2012 Connecticut Junior Olympics Cross Country Championship

Yesterday my son ran the 2012 Junior Olympics Cross Country Championships (Connecticut Association) at White Woods Memorial in Litchfield, Connecticut. Conditions were perfect: sunny with temperatures in the low 60’s and a dry course (2 weeks after Hurricane Sandy and Nor’easter Athena). Last year, he placed 7th in the Bantam division (ages 8-9) with a time of 13:42 for the 3K cross country course and qualified for the Region 1 Northeast Championship. This year, he raced in the Midget division (ages 10-11) and we both hoped that he would place in the top 25 and again qualify for the Regionals. Based on last year’s results, my son would have to run around 12:05 to place in the top 25.


Minutes before race start, boys in Midget Division get ready…

With 73 boys entered in the Midget division, a top 25 place looked reasonable on paper given my son’s recent races at the Wilton XC Invitational and the Bigelow Tea 5K (followed by a similar result at the Pumpkin Chase 5K). And training was going well. But we both knew that it would be close. My son asked his older brother and me to call out places and splits throughout the race. He wanted to know.

The race started out fast. My son was in the top 50 at the 400m point, moving up, and at the 1,000m mark, he was close to 30th. With the hilly part of the course still ahead of him, I was hopeful that he could move up a few more places. Unfortunately, he was running in “no man’s land” and unable to close the gap with a group in front of him. He emerged from the woods with about 800m to go, still around 30th, and I started to realize that he would not make it. He pushed hard, all the way, and placed 31st in 12:05. Last year, that time would have been good enough for 23rd place and qualified him for the Regionals, this year it was the end of the XC season.

I looked back on his season. I felt like I failed him. Was there something that I could have done different? My son did everything I asked him to do. And more. He pushed himself to his physical and mental limits in every workout. He is passionate about running and excelling. He enjoys his runs with his friends, his older brother, his dad, whether on trails, the road or the track. He is motivated by his older brother, a solid high school distance runner and a role model who has taken his younger brother under his wing and mentors and coaches him. He ran PR after PR. Yesterday, he ran a 1:47 PR on a 3K course, lowering his mile split from 7:20 to 6:28 on a hilly cross country course.

I thought he would be crushed because he wanted to qualify for Regionals and did not. If he was, he did not show it. “Dad, I ran my best and I set a huge PR. I think I ran an awesome race.” And I know he had fun representing the New Canaan Running Club, competing with friends and peers from NCRC and other teams. We were all proud of him. And the experience was rich. You set goals. You plan. You work hard to achieve your goals. And you learn and grow in the process. And hopefully you love and enjoy what you do. And sometimes it doesn’t work out 100% the way you want. But that’s ok. You keep going.

Tomorrow we go back to work for the indoor track season. And my son will be back next year, with another opportunity in the 2013 Junior Olympics Cross Country in the Midget division.

2011 Results Connecticut Junior Olympics
2012 Results Connecticut Junior Olympics


Warming up for Connecticut Junior Olympics, White Woods Memorial, Litchfield

Minutes before race start, boys in Midget Division get ready…

The future of New Canaan boys distance running?

Moving up at the 400m point of the 3K XC course

Cresting the first hill near the 1,000m mark of the 3K XC course

Surging over the top of the last hill, 800m to go on the 3K course

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5 comments

  1. Just came across your blog, as I was looking for indoor meets. Well written. Thought I was a psycho running Coach/Dad, but never thought about putting something like this together for my talented 7 year old, err… just turned 8 year old. Try athlinks.com out. It’s free and fairly easy to keep track of yours and your kids race results without getting writers cramp. As for plotting out mile and 5k times, what program are you using for that? I’m just using a simple excel spreadsheet.

    You mention several times that your youngest is typically training about 4 days a week. Increasing to 5 or 6 days definitely helps with the muscle memory. A week break between indoor, outdoor track, and cross-country seasons might be suggested, but we figure if the Kenyans can do it, what’s 2.5-3 miles a day for an active middle to long distance runner with a washboard stomach that can do 40 non-stop pushups daily. Don’t ever want him to lose his love for the sport either, but when you’ve got talent, don’t hold back, if they’re enjoying it. Our problem is that he needs better talent to train with/against. Hard to find, if you’re not part of a club.

  2. Hi Mark,

    Thanks for the feedback and your insights. And thanks for the referral to athlinks.com. I will check it out.

    The blog allows me to share my experience with parents and kids who are interested in running and may have questions. There are blogs that provide general advice but many lack depth and their advice has not always been tested with youth athletes.

    We track our workouts and race results on http://www.logarun.com, which is used by many clubs, middle and high schools, including my older son’s varsity cross country and track teams, and it has a sharing feature that allows a runner’s information to be non-public yet shared among members you invite.

    While I agree that running 5 or 6 days would be better than 4 days per week, at the moment it’s probably not an option for my younger son. He just turned 11 and is a 2-sport athlete, i.e. distance running and Taekwondo, he practices each sport 4x weekly (so 8 practices). He’s now running about 20-22 miles per week, which should enable him to safely ramp up to 35-40 miles by his high school freshman year. We’ve also recently added a strength training session each week. My son is very motivated and demanding of himself, my biggest challenge is managing his enthusiasm and drive so that he is able to enjoy the sport for the long term (if that’s what he wants), and minimizing injuries or mentally burning out (there are many young runners who give up running before they enter high school).

    As far as competing against other top young runners, the Junior Olympics, middle school state championships, and open youth meets offer wonderful opportunities. We’ll be attending the Armory Youth Holiday Classic on Dec 22 and another Armory meet on Feb 18, which is a world-class facility in New York City that hosts the Millrose games, and the CT USATF youth indoor track championships at Yale University, another great facility in the Northeast, in March. All of these meets bring out the best young runners from the Northeast, so my younger son will have the experience of running in fast company.

    Our town did not have a formal youth running club, and I lobbied for a couple of years until the local New Balance store (which supports many local races and fitness programs) agreed to sponsor and help organize a club. My older son and I both act as training partners and run the workouts with my 11 year old. His interval and threshold workouts are about what a high school freshman would do, so even at the youth club level it’s challenging to find training partners.

    What are your 8-year old’s goals and dreams? What does she/he like to run?

    1. We are already very involved in the USATF outdoor and cross-country. Probably passed by you in Litchfield a few times and didn’t even realize it. My son was fortunate enough to go Baltimore in the summer and Albuquerque just a week ago, both of which were phenomenal experiences for a 7 year old. He got to meet and chat with Leo Manzano, London Olympic silver medalist in the 1500m (Sean’s specialty) which was priceless. I was mapping out “local” indoor meets for Jan to Mar when I came across your blog. With local being relative when it comes to indoor track, I put together a fairly comprehensive list of meets. I’d be happy to share it with you. Millrose is definitely only sprint events though. Sean’s goals are fairly ambitious. He wants to be a national contender. He’s just outside that bubble where good can become great, which I think is a bit frustrating to both him and I. We see the national level middle and long distance talent that comes out of New Haven and know he is capable of matching it with a coach that’s not me and/or training partners that are just as motivated and somewhat talented.

  3. Congratulations to both of you for running in the JO nationals in Baltimore and Albuquerque. That’s awesome. My son’s goal is to qualify for the nationals next year. I would appreciate if you could share your list of meets. I will email you w/ my contact info, hope that’s ok. The Armory meet on Dec 22 does include distance events – mile for bantam & up and 3000 for midget & up – see http://www.armorytrack.com/Meet/1404/Armory-Youth-Holiday-Classic-1213.

    1. Yeah, I’ve got an email out to them, because technically my son is still a sub bantam until Jan 1, because his birthday is in Dec. We’re talking 5 days. Seems silly that a kid who ran 10 5k’s and the Manchester Road Race this year would be restricted to 800m or less at an indoor meet, but who am I? Yeah, shoot me an email. As to the JO, we’re alternating distance and sprint work daily. Aim for specific times to get his 400s and 800s under when doing reps.

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