Yesterday, my son competed in the Connecticut Middle School Cross Country State Championship at Wickham Park in Manchester, Connecticut for 5th through 8th grade runners. He was looking forward to his 2nd state championship (he ran last year in 5th grade) and being able to measure himself against more than 3,000 middle school runners in the state. We had a short term and long term goal. Long term, my son wants to learn and experience the tough and challenging Wickham cross country course, which is the annual site of the Connecticut high school cross country state championships. Short term, he wants to measure progress against other middle school runners and hopefully place in the top 50 and earn a medal.
Last year, the meet was moved to Hammonasset State Park because Wickham was damaged by Hurricane Irene. My son ran in the West of River B race (the B race is split geographically based on residence) on a flat, short, fast course and finished 154th. This year, with the race back at Wickham Park (spared by Hurricane Sandy), he opted to run the longer, more difficult A race. One the one hand, it was a tough decision because the more competitive A race would diminish his chances for a top 50 medal, on the other hand it was an easy decision because the A race would benefit him long term as he intends to continue running in high school. While winning a medal is important for a 6th grader, he realizes that improving his chances in high school is what really matters.
With almost 400 boys running the A race yesterday, my son finished 206th with a time of 15:56 on the 2.3 mile course. His 6:55 mile splits were slower than he is capable of running, and it was clear that the challenging, hilly, muddy course and having to run in crowded conditions the entire race affected the time. I was proud that as a 10 year old he ran essentially the high school state championship course (shortened from 5K to 2.3 miles) run by the best 15 to 18 year olds in the state. Most important, my son was excited about the experience and put things in perspective: “Dad, I ran my best on a tough course with lots of kids, and I’m happy with my time and place.” Long term goal achieved.
What about the short term goal? To assess how he performed compared to his peers, I eliminated 7th and 8th grade runners from the results, and my son would have placed 23rd among 5th and 6th grade boys in the A race. In the B race, which was shorter and less hilly (eliminated Green Monster), his 6:55 mile split would have placed him about 40th, and a slightly faster mile split of 6:45 (reasonable given the shorter, easier course) would have moved him up to 19th. No matter how we analyze the A race result, it is a huge improvement compared to the 154th place last year! Short term goal achieved.
My son had a blast and it’s an experience that he will cherish for a long time. The weather was perfect, the race was well organized, and the results are more than satisfying. Can’t wait until next year!
“Yeah, dude, you might be two heads taller than me and sport a Mohawk, but I can run fast” (#3347)
Uphill start of Boys A Race with about 400 runners
Running in heavy traffic, passing on the outside (#3347)
Running up the famous Green Monster and passing more runners (red shirt, black shorts)
With about 1/2 mile to go, still running through crowded field (#3347)
Focus and determination entering the finish chute (#3347)