“Cross country is an endurance sport.” According to Ken Roach, the head coach of both the men’s and women’s cross country teams, cross country is the sport of athletics, partially because of its link to track and field.
Cross country is a long-distance running sport, while track and field focuses on several different endurance events. Roach said cross country tends to be the more robust because the track is off road. Many athletes run cross country in the fall and track and field in the spring because the seasons keep them in shape. “Endurance is a 365-day commitment,” Roach said. “You’ve got to maintain it.”
This season, Roach’s cross country rosters include 11 men and 19 women. Although the number of runners on a team is only limited to Roach’s discretion, each time a team competes, the school pays an entry fee ranging from about $150 to $300.
These fees go to the host team and fund expensive equipment, such as the timing systems and cameras used to determine the winners of the races, according to Roach. Beyond the entry fee, Roach said he considers travel arrangements and other necessities when choosing how many athletes to allow on a team.
Runners often race with several other teams, ranging from four or five in one meet to 16 or 17. At the end of the race, the first five runners will score for their team, but up to seven of the first runners can score if they beat the other teams’ first five runners, Roach said.
For the rest of the runners, the race is timed on an individual basis, but many of the athletes enjoy the personal aspect of the competition. “It’s a sport that you can really do a lifetime,” Roach said. “You don’t have to walk away from it.”
In fact, the meets are open to unattached runners for a fee of $150. Roach said many people take the opportunity to compete, including professional athletes training for their own competitions. Many of them are just people who enjoy running. “It’s not uncommon to have 40- or 50-year-olds sign up for a race,” Roach said.
Both cross country and track and field provide opportunities to grow in more than just athletic prowess, according to Roach. Because the sports are performance-based, hiding low dedication behind inherent talent is practically impossible.
“You really have to put your best effort forward,” Roach said. “You can really tell if an athlete’s being complacent, and that can correlate to what your walk is with God as well.”