptu waiting list. After a while, the sober voice of reason spoke up.
“Not allowed since it’s past the transfer period.”
It can be an unpopular opinion, but it’s backed up by the forms runners sign when they register for races.
Running the Straight and Narrow
As I write this, Marine Corps Marathon training is reaching its zenith. The calendar holds just a few more weeks for hard training.
And by the time you read this, you’ll be tapering. It could even be race week, your thoughts shifting to smaller details.
It used to be about how far and fast you’d run on Sunday. Now it’s about little things on race day like how to hold your gels and what shoes to wear. It’s about the defining question of the 41st People’s Marathon: Uber or Lyft?
How the course got this way
But I’m still hung up on a detail from last year, a detail that, when the howitzer fired, was as far away from my mind as the finish line: tangents.
It’s a post-GPS watch realization for me — and my run last year at MCM proved it — that I do a very poor job minimizing the distance I cover on the course.
In other words I’m realizing how important it is to study more than where the hills are and where they aren’t. After all the time invested in training, I should also be studying the turns and curves, amassing the knowledge — or at least the awareness — of how to only run 26.2 miles.
Fairfax County schools and a few local guests raced at Burke Lake Saturday, with the Potomac School’s Charlie Ortmans and W.T. Woodson and Herndon’s Gillian Bushee and West Springfield leading the way.
Parents: The Built-in Cross Country Fans
As a new high school cross country season begins, there are things parents of aspiring runners need to know to best support their child’s budding interest in this glorious sport. Cross country is its own unique (and painful) animal. And high school cross country, with its range of talent, experience, and intensity among athletes, parents, and coaches, requires some advance preparation and understanding before diving in.
First, the setting matters. Races can range from tri or quad meets with just a few teams lining up in a parking lot, to a massive invitational with colorful tents, banners flying and packs of kids running around in every possible shade of bright matching singlets. It can feel more like a medieval fair than a modern day sporting event.
Pack Your [Kid’s] Bags
- More food than you think they need
- More water than you think they need
- An extra pair of dry socks
- Racing spikes or flats
- A blanket or sleeping bag to spread across the ground
- Bandana or tissues
- Top and bottom layers
- A plastic bag for dirty clothes
“The pageantry of it really struck me,” says Margaret Carpenter, a Virginia-based cross country mom of her first cross country meet for George Marshall High School. “It’s really beautiful, almost military.” At a small meet you will find your kid no problem, but a bigger race may require more coordination. Tim Haight, another local cross country parent, advises parents to “arrive extra early — plan for traffic and parking — you don’t want to miss your child running.” Know the cell phone numbers of other parents, as your athlete may be warming up and unreachable when you arrive at the meet.
The weather is also a critical factor both in how you support your child and your own spectating comfort. Cross country can start as early as August, with temps and humidity at their most sweltering. If this is the case, a prepared parent will bring lots of cold water–enough for themselves and extra for their kid–and even a cooler full of ice to help the runners cool down before and after the race. Parents coming from work should ditch the suit and pumps and bring a change of comfortable clothing (running clothes encouraged!) and sensible shoes to deal with the dirt and grass of the typical cross country course.
Later in the season the tables will turn and layering will be the name of the game. Runners will want to keep their sweats on until just before the gun goes off, so one parent (check with the coach first) might volunteer to take all the kids’ sweats right as they step to the starting line. After the race, wet or sweaty-cold clothing will chill an athlete quickly, so encourage your kids to do their cool down jog immediately and then change into something dry. “It’s a long day for your child,” Haight says of Saturday invitational meets, “so send them with the food and clothing they will need to be comfortable in all weather circumstances.”
Perhaps the most important part of coming to support is having a cheering plan. Look at a map of the course in advance and identify a few places where you can watch. While cheering at the finish line is great, support throughout the race is even better, so look where a course figure-8s, loops (and you can take a shortcut across), or doubles back to maximize the number of times you see your runner. “When you get there, scope out earlier races so you can figure out the good spectating spots so you know where to look for your child,” Haight suggests.
Supporting high school cross country is about encouraging your kids and their teammates to have fun. As a parent you set the sportsmanship tone, so cheer for everyone on your team. “There are a lot of names to know, so write them down to learn them,” Carpenter advises. “By the end of your fourth season this is your family.” She advises parents become familiar with MileSplit.com, a high school running website with Virginia and Maryland sites. “Use it to educate yourself about some of the top runners, the ones your own kid is competing with…as well as the top teams in the state and what colors they’re wearing so that you can enjoy watching them outdo themselves at the front of the pack.”
If your kid is on the JV team, stick around for the varsity race. If they’re on varsity, show up in time for the JV events. “It’s such an easy sport to watch,” Haight says. “Just a few 20-minute races.” Mid-cross country race, an athlete can reach a mentally dark place, so tell them they look awesome! Tell them they’re doing great! Tell them they look strong! “They have a coach,” Carpenter says, “so it’s up to you to be their cheerleader.”
There are many ways you can support your kids physically and mentally outside of the race itself. “By junior year, when schoolwork becomes more intense, realize how much the sport takes out of your runner each practice and pick up the pieces,” says Carpenter. “Get him to gear down for earlier sleep each night…we asked him often how we could help him [and] did some planning out loud to help him manage the full days and full load.” Fueling your runner is a good place to focus, so talk to the coach and consult other running resources to learn about the best eating habits for young athletes. “As my son got more serious about his sport, I saw him go for fuel more than snacks so I tried to support that.”
Before the season even begins you can start preparing for the demands of cross country. “You have to go to a running store and buy the appropriate shoes,” advises Haight. “Also go to the coach for advice and look into summer running options,” as many teams have casual running meet-ups, often organized by team captains, throughout the summer. Carpenter recommends sending your kid to a running camp if possible to give them the opportunity to discover and fall in love with running culture independent from parental involvement.
Burnout is a danger for any athlete. Haight points out that, “when kids think running is not fun, it’s really the parents and coach making it not fun.” Supportive parents should “encourage all the good parts about running and hopefully then your kid matures into someone who wants to continue to run and run and run.” Carpenter echoes his sentiments. “Tune into the identity of being a runner and what being a part of this really glorious thing is all about, and the times will probably take care of themselves.”
When it comes to race day, immediately before the race pressure is building, so it’s likely best to leave your athlete alone. Running is an intense sport, and your child will be dealing with pre-race jitters, focus, and team dynamics. Don’t add pressure by asking too many questions or fixating on how good (or not good) they feel. If you are nervous for them (which, as a parent, you very likely are), those nerves will rub off and add additional pressure to an already high-pressure situation. As a supporter, you are there to tell them they feel great and will be awesome. If anything, remind them before the race to trust in their training and to have fun.
Afterwards, if they had a good race, celebrate with them! And if they had a rough day, celebrate with them! As long as they tried their best, it counts as a win. Success in cross county takes time. That’s time on a daily basis–time to train, time to rest, time to sleep–and also over the course of years. Focus freshmen on enjoying the experience. As they mature and build mileage and endurance they will inevitably improve, but none of that will happen if they’re not having fun.
Finally, “Go to as many meets as you can,” Carpenter’s first point of advice, is echoed by many parents. “They’re long days, so you give up Saturday, but you only have so much time with the kids and it’s so beautiful what they do.” Pointing to the life lessons–sportsmanship, dedication, diligence, joy in exercise–gained from participating in cross country, she notes, “they’re finding their character in this and it’s great to see a young person discover that it’s a lifelong sport.” Haight agrees and advises parents to “nurture the interest because running is a habit and a hobby that they can live with forever.”
The days are getting longer and the weather is getting warmer — which can mean one big thing for the running community: more runners are taking to the region’s sidewalks, paths and trails.
As more runners ditch the treadmill in favor of running outside, there are health and safety reminders to consider. Chief among them is knowing the correlation between warmer temperatures and running risk, said Dr. Wiemi Douoguih, the medical director of MedStar Sports Medicine for the Washington region. Spring can yield some warm-but-not-too-warm running conditions, but “just because the air feels [cooler], you have to be careful,” he said.
Temperatures can feel comfortable and quickly get dangerous as you exercise, he said. Runners need to be careful with outdoor exercise when temperatures are between 73 and 82 degrees, but with higher humidity levels — a foregone conclusion in the D.C. area — temperatures as low as 73 can be high risk, Dr. Douoguih said.
- The “zoo loop” on the Rock Creek Trail is nearing completion, with work potentially being done by the end of July.
- The current plans for the pedestian expansion of the American Legion Bridge include a ramp to the C&O Canal Towpath but not MacArthur Boulevard.
- Oakton and American University alumna Keira D’Amato has been named to the U.S. marathon team for the World Track and Field Championships, following Molly Seidel’s injuray withdrawal. The women’s marathon is Monday, July 18 at 9:15 ET. She’s also opening a Potomac River Running store in Richmond.
- The Rock Ceek path has reopened between Shoreham Drive and P Street, and the tunnel through the I-66 bridge south of the Kennedy Center has opened.
- Three Trials Fever patients will experience relapses in 2024, thanks to their races at Grandma’s Marathon, which qualify them for the Olympic Trials. Reston resident and Falls Chuch native Susanna Sullivan was third in 2:26:56, Thomas Jefferson alumnus Johnny Phillips ran 2:14:10 and Centennial alumnus Brian Harvey ran 2:17:40.
- The Road Runners Club of America recognized Arlington County was recognized as a “Runner-Friendly Community.”
- A handful of local distance runners will be competing in the USATF Championships and the USATF U20 Championships this weekend in Eugene, Ore.
- In the 800 meters, the District Track Club’s Vincent Crisp and Georgetown alumna Sabrina Southerland.
- In the 1,500 meters, Georgetown’s Matthew Payamps and Jack Salisbury and Georgetown alumna Josette Norris.
- In the 5,000 meters, Chantilly alumnus Sean McGorty, the District Track Club’s Willy Fink, Heritage alumna Weini Kelati and along with Norris, Georgetown alumnae Emily Infeld and Katrina Coogan.
- In the 3,000 meter steeplechase, Tuscarora alumnus Fitsum Seyoum.
- In the U20 meet, Laurel resident Juliette Whittaker will run the 800 meters.
- Washington Latin alumnus Luke Tewalt will run the 1,500 meters, for Wake Forest.
- Georgetown’s Lucas Guerra will run the 3,000 meters.
- In the 3,000 meter steeplechase, Colgan alumnus Bryce Lentz, running for the Air Force Academcy, and Oakton alumnus Garrett Woodhoouse, running for Utah State.
- Georgetown’s Parker Stokes led local distance runners at the NCAA Championships with his third place finish in the 3,000 meter steeplechase in 8:18.88. Colgan alumnus Bryce Lentz ran 8:52.33 in the semifinals for the Air Force Academy.
- Georgetown had two women’s 10,000 meter finalists: Charlotte Dannatt finished eighth in 33:26.78 and Maggie Donohue finished 13th in 33:42.99.
- Patriot alumna Rachel McArthur ran 4:21.15 in the semifinals for Colorado.
- Howard’s 4×400 meter team of Jessika Gbai, Ameenah Saalih, Ozioma Scott and Jessica Wright finished sixth in 3:28.39.
- Our long, regional nightmare is over – the Riley’s Rumble Half Marathon will return to the Maryland Soccerplex after a year in exile to the C&O Canal Towpath, albeit its original course.
Blake senior Ella Zeigler swept the distance races at the Maryland 4A state track championships, running 2:5.42 for 800 meters, 5:04.31 for 1600 meters and 10:59.06 for 3200 meters. Walter Johnson was third in the 4×800 in 9:33.43.
Northwood’s Lamar Wilson led local boys with a runner-up finish in the 800 meters (1:56.67) and a third place finish in the 1600 meters (4:19.45), while Blair’s Edward Lyness (9:26.70) was third in the 3200 meters. Walter Johnson was second in the 4×800 in 8:05.46.
In 3A, Oxon Hill’s Genelle Stephens was eighth in the 800 meters (2:25.27) and was on the team’s third place 4×800 relay (9:42.64).
Mcgruder’s Colin Abrams was third in the 800 meters (1:54.81), Springbrook’s Sofiane Compaorg was eigth in the 1600 meters (4:23.77) and Springbrook’s 4×800 team ran 8:02.98 for third.
Poolesville’s Daisy Dastrup led local 2A finishers in the 1600 (ninth in 5:27.21) and 3200 meters (fourth in 11:37.59), and a leg 4×800, which finished sixth in 10:21.16. Poolesville’s Sean Groeninger ran 2:04.90 for ninth in the 800s meters, Dylan Derewonko ran 4:33.23 for seventh in the 1600 meters, Aaron Longbrake ran 9:51.18 for fourth in the 3200 meters and the Falcons’ 4×800 team ran 8:37.40 for fifth.
In 1A, Crossland’s Brenda DerSanchez was 14th in the 800 meters in 2:43.32, 15th in the 1600 meters in 6:53.73, and Crossland was 14th in the 4×800 in 13:09.73. Crossland’s Abraham Eason was 13th in the 800 meters in 2:07.93, 10th in the 1600 meters in 4:53.28 and 13th in the 3200 meters in 11:12.66.
At the D.C. state meet, St. Johns’ Meredith Gotzman won the 1600 (5:03.93) and 3200 meters 10:55.72, while Georgetown Visitation’s Helen Bonner ran 2:21.40 to win the 800 meters. Visitation took the 4×800 title in 9:34.82. St. Johns’ Austin Rios-Colon won the 800 meters in 1:56.89, St. Albans took titles in the 1600 meters (William Strong in 4:28.01) and 3200 meters (Sebi Hume in 9:41.25), while St. John’s won the 4×800 in 8:07.96.
Virginians will race their state meets this weekend.