What's the right distance for girls' cross-country?

  • Article by: DAVID LA VAQUE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 23, 2013 - 11:50 PM

Many girls’ cross-country coaches favor increasing the race distance; others fear a participation dropoff.

hide

Edina junior Shannon Spalding, center, broke the school’s 5K record last year at the Roy Griak Inviational, the only meet that didn’t run the usual 4K distance. “Some girls were more nervous and afraid of running the extra 1K,” Spalding said. “That’s sad because this is what we should be running, and we were afraid to run it.”

Photo: ELIZABETH FLORES • eflores@startribune.com,

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Nearly 1,000 girls’ cross-country runners from high schools around Minnesota are bracing for their lone 5,000-meter race of the fall, Saturday’s Roy Griak Invitational.

Meets such as the Griak would be the rule rather than the exception if some of those runners and their coaches have a choice. Girls have run 4,000-meter varsity meets since 1994.

Last fall the state cross-country coaches association surveyed its members and found 61 percent in favor of moving up to the 5K distance for girls.

Minnesota is one of only 10 states in which girls compete in shorter races than boys during the regular season. A 4K is 2½ miles. Boys’ races are the standard 5K (3.1 miles).

Proponents of a longer race for girls believe Minnesota should be in step with the majority of the country and that top-end runners would be better prepared for national and collegiate success.

Those against an increase fear a change that might reduce participation numbers, especially among smaller Class 1A schools.

Slightly more than half of Class 1A coaches support lengthening the race for girls running varsity and junior varsity. Support was stronger — approaching 70 percent — among Class 2A coaches, according to responses from the survey that was given to 85 coaches.

Edina junior Shannon Spalding, in her second year of cross-country and the Hornets’ top runner, competed in the Griak meet last year and broke the school’s 5K record. She plans to run again with her teammates Saturday.

“Last year everyone was excited. Nobody was complaining but some girls were more nervous and afraid of running the extra 1K,” Spalding said. “That’s sad because this is what we should be running, and we were afraid to run it.”

4K support, burnout fears

About 80 percent of coaches in both classes said in the survey that they believed girls are physically able to race 5,000 meters. They also generally agreed, by a 3-1 margin, that race distance is not an issue of gender equity.

“We’re not letting the topic go away but we’re not rushing into it,” said Tom Sharp, Eastview boys’ cross-country coach and president of the cross-country coaches association.

Both Jane Reimer Morgan of Minnetonka and Rey Zimney of Pierz were coaching in 1994 when the distance last increased, from 3,200 meters to 4,000. Neither could recall a decline in participation numbers that some coaches feared. However, they are staunch supporters of keeping the 4K distance.

Zimney said he doesn’t understand “why the whole state should have to change for a very few number of runners” who go on to compete at national meets or in college. Zimney said he can “count on one hand” the number of girls he coached in the past 40 years who competed in college.

“I have no problem with 2A schools making the change but leave 1A out of it,” he said.

Reimer Morgan, a 37-year coaching veteran, is concerned with burning out young runners. About 340 Minnesota schools have girls’ cross-country teams, which count more than 5,000 participants, according to the Minnesota State High School League.

Many school districts allow seventh- and eighth-graders to compete on junior varsity and varsity teams. Reimer Morgan said she would miss the number of e-mails she receives from former runners who were average high school performers but made running part of their adult lifestyle.

“The top of the line runners would be fine,” Reimer Morgan said. “I’m worried about turning off kids who don’t know yet they might be a good runner. Let them grow into it. Maybe the rest of the nation isn’t so smart.”

  • related content

  • Monday's prep results

    Tuesday September 24, 2013

    MONDAYsoccer • boysSt. paul city• Como Park 2, Washington 1, OTSOCCER • girlsMETROPOLITAN AREA• Benilde-St. Margaret’s 10, Holy Family 1•...

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Kansas City - J. Vargas 7:07 PM
San Francisco - R. Vogelsong
Detroit 10/26/14 8:30 AM
Atlanta
Buffalo 10/26/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
St. Louis 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Houston 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
Minnesota 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Seattle 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Baltimore 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Miami 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Chicago 10/26/14 12:00 PM
New England
Philadelphia 10/26/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Oakland 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Cleveland
Indianapolis 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Pittsburgh
Green Bay 10/26/14 7:30 PM
New Orleans
Washington 10/27/14 7:30 PM
Dallas
New Orleans 10/30/14 7:25 PM
Carolina
Buffalo 3:00 PM
San Jose
Boston 6:00 PM
Toronto
NY Rangers 6:00 PM
Montreal
New Jersey 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Dallas 6:00 PM
NY Islanders
Detroit 6:00 PM
Philadelphia
Chicago 7:00 PM
St. Louis
Pittsburgh 7:00 PM
Nashville
Tampa Bay 7:00 PM
Minnesota
Florida 8:00 PM
Arizona
Washington 9:00 PM
Calgary
Connecticut 21 FINAL
(18) East Carolina 31
Miami-Florida 30 FINAL
Virginia Tech 6
So Florida 17 FINAL
Cincinnati 34
Troy 13 FINAL
South Alabama 27
BYU 30 FINAL
Boise State 55
(6) Oregon 59 FINAL
California 41
North Texas 14 2nd Qtr 11:45
Rice 14
UAB 0 2nd Qtr 8:28
Arkansas 28
Rutgers 7 2nd Qtr 10:28
(16) Nebraska 21
Maryland 0 2nd Qtr 14:50
Wisconsin 17
Texas 0 2nd Qtr 8:17
(11) Kansas State 6
Minnesota 3 2nd Qtr 7:31
Illinois 14
Memphis 14 2nd Qtr 10:05
SMU 0
North Carolina 6 1st Qtr 2:21
Virginia 14
San Jose St 12:00 PM
Navy
Northern Ill 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
(25) UCLA 1:00 PM
Colorado
Akron 1:00 PM
Ball State
Massachusetts 1:00 PM
Toledo
Ohio U 1:00 PM
Western Mich
Ga Southern 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Kent State 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Oregon State 2:30 PM
Stanford
Fla Atlantic 2:30 PM
(23) Marshall
Louisiana Tech 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(1) Miss State 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Georgia Tech 2:30 PM
Pittsburgh
(22) West Virginia 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Texas Tech 2:30 PM
(10) TCU
Michigan 2:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Boston College 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Central Mich 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Vanderbilt 3:00 PM
Missouri
Old Dominion 3:00 PM
Western Ky
UNLV 3:00 PM
Utah State
Temple 4:00 PM
UCF
(15) Arizona 5:00 PM
Washington St
Texas-El Paso 6:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Wyoming 6:00 PM
Colorado State
Syracuse 6:00 PM
(21) Clemson
Texas State 6:00 PM
ULM
(3) Ole Miss 6:15 PM
(24) LSU
(4) Alabama 6:30 PM
Tennessee
So Carolina 6:30 PM
(5) Auburn
(13) Ohio State 7:00 PM
Penn State
(20) USC 9:00 PM
(19) Utah
(14) Arizona State 9:45 PM
Washington
Nevada 10:59 PM
Hawaii
(2) Florida State 10/30/14 6:30 PM
Louisville
Troy 10/30/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
Cincinnati 10/31/14 7:00 PM
Tulane
Tulsa 10/31/14 7:00 PM
Memphis
Purdue 11/1/14 2:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
(17) Oklahoma 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Iowa State
Oklahoma State 11/1/14 2:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
(10) TCU 11/1/14 2:00 AM
(22) West Virginia
Texas 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Texas Tech
Northwestern 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Iowa
Maryland 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Penn State
Los Angeles 1:30 PM
Seattle
D.C. 3:00 PM
Montreal
Toronto FC 6:30 PM
New England
Portland 7:30 PM
FC Dallas
Colorado 9:00 PM
Vancouver FC
Montreal 23 FINAL
Ottawa 17
Saskatchewan 27 FINAL
Calgary 40
Hamilton 3:00 PM
Toronto
Brt Columbia 6:00 PM
Winnipeg
Hamilton 10/31/14 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Winnipeg 11/1/14 3:00 PM
Calgary
Brt Columbia 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton
Toronto 11/2/14 11:00 AM
Montreal

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Who wins and loses in football this weekend?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close