Cross Country 101
At Milton High School
Is this the first season you are involved in Cross Country (XC)? Are you still trying to figure out the sport? Below are some commonly asked questions about a Cross Country meet along with answers.
Where are Cross Country meets held?
Cross Country meets are typically held on a college campus or a city/county park. Milton is very unique in that we have a course on the school campus. Most high schools do not have a course on the school property so they are not able to accommodate a Cross Country meet on the school property. Cross Country meets are hosted either by the college where the meet is held or by a high school(s) at their local park.
How many teams compete in a Cross Country meet?
A Cross Country meet can have as few as 2-3 teams or as many as 50-100 teams. The host of the meet will determine how many teams they can accommodate based on the course, surrounding area for team tents, and volunteers to support the meet. The Fulton County Championship meet will only include schools from all of Fulton County. The Region meet will only include schools from our Region that can change through the years. Coaches can answer what schools are in our region for the current season.
What meets are most important?
All meets are important but there are three that are especially important which are the Fulton County Championship, the Region meet, and the State Meet (assuming we qualify). At the Fulton County Championship meet, there will be an “Overall” winner awarded to one of the schools in Fulton County. The calculation for this Overall award includes results from all 4 races (Varsity Boys, Varsity Girls, JV Boys, and JV Girls). So, a school must have excellent JV teams in addition to Varsity teams to win this award. To some runners on the team, this award is the most exciting award to win during the season. These are schools close by and it gives the school “bragging rights” for the next year. The Region Meet is important because it determines what schools qualify for the State Meet. The top 4 teams in the Varsity races at the Region Meet qualify to participate in the State Meet. In addition, a runner may qualify to participate in the State Meet as an individual (regardless of whether or not the team qualifies) by placing in the top 6 in the varsity race at the Region Meet. The State Meet is very exciting as it determines the final ranking of the teams for the season. To place in the top 10 at State is considered extremely successful. Both Milton girls and boys teams have placed in the top ten multiple times over the years.
How long is a Cross Country race?
A standard cross country race for high school is 5K which is 3.1 miles.
What is the difference between Cross Country and Track?
Cross Country is held during the fall season and has one event for a runner that is a 5K race. The course for a Cross Country race will be on trails through woods and fields. The surface is usually natural, dirt or crushed gravel. It is not a hard surface. Track is a different sport and is during the spring season. It has many field events, as well as running events with various distances. They also run around the track (around the football field) which is a hard surface. Many XC runners choose to run track in the spring, unless committed to another school activity.
What are different races at a meet? What is Varsity vs. JV vs. Open? How are runners determined for each race?
There are usually 4 -6 races that our Milton Cross Country team competes in at a meet. These races are the Varsity Girls, Varsity Boys, JV Girls, and JV Boys, and sometimes Open Girls and Open Boys. There may be also other races in some meets (i.e. middle school, clubs etc.) that some younger siblings of Milton runners participate in, so different meets last for different lengths of time. Each Varsity team (girls and boys) consists of the top 7 runners for most meets. There are some meets where the Varsity team consists of 10 runners. The JV team (girls and boys) consists of the rest of the runners on the team or depending on meet a specific number of runners (top JV). Meets with Open races will have all remaining runners that did not run Varsity or top JV. The coaches decide each week what runners will be running in the Varsity races for girls and boys and inform the team at practice and then send it out via e-mail for parents. It is not determined by grade level but by performance on the team. This information is not posted on our website because the competition may look for the information on the website. It is usually sent out just a couple of days before each meet because the runners on the Varsity team can change from week to week based on last week’s results, injuries, etc. A JV runner can also run in a Varsity race at some point in the season depending on their performance. Top JV runners will also change throughout the season.
How are Cross Country Meets scored?
The top 5 runners in each race for a school score points. The place that a runner gets in a race is the same number of points he/she scores for their school. This means the lower the score, the better. Then these 5 individual scores are added together for the team score. For example, if the top 5 runners out of our 7 Varsity runners come in 1st, 4th, 6th, 13th, and 20th, then our team score for that race would be 44 (1+4+6+13+20). If a team sweeps coming in 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th, the score would be 15 (1+2+3+4+5) that would be a perfect score; this rarely happens. If there is a tie between teams, the 6th runner is the tie-breaker! This means even if a runner does not come in the first 5 for our team, they can still be VERY important in the scoring. We may have a very “deep” team with all 7 being close in time for Varsity or 10-30 being close for JV. Runners for Milton who don’t place in the top 5 for Milton may place before other team’s runners thus making the other team have a higher score. Therefore, as many runners as we have coming in close behind our top 5 runners creates a higher score for opponents and a lower better score for us. The coaches are teaching the runners this concept and create “teams” during our Time Trial to simulate the scoring of an actual race. Our time trial is a mock XC meet and a chance for everyone to see how teams are scored.
What time do runners have to be at school for a meet?
All runners must meet at the school and ride the team buses to every meet. The coaches/booster club secretary will send out a “meet information sheet” a couple of days before each meet. This information will have details for the meet including when to arrive at school, what time the bus leaves, race schedule, Varsity runners, top JV runners if needed, directions, and an estimated time the buses will return to Milton. The coaches look at the race schedule that is decided by the host team to determine what time the buses will leave from Milton. They like to be at the meet venue 1 ½ hours before our first race so that they have time to set up and the runners in the first race have time to warm up. Many runners get very nervous before their race so it is important that they have ample time to prepare (both mentally and physically). Each meet will have its own race schedule. Typically, the order of the races is Varsity girls, Varsity boys, JV girls, and then JV boys (but not always). Open races generally follow. In general, the buses leave very early in the morning for meets (as early as 5:00 AM or as late as 7:30 AM) and return in the afternoon.
Are meets optional?
No, meets are not optional. Every runner is expected to run every race with the exception of any qualifying out of town meets and the State Meet (which is only for Varsity runners and only if they qualify). Because of limitations with accommodations, only a limited number of runners will be able to attend the out of town meet(s). In addition, there are additional fees to attend any out of town meet; therefore, these meets are optional once “invited.” Even if a runner is injured, he/she can attend a meet and cheer on the team. Cheering for others on the team is a big part of the Milton team. It makes a big difference to the runners to have fans along the course cheering them on. Varsity, JV, boys and girls cheer on each other.
What is a PR?
PERSONAL RECORD – your best time! For most runners it will change over the season, some more dramatically than others. It becomes a goal to constantly break your PR throughout the season.
How do runners line up to start a race?
Each team is assigned a starting box on the start line at every meet. The team is required to start in their assigned box. The starting boxes are usually small thus only a few runners from each team will get to line up on the start line. The remaining runners will line up behind those on the start line. The coaches along with the team captains determine who will get to start on the start line taking into consideration the size of the race, location of the starting box, geography of the start area, etc.
What do runners do about food at the meets? Do they need money?
We have a wonderful hospitality committee. It is a BIG job! If you think about all the runners and the amount of drinks and snacks that are needed, it is no small task. The Booster Club pays for these snacks. However, even with drinks, Bagel Boy bagels, bananas, etc. at the meet, every runner should bring their own water bottle to every meet and should be hydrating and any personal preferences for a snack. There will be coolers set up at the hospitality table. Most runners will eat a breakfast before getting on the bus. However, if their race is not until 12:30 and they load the bus at 6:00 AM, they may choose to bring something or take from hospitality table in the morning. Some races are quite spread out depending on the meet size and participants invited. Below you will find more information about DOs and DON’Ts for runners before a meet. Some meets will have a concession stand, especially larger ones. Runners should bring money for concessions. In addition, most meets have t-shirts for sale at the meet. Many runners buy the t-shirts and wear them to school the following Monday. T-shirts usually cost around $15 – $20.
Can my daughter/son ride home with a parent instead of taking the bus?
In order for a runner to ride home with their parent, they first have to confirm the “transportation form” on file with the coaches. You only have to fill out this form for your son/daughter once each season as part of the Registration Packet. In addition, you must “sign out” the runner at the meet which means seeing one of the coaches in charge of that. The “sign out sheet” will be on a clipboard at the Milton snack table. This “sign out sheet” is very important. The coaches take attendance when they load the buses in the morning and then call roll on the buses after the meet to ensure no one is left at the meet. If a runner leaves a meet without being signed out on this sheet, the coaches will have to go look for the runner. This can cause long delays in departing from the meet when everyone is tired. As you can imagine, runners and coaches do not like this delay. Make sure you sign out runners on the clipboard if they are riding home with a parent.
Do runners need spikes?
Many runners race in a pair of shoes called spikes. Spikes have plates on the bottom for removable metal spikes that help with traction during a race. In addition, spikes are very lightweight. Spikes are not required and some runners will wear regular training shoes for races. Runners who wear spikes during a race only wear them during the actual race. Runners will wear regular training shoes to the meet and bring their spikes in their bag and change shoes before their race. With the metal spikes on the bottom, these shoes should not be worn on pavement. Big Peach and Fleet Feet sometimes are at XC meets selling spikes, if you plan on purchasing do it sooner than later as inventory runs very low after Labor Day. Show your Milton HS Student ID to get a 10% discount at these stores.
What do runners wear to meets? And what else can they bring?
Runners wear their uniform to meets. And wear your Milton spiritwear! You will find that many runners will sleep on the bus to the meet. Sweatshirts, pj pants, dry socks, blankets and pillows are all allowed on bus and at meet!! Jewelry is not allowed with the exception of a watch. Girls take note – wear hair bands, no hair clips or hard headbands. When the weather is cooler, runners are allowed to wear white under garments for warmth during a race (but it must be white so that Milton runners are all the same). There may be a couple meets that runners may want a pair of gloves to wear. They will also bring a bag with their spikes (if you plan to wear them), extra shirt, personal snacks, water bottle, and money for snacks & lunch at the meet. Some will bring an iPod to listen to music on the bus and while “hanging out” at the Milton tent. Make sure to label all spiritwear and your athlete’s uniform, these are commonly lost at meets and without a name make it more difficult to return.
What do parents do at meets?
Parents typically look at the race schedule that is listed on the meet information sheet to see what time their own child is running. Parents do not usually go as early as the buses but arrive at the meet in time to see the race(s) that interest them. At the larger meets, parking can take some time, so be sure to allow enough time for parking. Many meets are now charging $$ for parking. Milton will have two red tents set up to use as a “base” for the team and also a meeting place for families. The runners will keep their bags, pillows, etc. under the tents. The hospitality folks will also set up the food & drink tables at the tents. Parents may want to bring a folding chair to use while waiting between races. The runners usually sit on the ground (on tarps which are set up by the team). Parents can look for the red Milton tents to find the team and then watch the races and cheer on the runner from various points along the course. The coaches usually post the course map on the tents for the runners and parents to review. As a parent you can choose where you may want to watch your runner(s). Every course is different which is part of what makes cross country so much fun for the runners. Parents are encouraged to attend the XC meets and cheer on their athlete, their friends and the team (we’re kind of a family!). Do not attempt to “run with” any runner during a race to help pace the runner. A runner will be disqualified if anyone outside of the race runs along side a runner as it will be interpreted as helping with pacing. Be aware of the “borders” of the course and stay out off the course route when runners are anywhere near, crossing only when no runners are in sight! If you are at the site early enough, hospitality can always use help setting up the food and drink table, etc. Toward the end of the meet, they can use help cleaning up and putting things away. Just ask and they will let you know how you can help.
What if a runner has an inhaler?
If a runner has an inhaler, he/she should run the race with the inhaler. Do not keep the inhaler in your bag at the tent. The tent can often be a very long distance from where you need the inhaler. In addition, there will be so many bags, many of which look alike, under the tent, and it is a difficult and stressful task for someone else to find an inhaler for the runner who needs it in the middle or end of a race.
What if a runner gets injured at practice or at a meet?
Tell the coaches as soon as they can. If practicing at Milton, a trainer may be available and coaches will attend to athlete. If a runner gets hurt or feels too ill on the race course, do not enter course or touch runner (unless life threatening), let the runner decide to leave the race on their own. Entering the course can disqualify the runner.
How do I follow all the Milton Cross Country happenings? Can I find out race results and details?
Both parents and runners should all be on the Milton XC email distribution list – firstname.lastname@example.org. Click here to sign up (you can always unsubscribe). You will get many emails not only preparing you for upcoming meets, but also giving you race outcomes and all individual race results. You will also find out athletes recognized for their individual performance at a meet, achieving awards and recognition by the coaches and team. There is a lot of communication on email and the best source for news. There is also a Facebook page – Milton XC 2014. And of course the website is www.miltonxc.org.
Below are some DO’s and DON’Ts for runners before, during and after a race:
Thursday & Friday before a meet
- DO drink plenty of fluid to hydrate your body all week long. Bring a water bottle to all your classes! It will be too late to try to hydrate on Saturday morning. Drink only hydrating fluids such as water and sports drinks like Gatorade and Powerade. Avoid drinks with caffeine and a lot of sugar such as soft drinks.
- DO have protein on Thursday nights!
- DO have a high carb dinner after practice on Friday night. Pasta is a perfect choice.
- DO put spikes in your shoes if you plan to wear spikes.
- DO get your bag ready on Friday night so you are not rushing early Saturday morning when you are likely to forget something.
- DO make sure all your XC items are labeled with your name – uniform, sportswear, water bottle, personal items, etc.
Saturday – Before the race
- Do eat before the race; eat something light and at least 2 hours before your race time so your body has time to digest your food. Check your race time to see how to correctly eat at a good time. Some races will be hours from the arrival time, so don’t starve yourself either.
- DO wear your XC uniform. There will be race officials at each meet and they require teams to have the same uniform.
- DO NOT wear any jewelry with the exception of a watch.
- DO NOT wear metal hair clips, hard headbands. Hair bands and ribbons okay.
- DO make sure to bring your inhaler if you have an inhaler.
- DO arrive to Milton at the designated meeting time.
- DO your warm up run and stretches with the team.
- DO make sure you are at the starting line at least 15 minutes before race time for check-in.
- DO line up in the appropriate starting box.
Saturday – During the race
- DO run with your inhaler if you have one.
- DO cheer on your fellow Eagles when you are not racing. Spread out on the course so you are not all in one place.
- DO run hard! “Pain is temporary, but pride is forever!”
- DO expect to see your coaches at work encouraging you on the course!
Saturday – At the Finish Line
- DO stay in the order of finish as you move through the chute. If there are multiple runners crossing the finish line at the same time, listen to the race official who will be calling out who crossed first. There will be race volunteers to help you stay in order during the chute.
- DO keep moving in the chute once you cross the finish line. There will be race officials helping those runners who need help through the chute but you must keep moving in the chute. Otherwise the chute will back up and interfere with runners crossing the finish line.
- DO take a place card at the end of the chute if given. Or take off chip from shoe (help is offered).
- DO keep walking around after your run and drink water.
- DO help your fellow runners when they exit the chute if they need help walking.
- DO turn in your place card to the Milton representative collecting cards and tell them your first and last name so they can write it on the card.
Saturday – After the races
- DO collect ALL your personal items and help clean up the tent area.
- DO help take down tent.
- DO make sure to have your parent sign you out if you are riding home with your parent instead of riding the bus.
Updated August 2014