What is cross country?
Cross country is the sport of distance running.  Cross country races are run over varying terrain, usually parks or golf courses.  In Wisconsin girls race 5 km (about 3.1 miles).  Most events feature both varsity races, usually the top 7 runners from each team, and junior varsity races, everyone else.   Our conference, Big 8, also sponsors one meet that is broken up by grade levels.

One of the great things about this no-cut sport is that everyone gets to participate in most of the races.  It combines the best features of team and individual sports.  Cross country is a team sport, but every runner has his/her own individual goals.  Times are less important in cross country than in track because every course is different.  Everyone can and should be proud of a solid effort regardless of their statistical result.

How far do I have to run?
At La Follette we view cross country as a beginning of a lifetime of running.  Therefore, we are in no hurry to see you set a world record.  We want you to gradually increase the distance of your runs, avoid injury, and enjoy our great sport.  At your first practices you will be expected to run distances you can handle.  For some beginners that might only be a few minutes, while others might be able to run a few miles or even further.
What are races like?
Most of the meets you run will have one junior varsity race and one varsity race.  Each school enters up to seven runners in the varsity race and unlimited runners in the junior varsity race.  Some races will have as few as 50 runners and others may have up to 400 runners!  Most race distances are 5 km (about 3.1 miles).  Races have mass starts with teams lining up together 3-5 abreast and several runners deep, squeezed into designated numbered "boxes" or "lanes" marked on the grass with chalk or paint at even intervals along a single starting line.  The race begins with a starting gun.  The race course is marked by flags and often a white line.  You will finish and funnel into the finish chute where your time and place are recorded.

Running fast for a long time is hard.  It can cause significant discomfort and at times hurts, but one learns that it is a temporary pain.  And a sense of euphoria and self satisfaction is achieved by those who push themselves to new levels of personal achievement -- beyond the limits they thought they had.  Along with general fitness, this is one of the rewards of cross country.

Racing at all levels requires mental strength and focus.  Running with teammates during a race, just as in practice, can give runners much-needed mental support and confidence.  The most successful cross country teams tend to run in one or two packs where the top runners hold back slightly, at least during the first portion of a race, to bring their teammates along.  Different strategies are employed for different combinations of runners and for different races depending on the competition and team goals.  It is a balancing act guided by the coach. 

How are races scored?
Not many sport competitions are won by scoring the least number of points, but cross country is one of them.  Cross country meets are won by the best TEAM.  The sum of the placement of the top five runners on each team accounts for the team score.  A perfect score is 15 (1+2+3+4+5=15).  The 6th and 7th runners, while not part of their team's score count against other team scores if they finish ahead of one of the other team's top-5 runners.  If two teams have the same total score from their top-5, the team with the best placed #6 runner wins.  It doesn't matter how good your #1 runner is if your team has a much slower #4 or #5.  For team results every place matters, and the #6 or #7 runner can also be the difference.  One more thing: runners from incomplete teams (teams with fewer than 5 finishers) are not counted in the team scoring.

When do I get to race?
You begin racing when you feel confident that you can comfortably handle the distance and enjoy the race.  We have our first meet after two or three weeks of practice.  Usually this is enough time so that runners are ready to race.  Throughout the season we typically have one race each week.
How long is the season?
Cross country practice begins before the start of the school year in August and ends in late October. 
When do we practice?
We meet as a team for practice or meets 6 days a week.  Practice begins in August a few weeks before school begins.  In August we practice at 8:00 am.  On school days practice begins at 4:00 pm.
What will I get out of high school cross country?
You will get good friends, self confidence, physical fitness, self discipline, and fun times.  You will also get sweaty, blisters, sore muscles, and busy days. 
But I have never run before?
Great!  We are excited that you are willing to try something new.  This just might end up being your sport.  Since we allow you to progress at your own speed, your previous experience or lack of experience in unimportant.  What is important is your desire to become a runner.
What running gear do I need?
The bare essentials:  shoes, socks, shorts, t-shirt, watch
Other things that come in handy:  cold and wet weather gear - long sleeve t-shirt, hat, gloves, sweatshirt, running pants, gym bag

A good pair of shoes is essential - the most important thing a runner needs.  It is generally best to go to a store that specializes in running to make sure you get the correct pair of shoes for you.  Having the right pair of running shoes is also key to injury prevention.  They do not have to be the most expensive; they just have to fit and feel right.  There is no best brand, but often there is a brand that is best for your feet.  A good pair of shoes will last about 400 miles. 
Do I need to also purchase racing spikes?
Often younger runners begin by wearing the same shoes for running a race as they do for practice.  However, at some point in your running career you will want to switch to spikes for races.  Spikes are lightweight running shoes with metal spikes that protrude from the sole.  These shoes do not provide the foot or leg with much support.  Therefore, they are only used for racing, not everyday running during practice. 
What do spectators do during a cross country meet?
Cheer loudly!  Racing is difficult and the support of fans is always helpful.  A race course is usually set up in one or more loops.   Spectators are allowed to roam about the course, cheering for you and your teammates.  A spectator may choose to watch from one viewing location or move from point to point to follow runners on their team.  Spectators have free reign to move about the course as they wish with two exceptions.  Spectators may not run along side an athlete or enter a restricted area (usually the starting line and inside the finish chute are the only restricted areas). 
Minooka Park
Start of Big 8 Junior/Senior Race

Team members supporting Sara at 2010 State Championship

Lowest Score Wins:
2010 Waukesha South Blackshirt Challenge
JV Team Scores

1 Sun Prairie - 29 points

Runner Places 1, 4, 5, 9, 10, 13, 14

2 Madison La Follette  - 42 points

Runner Places 2, 3, 7, 11, 19, 26, 30

3 Waukesha South - 84 points
Runner Places 6, 8, 20, 23, 27, 32, 33

For Madison La Follette: 2+3+7+11+19=42  And the #6 runner added one point to Waukesha South's score by finishing ahead of their #5 runner. 

Having Fun at Midwest Initiational

Staying Warm!

Training Shoes

Racing Shoes/Spikes