by Michael Smith
Over the summer, Nick Small’s boys and girls cross country teams have been hard at work.
Most of his runners have been running up to 65 miles and working out six days a week over the summer to prepare for the 2022 season.
The preparation that is done over the summer is valuable, according to freshman Landon Blew, as it gets the Eagles into shape for the fall season.”
“Building up a high mileage over the summer definitely helps,” Blew said. “It just makes running feel easier as you are building that mileage up.
During summer workouts, Small has his teams on a 10-day cycle, as run and exercise at different locations and work on different types of cardio every day.
The team will run on trails, the school track, and even a frisbee golf course near the high school.
“We try to change it up on the body and get in a couple of long runs,” Small said. “We will do a couple of shorter workouts and get some mileage.”
“Also, we have some speed days and you don’t typically think of that as a long-distance runner. They don’t typically think of that being their strong suit. It’s a system that we work. Last week, we did 60-meter runs 10 times.”
One workout consists of something Small calls the “BYU challenge,” where runners move at a faster pace like they are trying to break their personal best time for a 5-kilometer race before slowing down for a period of time, then they repeat the process.
“It’s challenging, but you get to control the challenge,” Small said of the BYU challenge. “It gives them the opportunity to push the envelope for a certain amount of time while getting rest and recovery in between.
So far, Small has been pleased with the turnout for summer workouts as around 40 runners (20 boys and 20 girls) have been running during the summer.
“We have tried to hit recruiting at the middle school level the last two years, especially coming out of the pandemic and those sorts of things,” Small said, “and that has really started to pay off.”
While there is quite a bit of training for the cross country teams during the summer, Small makes sure to schedule some fun activities for his Eagles.
Last week, the teams got to participate in an event last week called the Twilight Relay. It’s an event that goes from 8 p.m. until 2 a.m. at the Grain Valley High School track. In the event, there is at least one Eagle running at all times and they pass the baton to a teammate that keeps going until the event is over.
“You can run as fast or as slow as you want,” Small said. “We split the kids into teams and have them compete against each other.”
Small said during the off time, there are field games that the athletes can partake in such as ultimate frisbee. The coaches also order pizza for the Eagles to eat while they are taking a rest from the activities.
The event also allows for Grain Valley alumni, who were cross country runners for the Eagles in the past.
“It was really fun, we have done quite a bit of team bonding stuff,” Blew said of the Twilight Relays. “That has helped with chemistry.”
The Grain Valley cross country team, along with alumni pose for a photo after the Twilight Relay Thursday, July 21. The event was a team bonding activity that involved athletes racing against each other in relays at the high school track in an event that lasted from 8:00pm to 2:00am.
Photo credit: Michael Smith