My name is Trey McCain. I am the PAC Cross Country coach as well as the coach for PAC runners in the track season through Without Limits. I say it that way b/c PAC does not officially sponsor a track program.
I’m writing this letter for a few reasons. First, if you are interested in cross country, know that our conditioning period has begun. Nobody is required to participate but the conditioning is very helpful preparing young runners for the upcoming season. This relates to the second reason I am writing this letter. It has become obvious to me over the years, many who claim to be interested in running cross country have very limited knowledge of what they are getting involved in.
Cross Country is a sport that exclusively focuses on running 3 mile races at the high school level. It is a team sport with scoring. The team with the lowest number of points wins the race. At the collegiate level, men will race 5 miles and 6 miles depending on what part of the competitive season they’re in. I’ve come across a number of coaches in the area who do not know this detail about the collegiate level of running. If the high school coaches charged with teaching and developing young runners do not know this basic detail of the sport, the general population most likely knows less.
This brings me to the third reason why I am writing this letter. Perhaps some of you have participated in Jesse Harmon’s Run Hard program. It’s a solid foundation for getting kids to be active and introducing them to running as a fun sport to be part of. Everyone gets to have a snack and juice after they do their runs. For elementary and middle school kids, Run Hard is a great youth program. It is not representative of Varsity level running. If your son or daughter expresses interest in cross country, it is your responsibility to do the bare minimum and learn about the sport you may be participating in. Learning to run 3 miles and doing it well is not something that can be accomplished in a few weeks. Athletes need to spend time building their aerobic capacity and strength running miles, doing specific strength exercises, form drills, and core training to be adequately prepared. Then we get to specificity workouts such as interval training, tempo runs, hill repeats, long runs, and fartlek runs.
Great resources for learning about xc you can find online are the XC subreddit at the reddit website. Lots of current and former XC athletes congregate there online. You can go to YouTube and watch interviews with coaches and athletes, races and workouts. You can reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Some specific teams and athletes that are easy to follow: Newbury Park XC (Greatest HS team of all time), Northern Arizona University (won 5 of the last 6 NCAA Championships), The Athlete Special, New Generations Track and Field. I’ll post a link at the bottom of this letter to a documentary series on the Newbury Park and Great Oak HS teams from 2019. It’s very eye opening if you’re not familiar with cross country as a sport.
I’ll finish the letter by saying this: By no means am I suggesting anyone be as into the sport as I am. What I am saying is that anyone interested should learn more about what they’re interested in so they show up knowing what to expect. Imagine going out for baseball not knowing you have to learn to throw a ball or swing a bat. Going out for basketball not knowing you have to learn to dribble and shoot a ball.
Director for Without Limits Columbia
USATF Level 1 Certified Coach
PAC XC Head Coach