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.”

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.

 

  • 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

Minnesota 16 FINAL
Buffalo 17
Atlanta 7 FINAL
Baltimore 29
Tennessee 17 FINAL
Washington 19
Seattle 26 FINAL
St. Louis 28
Cleveland 6 FINAL
Jacksonville 24
Cincinnati 0 FINAL
Indianapolis 27
Miami 27 FINAL
Chicago 14
New Orleans 23 FINAL
Detroit 24
Carolina 17 FINAL
Green Bay 38
Kansas City 23 FINAL
San Diego 20
Arizona 24 FINAL
Oakland 13
NY Giants 21 FINAL
Dallas 31
San Francisco 17 FINAL
Denver 42
Houston 10/20/14 7:30 PM
Pittsburgh
San Diego 10/23/14 7:25 PM
Denver
Detroit 10/26/14 8:30 AM
Atlanta
Boston 95 FINAL
Brooklyn 90
Minnesota 112 FINAL
Oklahoma City 94
Golden State 83 FINAL
Houston 90
Charlotte 96 FINAL
Chicago 101
Utah 91 FINAL
LA Lakers 98
Minnesota 1 FINAL
Los Angeles 2
San Jose 0 FINAL
NY Rangers 4
Calgary 4 FINAL
Winnipeg 1
St. Louis 0 FINAL
Anaheim 3
TX-San Antonio 20 FINAL
Louisiana Tech 27
Syracuse 30 FINAL
Wake Forest 7
Purdue 38 FINAL
Minnesota 39
Western Ky 38 FINAL
Fla Atlantic 45
(12) Baylor 27 FINAL
(22) West Virginia 41
(11) Kansas State 31 FINAL
(17) Oklahoma 30
Iowa 31 FINAL
Maryland 38
So Florida 38 FINAL
Tulsa 30
Tulane 13 FINAL
UCF 20
Virginia 13 FINAL
Duke 20
Akron 20 FINAL
Ohio U 23
Western Mich 26 FINAL
Bowling Green 14
Eastern Mich 14 FINAL
Massachusetts 36
Appalachian St 53 FINAL
Troy 14
(25) UCLA 36 FINAL
California 34
Texas A&M 0 FINAL
(4) Alabama 59
Army 17 FINAL
Kent State 39
Kansas 21 FINAL
Texas Tech 34
UAB 22 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 34
Rutgers 17 FINAL
(13) Ohio State 56
(8) Michigan State 56 FINAL
Indiana 17
New Mexico 31 FINAL
Air Force 35
NC State 18 FINAL
Louisville 30
(21) Clemson 17 FINAL
Boston College 13
Ball State 32 FINAL
Central Mich 29
Cincinnati 41 FINAL
SMU 3
(9) Georgia 45 FINAL
Arkansas 32
Oklahoma State 9 FINAL
(10) TCU 42
San Jose St 27 FINAL
Wyoming 20
Miami-Ohio 41 FINAL
Northern Ill 51
New Mexico St 17 FINAL
Idaho 29
Colorado 28 FINAL
(20) USC 56
(23) Marshall 45 FINAL
FIU 13
Southern Miss 30 FINAL
North Texas 20
Georgia Tech 43 FINAL
North Carolina 48
Tennessee 3 FINAL
(3) Ole Miss 34
Utah State 13 FINAL
Colorado State 16
Missouri 42 FINAL
Florida 13
Kentucky 3 FINAL
(24) LSU 41
(16) Nebraska 38 FINAL
Northwestern 17
Georgia State 27 FINAL
South Alabama 30
Washington 20 FINAL
(6) Oregon 45
Iowa State 45 FINAL
Texas 48
(7) Notre Dame 27 FINAL
(2) Florida State 31
Nevada 42 FINAL
BYU 35
Stanford 10 FINAL
(14) Arizona State 26
Hawaii 10 FINAL
San Diego St 20
Arkansas State 10/21/14 7:00 PM
Louisiana
Connecticut 10/23/14 6:00 PM
(18) East Carolina
Miami-Florida 10/23/14 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
So Florida 10/24/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Troy 10/24/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
BYU 10/24/14 8:00 PM
Boise State
(6) Oregon 10/24/14 9:00 PM
California
North Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Rice
UAB 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Arkansas
Rutgers 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
Maryland 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Wisconsin
Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
Minnesota 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
Memphis 10/25/14 11:00 AM
SMU
North Carolina 10/25/14 11:30 AM
Virginia
San Jose St 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Navy
Northern Ill 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
(25) UCLA 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Colorado
Akron 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Ball State
Massachusetts 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Toledo
Ohio U 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Western Mich
Ga Southern 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Kent State 10/25/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Oregon State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Stanford
Fla Atlantic 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(23) Marshall
Louisiana Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(1) Miss State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Georgia Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Pittsburgh
(22) West Virginia 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Texas Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(10) TCU
Michigan 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Boston College 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Central Mich 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Vanderbilt 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Missouri
Old Dominion 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Western Ky
UNLV 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Utah State
Temple 10/25/14 4:00 PM
UCF
(15) Arizona 10/25/14 5:00 PM
Washington St
Texas-El Paso 10/25/14 6:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Wyoming 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Colorado State
Syracuse 10/25/14 6:00 PM
(21) Clemson
Texas State 10/25/14 6:00 PM
ULM
(3) Ole Miss 10/25/14 6:15 PM
(24) LSU
(4) Alabama 10/25/14 6:30 PM
Tennessee
So Carolina 10/25/14 6:30 PM
(5) Auburn
(13) Ohio State 10/25/14 7:00 PM
Penn State
(20) USC 10/25/14 9:00 PM
(19) Utah
(14) Arizona State 10/25/14 9:45 PM
Washington
Nevada 10/25/14 10:59 PM
Hawaii
Columbus 3 FINAL
Red Bull New York 1
Seattle 2 FINAL
Los Angeles 2
Ottawa 6 FINAL
Hamilton 16
Montreal 20 FINAL
Toronto 12
Calgary 33 FINAL
Winnipeg 23
Edmonton 24 FINAL
Saskatchewan 19

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Grade the Vikings offense

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