The Pocahontas Coun-ty Cross Country Team ran its third race of the season this past weekend. The hurricane rains held off to create ideal racing conditions Saturday that allowed each Cross Country Warrior to set a personal best for a 3.1 mile race.
There is a lot of strategy to performing well in a cross country race. We are lucky enough to have a team that consistently runs at a similar pace with each running their hardest. This allows them to help each other excel by running as a pack. On a given day, one runner might be faster than the others on hills, or in mud, or on flat, grassy ground. When your teammates are able to stay close and get pulled along by the shifting momentum among the team, the whole group moves faster. That’s a strategy for a winning team, and that is the how our boys run. They are still settling into their groove on the race course, but once they do they are going to start moving up in the pack of runners for even better finishes. Eventually they will be challenging the best racers.
It will take patience though. These boys have all come into cross country from track or are new to racing. Finding a rhythm in cross country is tougher than in track. The distance is longer than any track event and the landscape is greatly different – from the track and from one cross country race to the next. So far it has been a season of extremes for these boys in terms of the style of courses on which they have competed.
Their first race, Knight Night Relays in Preston County, was on dry and grassy terrain, which is ideal for speed, but it took place at 9 o’clock at night. The course was well lit by the lights of several ball fields, generator lamps and Tiki torches, but there is always a hesitancy created by odd shadows along grassy ground at night that slows foot placement. The result is more cautious running and less speed. Additionally, it was a relay so the team members ran one at a time and they didn’t have each other to work off of during their run. The overwhelming benefit of participating was that it was only a 1.5 mile race so it was a really good opportunity to introduce them to what a cross country course looks and feels like without throwing them fully into the physical and mental challenge of a typical 3.1 mile course. This was also one of the most fun races in West Virginia, with glow sticks as relay batons and fireworks to start each race.
For the team’s second race they experienced a literal night and day shift. Following a brief 9 a.m. cloud burst while on the starting line at the Forest Festival Invitational in Elkins, they sprinted off across the very hilly campus of Davis and Elkins College. This was a challenging course with long stretches of steep climbing that demanded a lot from the legs and made lungs burn. The up-hills were followed by long downhills which pounded muscles and joints – and then they started mile number three which required two stream crossings. It was an exhausting course style, but very rewarding when looking back on the accomplishment of completing it. The boys ran it in excellent form with the following times out of 129 runners: 98th Mateus Stitzinger, 26:01; 101st Silas Riley, 26:20; 114th Dakin Rexrode, 27:40.
This past weekend the team ran at the Frankfort Invitational, in Mineral County. Again, the hosts provided a well-maintained course; this one rolling over numerous short up and down sections with only a few lengths of level running. Our boys took advantage of the faster course to push themselves and each other hard and finished with only a few seconds between them. As a result of their efforts they each dropped more than a minute off their time from the previous week. Such improvements in cross country running show the team is rapidly adapting to the demands of their new sport.
Their finishing order at Frankfort was: 46th Silas Riley, 24:32; 48th Mateus Stitzinger, 24:43; 50th Dakin Rexrode, 24:52.
Ayden Carroll was unable to attend these two events.
Next week the team travels to Princeton for their fourth race of the season.