Cross Country FAQ

  1. What is Cross Country?
  2. What distances are run?
  3. What league are we in and how do we compete against the other schools?
  4. What can be learned from Cross Country?
  5. How can I help before the season starts?
  6. What does the team expect from the athletes?
  7. Is a medical clearance required?
  8. What grades are necessary?
  9. What equipment is required?
  10. When are practices ?
  11. Can my student-athlete participate in other activities, such as Band or a “club” sport? ?
  12. How will my student-athlete race in cross country ?
  13. How are the varsity teams selected ?
  14. When are the races?
  15. How can I find the race schedule and directions to the different meet locations ?
  16. Can I drive my child to the race ?
  17. How can I help my child before race day ?
  18. What foods are good on the day of the race ?
  19. How can I watch the race?
  20. What can I expect on race day?
  21. Do I have to buy the "fancy" sport waters?
  22. How can I find race results ?
  23. I hear complaints about lower leg pains
  24. I hear complaints about pain in the right side while running
  25. My child always develops blisters while running
  26. What should I look for in proper running shoes?
  27. How can my child be successful in Cross Country?
  28. Do I have to volunteer?
  29. Are there any fees?
  30. How do you score a Cross Country race?
  31. Cross Country Vocabulary (no testing for parents)?

What is Cross Country?

Cross Country is long distance running over different types of terrain. The course can consist of grass, dirt (mud), sand, concrete, and asphalt. The race may include hills, valleys, roads, sidewalks, and trails. The race is run rain or shine.

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What distances are run?

The usual distance is 3 miles for both boys and girls. There are some courses that are slightly less and some that are 5 kilometers (3.1 miles). While there are course records there are no National or World records for this sport.

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What league are we in and how do we compete against the other schools?

The RUHS Cross Country Team is in the prestigious Bay League. We compete against Mira Costa, West Torrance, Palos Verdes, Penninsula, and Leuzinger. Many of these school are top-ranked teams and thus our league is extremely difficult, one of the toughest in the state. Within the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF), we are a Southern Section, Division II School. The Division placement is based on the size of school enrollment. Following the Bay League Finals race, qualifying varsity teams (or individuals) will advance through the “playoffs” as a Southern Section Division II School.

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What can be learned from Cross Country?

Your student-athlete will develop positive mental and physical attributes that will be invaluable for their school work as well as in later years. Your runner will learn confidence, endurance, and perseverance. Your student-athlete will learn how to work within him or herself as well as working as a team member in meeting a common goal. The “successful” runner continually tries to improve his or her “personal record” (“PR”) while at the same time helping the team to victory. In addition, they will form friendships with teammates and runners from other schools that can continue beyond high school. Because of these acquired personal characteristics, listing Cross Country on a college application as an extra-curricular activity can only be an “eye-catching” enhancement.

The RUHS Cross Country Team prides itself on the incredible team bonding that we have between our athletes. This bond is formed naturally because the entire team warms up together, does drills together, runs together (most of the time), and in many cases spend time outside of school together. Having such steadfast friendship is important to helping a student geth through the rigors of High School learning.

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How can I help before the season starts ?

We strongly encourage all of our runners to run all during the summer. Except for the first weeks in August, we continue to run as a “team”. Some senior members of the team will attend a high altitude training camp during the summer to improve on fitness for the upcoming season.  As a rule, we don’t recommend you change any aspect of your normal routine of home responsibilities, family meal planning, bedtime, or social guidelines. A normal consequence of beginning to train is muscle soreness, which will soon go away. If your son or daughter has not participated in any sports before, this may last up to 2 weeks. They should tell this to the coaching staff so we can adjust the training. Any athlete engaged in intensive training and competition can be subject to injury. We can prevent most injuries when our runners tell us about their aches and pains before they become disabling. We can give them information and have them seen by our athletic trainers and/or treated by your personal physician. Although most of the time, icing on the area of soreness or pain will help ease the pain and heal the injury.

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What does the team expect from the athletes?

The way this team is structured, and the way we run our program, athletes are expected to be loyal to the team, themselves, and coaches. There is an expectation of daily practice with the team because "success" is achieved only when they show up and run as a team. As each individual runner improves, so does the team. They are expected to do workouts to the best of their ability. They are expected to listen to coaches and captains, and be open minded to suggestions and advice. Profanity, under any circumstances, is not welcome. They are expected to be at every race, whether they are running or not. They are expected to communicate with coaches and team mates. They are expected to stay within the given practice run, and not go their own way believing their route is either better or shorter. They are expected to follow team rules. They are expected to have fun. Finally, they are expected to do well in class and do their homework, members of the team are students first and athletes second. Receiving "U’s" on report cards creates ineligibility.

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Is a medical clearance required ?

Before your child can practice with the team, he (or she) must have had a physical examination and the results must be turned in to the Athletic Director in the main office. While not a recommendation, if you do not have a regular physician, the Ocean Medical Clinic (310.316-1661) offers a Cross Country examination at a low cost without an appointment. This exam will also be valid for other sports offered during the school year at Redondo Union High School.

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What grades are needed ?

A grade point average (GPA) of 2.0 or better and a “satisfactory” citizenship is required to compete in any sport at Redondo. A grade check will be done based on your progress report after the first six weeks of the fall semester. If you do not meet the above standards you will be ineligible until your grades or citizenship improves.

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What equipment is required ?

  • A pair of RUNNING shoes. Tennis, basketball, or “cross-trainer” shoes are NOT running shoes.
  • It is not necessary to purchase special running apparel. Loose fitting Tees and shorts are adequate for daily training.
  • Sweatshirt and Sweatpants.
  • A wristwatch.

At the beginning of the season, order forms will be sent out for uniforms, team warmups, equipment bags, and warmup tees. Only a uniform is required to be purchased, although it is recommended that team warmups are purchased as well. These are one-time purchases and do not need to be made every year, unless the athlete requires a new set.

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When are the practices?

Practice sessions are scheduled during 6th period of school and may roll over to afterschool. On days that the student does not attend a 6th period class, practice is scheduled for immediately afterschool and will continue until late in the afternoon. Most practices are 2-2.5 hours. Practice days may include school holidays. Practice runs are comprised of conditioning drills and runs of different distances. The runs can be performed through neighborhoods near the school, the beach, or local parks. Training is always supervised by the coaches. In the off season, many runners are encouraged to attend a saturday practice, the location and time of which may vary.

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Can my child participate in other activities such as band or "club" sports?

Yes, we can not stop them. However, we prefer they DO NOT. Cross Country is a wonderful opportunity for personal growth and a demonstration of school spirit. We hope that you, as parents, appreciate this philosophy and equally support this goal. Personal characteristics learned by your student-athlete include “commitment” and “consistency”. Commitment, consistency, and dedication to the school and the team are essential for personal and team success. Other activities should not interfere in anyway with cross-country. His (or her) teammates need to rely on your child to work as hard as they do for the team’s goals. Your student-athlete may be asked by the coaching staff to choose between these conflicting extra activities and cross country participation if it begins to interfere with training.

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How will my child race in Cross Country?

Races can be divided by either age groups divisions. The divisions are typically Varsity, Junior Varsity, and Freshmen teams. Some invitationals may have differing divisions.

Unlike other sports, there is no bench or sidelines for the slower runners to merely watch the faster runners compete and only hope for a chance to run. Every team member will compete and has a valuable place on the team regardless of age, speed, or skill.

The Varsity teams are limited to 7 runners.  ALL other runners will run the other races. The other divisions can have an unlimited number of runners. The Freshman team is run by the Freshman, and Junior Varsity is run by all non-Varsity and non-Freshman runners. No one will run more than once in a single competion/day. Every runner has the opportunity to run at the Varsity level.

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How are the varsity teams selected?

As a general rule, the fastest 7 runners on the team (regardless of grade) make the Varsity teams. You need 7 runners on the Varsity squad, and at least five to score as a team. However, the athlete’s work ethic, as well as the dedication, and commitment they may display is also considered. Ultimately, the coaches have the final say as to who runs Varsity for the next competition.

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When are the races?

The season covers September through the first part of November. Advancement beyond the league is completed by the end of November. League meets are typically on Thursday afternoons. We also compete at Invitational Races on most Saturdays against many other schools throughout California.

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Where is the schedule and driving directions to the various courses?

Information on where race is posted on the schedule page and race times and directions will be posted to the main page shortly before each meet.

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Can I drive my child to any of the races?

Bus transportation is provided by the school. When the bus is used, the school is responsible to you, for the safety and well-being of your student-athlete until he or she is returned to school and released to you. We are legally bound by state law for athletes’ safe transport to and from the meet. All athletes are required to take the bus to and from meets, unless there is a special circumstance. When there is such a case, the parent will be required to sign the Alternate Transport Approval Form before taking a child to (or from) the race. Under NO circumstances high school athletes are allowed to drive themselves to a race. The coaches must be notified well in advance if such change in transportation is needed.

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How can I help my child prepare before race day?

Make sure your athlete gets plenty of sleep the two nights prior to race day. Make sure your athlete eats properly. Hydrate with lots of WATER. Light, easy to digest foods (primary carbohydrates). Experienced athletes often speak of carb-loading prior to a race, with foods such as pasta. No carbonated or acidic liquids.

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What foods are good on the day of the race?

Small portions of easily digested foods eaten at least 3 hours before competition are best, but water intake should never be limited. Most athletes feel best when they race a little hungry. Some foods that are good before the run include a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, banana, and water. Foods with a lot of sugar, fat, or anything that will fill your runner up completely should be avoided. he or she should not drink a lot of water immediately before the race, but rather a lot of it when he or she is not ready to race. Soda pop, chips, fast food, and other "junk" food are not good to eat either. Discourage soft drinks after a race because while he or she is thirsty, it will dehydrate them.

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How can I watch the race?

Cross Country is not the typical spectator sport because you cannot see the entire race from one location. When you arrive, locate the start and finish lines. Spend a few minutes before the start of the race to pick your "spot" which would be a location where you can see as much of the race with as little moving around as possible.

During the race, you can move from point to point along the course to cheer the runners as they pass. Be careful, however, to stay off the runners’ path and out of their way. Rules forbid running alongside a competitor to pace or encourage him or her. Do not hand any runner any food or water during the race (as you would see during marathons).

Especially at Invitationals, many schools may share a uniform color similar to ours so try to observe the differences while the teams are warming up before the start. It will be easier to follow your runner and his or her teammates.

Remember, cheering for all Redondo athletes is encouraged. Bring friends, family, and a camera; especially for the Saturday invitational races. These can be quite colorful and always entertaining.

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What can I expect on the day of the race?

Do not expect the attention of your child before the race. Athletes need time to warm up; be briefed by the coaches; and prepare physically and mentally for the race with their teammates. Don’t be surprised at the seriousness your child shows prior to and during a race. The intensity of competition may reveal a side of your young athlete’s personality you haven’t seen before.

At the finish of a race, the runners file through a chute. It’s OK to greet them, but please don’t distract them or remove them from the chute. Your runner may need to provide information so team scores can be tabulated. Runners have more responsibilities after a race. They are all expected to cool-down as a team and actively support their teammates who have yet to race.

The first time you see your athlete after a race may be frightening. Some runners are more tired than others after a race. They have rubber legs, some are panting and gasping for air, their faces may be red and their eyes glassy. They may be nauseated, stagger, and appear as if they may faint. These symptoms are common and usually pass quickly.

A mistake parents sometimes make is to take their sons or daughters off by themselves to try to take care of them. Please do not do this! Our coaches are experienced in dealing with these symptoms, trained in first-aid, and responsible for their care. To aid recovery, water is the best thing to drink immediately after a race. Trained medical personnel are on site at most Saturday races and are available for assistance for the extraordinary problems.

Expect the possibility of some disappointment by your student-athlete after the race if the team did not win, or if he or she failed to achieve all of their goals. Athletes may need some emotional space afterward from you, friends, family, and their coaches. When they are ready to talk, they will come to you. Later on, they will need verbal support rather than criticism.

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Do I have to buy the fancy "sport waters"?

Sports drinks such as Gatorade are designed to replenish fluid rapidly and to replace energy rapidly, as well as replacing minerals and vitamins. They have a place in races and heavy training, but for most purposes water is fine. After practices, Gatorade jugs are available to runners, and all runners are encouraged to drink plenty of Gatorade to replenish their fuel.

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How can I find the race results?

The overall (all schools) results for the Saturday races are usually posted at the individual web site that hosted the race. The particular host web site can usually be found at www.dyestatcal.com, and sometimes the race results will be located on that website itself.

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I hear complaints about lower leg pains

The following is NOT a medical diagnosis. These are probably “shin splints”. Please ask the coaches about your child’s specific complaint.

“Shin splints” are a common condition for runners. They are characterized by generalized pain in front of the lower leg. In particular, these complaints commonly appear between 8-12 weeks after starting training. The most common cause is a muscle imbalance where the calf muscles (which pull the forefoot down) overpower the shin muscles (which pull the forefoot up). As the athlete continues to train, the calf muscle usually becomes proportionately much stronger than the shin muscles.

The treatment for shin splints is to strengthen the weaker muscles (shins) and stretch the stronger muscles (calves).

Help for your child with “shin splints”:

  • To strengthen the shins, have your child run up stairs. To stretch the calves, have your child do wall push-ups)
  • Pick up marbles with his (or her) toes and holding onto them for a few seconds.
  • While recovering from shin splints, it may help to use a wedge in the heel of the shoes. By raising the heel, there is a reduction in the pull on the muscles and tendons on the front.
  • Stand on stairs with his (or her) heels out over the edge. Lower the heels as far as they will go without undue discomfort, and hold for 15 seconds.
  • Slowly raise yourself up on your toes.
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I hear complaints about pain in the side while running

The following is NOT a medical diagnosis. The pain can be a “stitch”. Please ask the coach about your child’s specific complaint.

Stitches can be a muscle spasm of the diaphragm. The stitch is a condition that occurs only during exercise and which causes severe pain usually on the right side of the abdomen, immediately below the rib margin. Frequently the pain is also perceived in the right shoulder joint, where it feels as if an ice-pick were being driven into the joint. The pain is exacerbated by down-hill running and by fast, sustained running as in a race.

The cause of the spasm is that the organs below the diaphragm are bouncing up and down and pulling down as it wants to pull up. The liver being the largest organ is the biggest culprit which is why most stitches are on the right side. A stomach full of food may also contribute to the problem for the same reason.

The cure seems can be a simple one. Breathe out when the left foot strikes the ground instead of when the right foot strikes so that the organs on the right side of the abdomen are bouncing up when the diaphragm is going up. The organs attached to the bottom of the diaphragm on the left aren’t as big, so exert less downward pulling strain. Conversely, if your stitch occurs on the left side, switch your breathing to exhale on the right foot.

Ensure your child does not eat anything for an hour before running if he (or she) is prone to stitches, BUT ENCOURAGE WATER. Water empties from the stomach faster than solids and the risk of complications from dehydration far exceed the problems one may have with a stitch.

In the long term, exercises to strengthen the abdominal muscles will help prevent stitches because tighter abs will allow less movement of those internal organs. Practice belly breathing instead of chest breathing. For the most part, stitches diminish over time. While they are not strictly a novice runner’s problem, they usually will go away after a few weeks of conditioning.

Proper breathing prevents the development of the ‘stitch’.

It has been suggested that when breathing with the chest too much air is drawn into the lungs, and not all is exhaled. This causes a gradual and progressive accumulation of air in the lungs, causing them to expand which in turn causes the diaphragm to be stretched and to encroach on the abdominal contents below it. During running, the over-stretched diaphragm becomes sandwiched between an over-expanded chest above, and a jolting intestine pounding it from below. It revolts by going into spasm, and the pain of this spasm is recognized as the stitch.

A change in breathing pattern may help relieve the stitch.

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My child always develops blisters while running

Try out some of the running socks sold by the running stores rather than “regular” while socks. Double-layered ones work well. They are more expensive than cheap "sports" socks, but if your child has chronic blister problems, then they are well worth it. Another good trick is to apply Vaseline to the feet before running.

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What should I look for in proper running shoes?

Make sure that your child owns a comfortable, new or relatively new pair of running shoes by the start of the season.

A good pair of shoes is the most important item of equipment to a runner. You need a good, basic well-cushioned pair of shoes that fit well. You don’t need “motion control” shoes unless you already know that your child has gait problems (over-pronation or over-supination). You DON’T need expensive shoes with flashy gimmicks.

If possible, go to a store that deals primarily with running footwear and apparel. These stores have experienced runners as sales persons who can help you with the right fit for your athlete. Locally these stores are the Road Runner Sports in Torrance and Village Runner in Redondo Beach. Road Runner Sports offers discounts for Redondo Union High School runners. The sales people at the sporting goods chain stores and the mall shoe stores just don’t know their products or how to fit runners, despite advertising to the contrary. A real runner’s store should allow you to run in the shoe on the sidewalk outside the store or on a treadmill in the store. They should be able to tell you if you over-pronate in a particular shoe and offer alternatives. The advice you get in a good store is very valuable.

Running shoes should not have to be “broken in”. They should feel “RIGHT”, from the beginning. If they are uncomfortable when they are tried on, don’t buy them, no matter how good they look! There’s no getting around that running shoes can be very expensive. The best way to prolong the projected 300 to 500 mile life of a pair of running shoes is to wear them for running only, not as school or social dress. With the milage that our running program producses, most shoes will last 4-5 months at best.

Shoes that are more than a year old or have been through a season of training and racing should be retired or else the risk of injury is significantly increased.

Good shoes are the only real important piece of equipment that this sport requires and money spent on shoes is less money spent at a podiatrist!

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How can my child be successful in Cross Country?

“Success” is not defined as being the fastest person on the team. More than anything else, success in Cross Country takes time. Time to learn; time to train; time to sleep, rest and recover; before-school time; after-school time; weekend time; time with and away from family and friends; and time away from other interests. With the academic responsibilities of being a high school student, most student-athletes are busy all the time because of the delicate balancing act that must be performed. The willingness to devote the time that success demands for cross country is called DEDICATION.

Being a member of the RUHS Cross Country Team carries expectations and responsibilities. Doing what is expected of every team member is called COMMITMENT. Attending team practices every day is one of the commitments. Our goal is to development team loyalty and individual responsibility and accountability among all our team members. Another part of commitment is COMMUNICATION with our coaching staff. If a problem or illness is going to force your child to miss a practice or a race, the athlete must tell the coaches about it personally and in advance. (This does not mean relaying a message through a teammate or friend!) Many such problems can be solved when athletes talk with us.

Even though your child is not the fastest in any particular race, “success” is achieved when he or she has learned “dedication”, “commitment”.

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Do I have to volunteer?

Unlike many other activities, you are not required to volunteer. However, if you have the time your assistance is an excellent demonstration to your child that you support and share his or her interests. To view opportunities to volunteer, please see the volunteer page.

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Are there any fees?

There are no registration or enrollment fees. However, at the beginning of the Cross Country season, a letter drive is held to generate donations for the program and you can either send form letters to friends and family asking for donations or if it is financially viable, you may donate money from your family instead of participation in the letter drive.

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How do you score a Cross Country race?

The lower the score the better. At a minimum, there must be 5 who finish the race. If there are any less that finish the race, the team cannot score any points and are disqualified.

The top 7 runners for the team are the only runners involved in the scoring. Additional runners will not be considered in the scored results. The top 5 runners are assigned the number of points equal to their place in the race. For example, if a runner finishes in 4th place then the team gets 4 points for that runner. These points are then added together to determine the team score. If there is a tie with the first 5 runners, the 6th place runner’s points are then added to find the team winner. In addition to breaking ties, the 6th and 7th runners also play an important part of the race. They can “displace” another team’s top 5 runners. For example, if the 6th runner for Redondo beats the 5th runner from another school; the other school will have another point added to its team score. Although the sixth runner’s place is not added to the Redondo score, the other team’s score is worsened in comparison.

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Cross Country Vocabulary

  • Chute – The roped off area at the finish line through which the athletes are directed in order to get their place cards.
  • Clerk of the Course – The person responsible for all of the races. This person tabulates team scoring and resolves any race discrepancy with the coaches.
  • Course – The marked and measured route of the race.
  • Cool-down – Jogging after the race to allow the muscles to purge themselves of lactates and lower the body temperature to normal.
  • Displacer – The 6 or 7th team member who finishes ahead of one of the top 5 runners for the other school. Used for team scoring.
  • False Start – Leaving the starting line before the gun sounds or a runner falls at the start of the race.
  • Invitational Meet – A multi-team meet.
  • Pace – Running speed over a particular distance, typically by mile.
  • Pack – A group of runners in close proximity.
  • Personal Record (PR) – A record set by each athlete on a timed course. The goal is to continually improve a PR.
  • Place – Where the athlete finished the race relative to all of the other athletes.
  • Position – Where the athlete finished the race relative to the other athletes on his team.
  • Racing Flats– Special, lightweight shoes designed for racing, rather than daily training.
  • Surge – A tactical increase in pace during the race.
  • Training Flats – Running shoes designed for long wear in daily training (called “flats” because they have no spiked bottoms.
  • Warm-up – A running and stretching routine that gradually warms up the body for intense running.
  • Workout – A daily training session
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This FAQ was adapted by the Redondo Cross Country Boosters Club from the original by Torrance High School.

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