Cross Country - Upper School Girls
Cross country is a hard sport – especially considering the bulk of the training occurs in the heat of the Houston summer. We welcome any interested Kinkaid student who is interested in competing, to join the team, all she needs is: A desire to run, a positive attitude, and openness to learning. We believe the runners will find the cross country team to be a caring and supportive group, a hard working team, and a place where success is measured by individual improvement, self-awareness, risk taking, learning to race and compete, cooperating and working with teammates toward a common goal, setting and reaching goals, learning to self-advocate, and happy and healthy student athletes. We work to measure team success again by growth, connectedness, improvements in competitiveness, collected joy, working hard, fun, keeping injuries low, and reaching our fullest potential by the end of the season (as a team and individually).
The team trains on the trails in the Backyard of Kinkaid, at Memorial Park, at Allen Parkway, and at Hershey Park. The runners learn and practice race strategy, proper running form, injury prevention, the importance of healthy nutrition, and form drills. It is important for cross country athletes to complete a wide variety of workouts including long runs, up-tempo runs, intervals, fartlek, hills, and time trials. Utilizing three or even four workout groups, the goal is to allow athletes to train with the group where they will be challenged without getting injured. About every other week the team runs with the boys’ cross country team, working on race pace. The variety of training terrain allows the runners to be better prepared for the different racing terrains. The girls compete in Dallas, Fayetteville Arkansas, and all around the Houston metro-plex. The top 12 to 14 runners are considered varsity athletes. On average the Kinkaid girls’ cross country team is made up of thirty to thirty-four 9th through 12th grade student-athletes.
We create the practice plans for the season and each week has a theme, several objectives, and an element of fun. When we have our theme and objectives for the week we talk to the athletes to make sure they understand the workout and the objective of each workout – the first several weeks of practice is spent on building endurance, working to improve running form, and learning about pace. We do intervals at a slower pace with very little rest – and as the season progresses the intervals get faster and rest is longer. On recovery days and hard days we talk about the team concept and our “Purple Pack Attack” (yes, Kinkaid’s school colors are purple and gold) Purple pack attack sounds better then gold pack attack! I guess we could use the purple pack attack striving for gold! We encourage the runners to run with the next girl(s) up from her on the team – and the runners encourage each other. They often tell each other – when you run with me, I race faster. We talk about how teammates and competitors make each of us better. During a race it is very common for one teammate to say to another as she passes, “let’s go, come with me” working to bring out the best in each other.
Senior mentors, any senior who is in her second, third, or fourth year of cross country is eligible to be a senior mentor. If an athlete does not want the added responsibility she does not have to be a senior mentor. Expectations are written and we meet with the seniors at the start of the season to make sure we are all on the same page. We ask the senior leaders for feedback about the workouts – and to communicate with the coaches about modifying workouts if necessary. The seniors lead the warm-up and cool down. Seniors help plan team dinners, fun activities such as tie-dying, they rotate creating inspirational signs for lockers each week, and they help coaches choose runner of the week. Each week the senior mentors meet with a group of 4 - 5 younger athletes to talk about the upcoming meet, goals, and race strategy. We rotate the mentor groups four times during the season in an attempt to have every athlete mentored by several different seniors. Towards the end of the season the senior mentors lead the less-experienced athletes through visualization of the meet. Seniors also play an important role in talking about the culture of the team to all the parents at the early season parent meeting.