Benefiting from experience

The Viking
The Viking's cross country team runs behind North Kitsap High School during their last practice on Wednesday, Sept. 8.
— image credit: Kipp Robertson


POULSBO — A different style of coaching has created a confidence that lingers over the Viking cross country team, despite a lack of experienced varsity runners.

Although seven varsity runners graduated last year — four boys and three girls — a desire to help each other succeed has helped the inexperienced cross country runners develop quickly.

This teamwork can be attributed to the coaches who take a slightly different approach in how they handle new runners. It’s a coaching technique senior Alex Cook has not seen until head coach Richard Christopher and assistant coach Jonathon Erickson began coaching.

“Both coaches have a kind of hands-off approach,” Cook said. “They are full of information, which they let trickle down from their more experienced runners to the new ones.”

Cook is one of four captains on the team and admits the team lost some talented runners since last season, but there are many new runners that look promising.

Senior and cross country captain Kendall Rock has taken notice that the two coaches encourage better results out of the runners, instead of forcing it, in practice.

“I think I have seen better results with these coaches than most other running coaches,” Rock said.

Since the beginning of practices, base expectations have been established for the runners. The Kitsap Jamboree on Thursday will help the coaches establish who will run varsity for the season and prepare the team for the Salt Creek meet in Port Angeles on Sunday, Sept. 19, Erickson said.

Results of the Kitsap Jamboree were not available at presstime.

Many of the new runners have progressed well, but are still learning the sport, Erickson said.

It takes people a while to get proper techniques down when they first start running cross country,” Erickson said. “We have been trying to focus on introductory stuff, such as proper long distance runner techniques and hill climbs.”

Other cross country techniques that may take longer to develop are not physical, but mental.

When running, the placement of a competitor in terms of position will affect how he or she performs, Christopher said. He encourages his runners to stay packed together with groups of other runners, which helps maintain a focus on defeating the opponent, instead of focusing on fatigue.

You don’t see professional runners giving each other space,” Christopher said. “Cross country running is as much a tactical sport as it is physical.”

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