Distance doesn’t matter
Wayzata coach Dave Emmans, who supported the 5K distance, said the length of race never enters the discussions he has with prospective runners.
“Once you hook a kid, they’re in regardless of distance,” Emmans said. “Whether it’s two miles or a 5K does not matter. They like it or they don’t.”
Emmans, who coaches at the state’s largest school and has 90 girls out for cross-country this fall, said he is “sympathetic to 1A schools but if I was a 1A coach, I don’t think I’d care. Kids are going to come out if they see the value in it, and coaches and the other kids drive that.”
Eagan coach Lisa Langenhahn said she gets about 50 girls out each fall and that a 5K would not change the turnout. The training expectations are the same for each runner, she said, because she doesn’t “want any kid, even the ones with less talent, to feel like they are getting shortchanged.”
Some too young for 5K?
Two Class 1A coaches, Mark Lagergren of Norwood-Young America and Joel Burmeister of St. Croix Lutheran in West St. Paul, supported the 5K distance. Burmeister, who previously coached in Arizona where all high school races are 5K and seventh- and eighth-graders are not allowed to participate, said he would have concerns about “pushing a seventh-grader into a 5K unless I know they’ve been running previously.”
Zimney and Edina coach Matt Gabrielson offered possible alternatives. Zimney said Class 1A could stay at 4K and 2A could run the extra 1,000 meters. Gabrielson suggested making only the section and state meets 5K distances.
Lisa Lissimore, associate director at the high school league, said different race lengths for different classes could be an option but changing the lengths for postseason meets is unlikely.
Lissimore said she is working with the National Federation of State High School Coaches Associations to survey states on whether going to a 5K negatively affected participation numbers. She plans to give the information to coaches around the time of the state meet in November.
“We are not opposed to increasing from a 4K to a 5K, but we will do what best serves our schools,” Lissimore said.