This past summer, Eugenia and I had our “carpe diem” conversation with Keaton challenging him to push himself out of his comfort zone by engaging in new activities this school year.  Keaton chose Cross Country as a new sport that he would try this year.  As the only Freshman on the team, we had a few reservations on what his experience would be like, but the team and coaches from the very beginning were extremely supportive, inclusive and encouraging.  What a positive and both character and mental growth experience this season has been for Keaton!

When Keaton announced that he was running cross-country, we had to do some quick internet research to learn more about the basics:  How long are the races?  (typically 5K runs)  Do they run on a track, grass fields, dirt paths?  (all and more…)  How are teams scored?  (top 5 placement finishes per school, lowest total score wins, hence if your team placed first through fifth, the lowest possible score would be 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 5 = 15).

We also learned a bit about gait analysis and about running spikes, light-weight interval running shoes and long-distance running shoes.  We mostly learned that running shoes are not cheap and need to be replaced every 250 miles or so which may sound like a lot of mileage but when you’re training 6x’s/week and putting in long runs, the shoes wear out quickly.

What was very special to witness is the camaraderie and encouragement that cross-country teams in general display for each other.  This was a far departure from the sometimes, “me-first”, selfish, prima donnas that are rampant in sports today.  Competitors displayed genuine support for each other, cheering on one another and remaining at the finish line to congratulate runners coming in behind them.

Competition was focused on self-improvement of Personal Records (PRs) and Season Records (SRs) and of individual mental toughness.  We loved both the individual competition as well as the team competition concepts.  Individual stars could excel but only go so far as team success was ensuring that the team collectively did better together.

What a great experience for Keaton and congratulations to the coaches, parents and XC runners for an amazing season.