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How far are cross-country races?

Races are age-specific and are set by USATF to develop athletes progressively for the standard high school race distance (5k or 3.1 miles). 6&under runners typically race 800m (½ mile), although some races are shorter. 7-8 year olds race 2000m (1.25 miles), 9-10 and 11-12 year olds race 3000m (a little less than 2 miles), and 13-14 year olds race 4000m (2.5 miles).


What age group do I race with?

Your age is based on how old you are on December 31st of this year. For example, if you are 8 years old all season but turn 9 on or before December race as a 9 year old.


How do you qualify for USATF National Junior Olympic Cross-Country Championships?

All athletes are eligible for all the regular season races and the USATF Pacific Northwest Association Championships. The top 35 runners in each age group (and the top 5 teams in each age group) advance to the USATF Regional Championships. The top 30 runners in each age group (and the top 5 teams in each age group) advance out of the Regional Championships to the USATF National Championships.

If an age group has enough runners to register more than one team during the JO Championship races how is it decided which runners advance?

When we have more than 8 runners in any age group, our coaching staff will set up multiple teams (A, B, C, etc.) strategically chosen to ensure our goals within that age group team are met. For each team we qualify to advance, we will roster runners regardless of which A, B, C, etc. team they ran with in the previous qualifying race. The Top 5 finishers in an age group will be placed on the advancing team with the additional 3 places chosen based on coaches' discretion.

How is cross-country scored?

The first five runners from each team to cross the finish line receive the points that correspond to their place. For example, the first place runner receives one point, the second place runner two, and so on. The team receiving the lowest combined score wins. Some early season meets only score the top 3 runners from each team, but all USATF Junior Olympic championships use traditional scoring with designated teams of 5 to 8 runners with the top 5 finishers on each team contributing to the team score. Any age group team competing with less than 5 runners is not eligible for team awards or advancement.


What do I need to bring to practice?

All runners should come to practice with a reusable water bottle and as the weather changes they should be dressed in layers with a hoodie or jacket to wear during warm-ups and to put on as soon as practice is over. Please be sure all bottles and clothing are labelled with your runner's name. In addition to dry, warm clothes, a small, healthy post-workout snack for the ride home may be good for your runner.


What should I do after school until practice starts?

We understand that the hours between getting out of school and when practice starts may present problems for some of our runners. Athletes are responsible for their own health and preparation and should make sure to come to practice rested, properly nourished and hydrated, and well rested. Make sure they’ve eaten something healthy since lunch but be sure you’re keeping in mind what time practice is and be sure to give proper time prior to working out.


Can I bring a friend to practice to check out what cross-country is?

Unfortunately, for the safety of all WSRR coaches and athletes we can only have registered athletes, USATF-cleared coaches, and parent volunteers at practice. We urge our runners to encourage their friends to officially join the team as running with friends is always more fun!


Other than running, what can I do in the off-season to get better?

The best thing any runner can do to improve their performance when they are not running is to work on their core strength and breathing. We focus heavily on these components of fitness, particularly in our early season work. Working on the exercises that coaches have highlighted for you both during the season and the off-season will help you develop into a stronger runner. Additionally, they are great exercises to do regularly as a family activity.


What should I eat the night before or morning of a race?

As an athlete, it is essential to stay properly hydrated and maintain a healthy diet all season long, not just the night before a race. The meals you eat everyday for breakfast, lunch, after school snacks (for energy), and dinner (for recovery) are critical to your ability to improve. The night before a race is nothing different. Do not eat things the night before a race that you wouldn’t normally eat the day of or night before a hard workout. Eat a balanced meal of protein, carbohydrates, and vegetables. Avoid all sugar filled beverages and limit sweets. As a general rule, try to make your plate as colorful as possible with different types of foods.


Do I need to race in spikes?

You’re going to hear different opinions on this from different people so if you are interested in running in spikes please talk to the coaching staff. They are definitely not required at any age and are hard to find in small sizes for younger runners. Spikes are typically only worn for races and some shorter hard workouts to get acclimated to them. They do offer benefits such as very light-weight and additional traction, but to get those you have to give up support and cushioning. As runners get older and more competitive, spikes are beneficial.


Where should I get shoes and what should I wear?

We have been very happy over the years with the technical support provided by West Seattle Runner on California Ave across from the Hiawatha Community Center and Seven Hills Running Shop in Magnolia near Discovery Park. Both stores have fitted the majority of our runners with footwear over the years without issue. There are not a lot of options of real running shoes for youth runners, but our local running shops carry the best options out there to choose from and they treat our runners and families with great respect.

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