One of the things I really look forward to every year is the cross-country season. Now that school has started, teams across the state are starting to attend a number of cross-country meets. If you have never been to a meet, I would highly recommend taking the time to attend one in your area. There is nothing quite like it. It's a combination of multiple 5Ks or other distance along with a festival atmosphere. Is is so much fun to see all of the schools in attendance wearing their different colors. It's an experience that is hard to describe. You just have to see it for yourself.
Athlete Guild has been timing cross-country meets for several years but recently have started doing a lot more as school cross-country programs have discovered that it's actually possible to raise a few funds. It is a lot of work to host a meet, but if you get enough schools and runners to the meet, it can be a successful venture. Unlike a regular road race, cross-country of course is usually run on grass or other off-road surface. There are also multiple heats in a meet. It is not uncommon to have four or more races in a span of a few hours.
From a timing perspective, it is probably one of the toughest challenges to time that we have. Individually, each race is much like a normal 5K. What makes it tough is the brevity of the event. One heat might start at 8am and the next will be planned for 8:30. It means that as soon as the last person crosses the line, the next heat will start. We don't even have time to print results before the next heat starts. We often have to do overlap results and make any corrections while another race is progressing. It is a lot of activity in a very short amount of time. In addition, you have coaches that will move their athletes from one division to another, oftentimes without telling us. It makes for a wild ride.
The thing I really enjoy about the meets is the camaraderie that you see among the students, parents, and coaches. There is an excitement in the air that you don't often see at other events. The student athletes are having the time of their lives and it is infectious. It is so much fun as well to produce those final reports and show the athletes not only how well they did within their heat, but more importantly how their team did against all other teams. It is a lot of fun to watch the anticipation of the teams to see if they have won.
There is probably a meet near you just about every weekend from now until November. After that time, the schools will be heading to district, regional, and state competitions. Those are even more fun as you will see the best of the best compete against each other. Come out and support your favorites!