A group of 17 youth cross-country runners will get what may be their first taste of running on a national level next Saturday.
The Frederick Spires Youth Running Club is sending this group to the Cross Country Coaches Youth National Championships at Shelbyville, Indiana.
The local runners, ranging in age from 7 to 14 years old, will compete in four different divisions.
The 7-8 group will run a 2-kilometer race; the 9-10s and 11-12s run a 3-kilometer distance; the oldest group, 13-14, runs a 4-kilometer race. The 11-12 girls will run as a team for Spires next Saturday.
“These kids are just amazing,” Spires coach Trevor James said. “They work out, train really well and are very dedicated.”
The club has been around for about two years. James, formerly a coach with the Middletown Knight Striders organization, said the idea of the club is to emphasize the concept of running as a team, running as a pack, seeking both good point totals, improved times and bonding as a team.
Olivia Gregory, 11, has been running for two years. Her sister signed up for the Spires club, so she decided to give it a try. It’s a decision she’s never regretted.
“We practice a lot,” Gregory said. “I like the idea of staying focused, running as a team.”
The Spires’ practice schedule during cross-country season is typically twice a week. “But in the postseason, we bump it up to three times a week,” James said.
The training regimen includes the usual mix of intense workouts, distance running and interval running. Interval running usually involves running one lap a time around a track, setting a baseline pace time.
“We’ve worked out on the track at Frederick High School,” said James, who is assisted by Frederick High School cross-country and track coach Tim Stevenson. “Once they achieve a base time, then we work with the runners to improve those times.”
Practice sessions usually end with post-running condition, which includes stretches and push-ups. During a recent workout on Saturday at Baker Park, James joined his group doing push-ups.
“The conditioning goes a long way in keeping runners injury-free,” James said. “We’ve got some runners here who also run track, so there’s some cross-training involved as well.”
The Spires runners qualified to go to nationals by achieving qualifying times during regular-season events, James said.
Lucy Slagle, 12, is in her first year of running cross-country. This will be her first long-distance trip to compete in a running event.
“I’m tired after I’ve finished running, but I’m happy I competed,” Slagle said. “I enjoy the feeling of running.”
Running has other benefits as well. For example, Lexis Owens, 12, uses it to offset anxiety.
“If I’m stressed out from school, I focus on running,” she said. “It helps a lot.”
There’s also the self-satisfaction, inner-peace factors for the athletes.
“I set goals for myself,” Canton Wetzel, 12, said. “I love accomplishing those goals.”