What is typically the strongest cross country section in NorCal?

Monday, August 24, 2009

"the atmosphere in most of the CCS is that cross-country is a P.E. class..."

Here is the entire quote which can be found along with the summary of the Bellarmine Bells at www.dyestatcal.com as part of the pre-season rankings by Rich Gonzalez.
"the atmosphere in most of the CCS is that cross-country is a P.E. class. Until that changes, most (CCS) teams will not be able to hang against the Southern Section in postseason."

It's interesting that a fellow coach would think that is the reason why the Central Coast Section is not able to compete favorably against the Southern Section teams. While there are some cross country teams that may have that mindset, I would contend that many of the coaches get the most out of their teams and do not just "roll out the ball" if we are going to use the PE analogy.

One of the main reasons that the CCS teams (as well as other sections) have a hard time competing with the SS teams is that the numbers just don't add up. If you look at the size of the teams in each division, SS teams (for the most part) have a larger pool of possible runners at their schools. A typical Division I team in CCS, NCS or SJS would be a Division II or III team in the SS. I know Mountain View coach Evan Smith, who is familiar with the SS, has addressed this fact before.

So with that in mind, how can the teams in Northern California compete with the teams from Southern California? Since there is not much we can do about the numbers of each division, let's focus on what we can control. First, coaches need to continue to strive to be better coaches. Attending clinics is a great way to learn about the latest methods of training as well network with fellow motivated coaches. Tim Hunter has a great clinic every June at San Ramon Valley and last year Chris Puppione and I hosted the 1st Annual Northern California coach's roundtable on the first Saturday in January. If you are willing to drive or fly to to the LA area, clinics take place during the summer as part of the LA84 Foundation coaching education. You are doing your kids a disservice if you are just repeating the same thing year after year.

Next, we have to change out mindset about the state meet. For many teams, qualifying to the state meet is the ultimate goal made at the beginning of the season. You see many athletes, coaches and parents jumping up and down at the section finals as their teams are announced as a state meet qualifyers. While this is certainly a great achievement, coaches and athletes have to take into account where they would like to finish as the state meet as well. You have qualified to the state meet, now what? Do you want to finish in the top 10? Top 5? Top 3? State championship? Where you want to finish at the state meet needs to be accounted for or else the runners will just be happy to get a free dinner in Fresno on Friday night.

Coaches need to beat the bushes and find those runners who do not know they are runners yet. Get them out for your team. Make cross country the cool sport at your school. Do your homework. How can your team get to the state meet? What do your runners need to run? What do they need to run to be competitive at the state meet? Take them to competitive invitationals. Challenge your runners. Raise the expectations. Don't be afraid to set lofty goals. Embrace being in a competitive league or section. Your runners will rise to the challenge.

I could go on (that quote really touched a nerve) about what else can be done to be competitive at the state meet but want to open it up to the coaches, athletes and parents that are reading this. How can teams in Northern California be more successful in Fresno? What can coaches do to help their teams run faster? What about the athletes? Parents?

By the way, the state meet qualifiers have been posted on the CIF website. There was only one change which affected the NorCal sections and that was mentioned earlier with CCS losing one spot in girls' Division IV. You can check out the rest of the numbers at the following link:


Anonymous said...

If Bellarmine slacks off it reflects poorly on their program, not CCS. Mountain View doesn't appear to be slacking since it can run with any team in the state including SoCal schools three times the size.

Albert Caruana said...

That quote was definitely not meant as a reflection of Bellarmine. They have been one of the top programs in CCS for a very long time.

former socal runner said...

Competition breeds success, simple as that.

Being a former Southern CA runner myself, I was absolutely amazed when I watched a Corona Del Mar girls cross country dual meet a few years ago. There were literally 100+ frosh soph/JV girls all trying to beat the #7 varsity girl's time. It was amazing to see the competition.

Look at the Saugus JV girls team. This is a team that is one of the best in the nation. Every girl on that team knows that they will have to put in a lot of running if they want to be up there.

However, it takes a while to get to "this level", where you have so many runners working harder because the runners around them work harder. I believe it is possible to see this change in Northern CA as well... it is just much more apparent in Southern CA.

Albert Caruana said...

Great post. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Personally I think this quotation was a sign of disrespect not only toward the Bellarmine squad, but to all of CCS. Year after year CCS provides fantastic runners, but without the school size like the south we are unable to have as complete teams. That doesn't mean we don't take the sport seriously, look at the end of track this year for the 3200m. All runners in that race ran cross country and they produced one of the fastest section finals for that event. Also I think a huge difference has to do with the school boundaries up here that forces kids to go to certain schools that may prevent them from fulfilling their potential. Anyways I hope Mt.View wins the state championship and maybe that will quite those guys down south.

Anonymous said...

Poor choice of words that cross country in CCS is a PE class. The majority of schools in the Nor Cal have less than 1500 students in their entire school. This means that while 2-3 runners of quality may surface it is difficult to field 5 quality runners to compete against the southern section. Some of the school's mentioned here have athletes transferring into their school just to run. Other schools have huge numbers. When you have 75 athletes coming out for XC from a school population of 2500+ its a lot easier to get 5 good runners, as compared to the school with 1200 that gets 20-30 runners.

All I know is that I work hard to get each athlete to reach their full potential. And for the record, I know personally about 10-15 teams that work their ass off and don't treat their sport like PE.

Anonymous said...

Coach Ibarra here from North Monterey County...
Albert, I think you hit the nail right on the head... We could complain about the size differentials (our team has been on the unlucky side of those divisions in the past) but until someone makes a smart moves and makes the divisions at state equal across the board you play the hand you are dealt...
You hit some great points... For us, the success has come mostly because the bar is set very high... Daily practice all the way to the state meet race we have a clear purpose and we're striving to reach that goal... every year is different and teams change but as a whole, we strive for the state meet and to run very well there, period. We use league meets, invites and such as simple steps along the way... Work hard, set high goals and rock and roll! We missed the state meet last year for the first time in many years and I can tell you, it was a tough pill to swallow for many. Now we'll see if they learned anything from it this season! Fun, fun!!
PS I do think the PE comment was out of line. Not sure who the coach was but that comment does not reflect our section. I'm very proud of what CCS puts out there year in and year out and some of the best programs in the state are right in our back yard!
Coach Ibarra

Anonymous said...

Coach McCrystle here from BCP. Well, uhm, that was a strange paragraph that accompanied our blurb on the Dyestat page. I guess I question why the editors at Dyestat even included it; what was the point they were trying to make? If it was to say that Bellarmine underachieves--which I don't think it was--then why not just say that? No, it had to be aimed at all the CCS...and then it is simply an ignorant statement, as it is written. I think the author should have pointed out that he was writing about DI boys, because in other divisions the CCS has done incredibly well at the State. But, I would like to say two things: as a High School history and English teacher for 23 years, I am just as interested in how the lower ability runners on my team are doing as I am on the top 7, just as I am in my classroom. That is a problem I have with Dyestat anyway: it only writes about and glorifies the stars, who make up about 1% of all the kids gutting it out to make it through a cross country season; I believe High School cross country is not about the stars. I have never equated place at the State Meet with success in our program, nor will I...but neither do I treat the sport 'like PE'...though a good PE class can be a great experience for a lot of kids! Secondly, I think the issue of school size is a little misunderstood. To me, it isn't so much that there is a variation in division CBED numbers from section to section, although I too believe it should be standardized, even if that means that some sections would have some very small divisions at their sectional championships. The issue is simply number of schools. There are almost as many DI schools in the Southern Section as there are schools in the CCS! 104 DI schools in the Southern Section, some of whcih have powerful XC teams, and some of which don't. But if 20% of their schools are strong, then that is 20 teams...and we have 23 DI teams in the CCS. OF COURSE they are gong to be stronger on average, simply by numbers. Granted, there are 43 DI schools in the Southern Section that are bigger than the biggest school in the CCS (BCP, 3164 with our doubled student body) so that is part of it too. Anyway, we'll keep running hard, adn though I always cheer for all the CCS teams, this year I will probably cheer even a little harder!

Albert Caruana said...

Two more excellent posts with many valid points. I agree that making the state meet does not equate to success as that may only effect a small portion of your team.

We all take great pride in seeing all our kids improve and gain a sense of confidence that comes with improvement of one's time. One great thing about our sport is that everybody can have a sense of accomplishment no matter their place on the team.

I understand the quote and why somebody would make that statement BUT that is not the reason why CCS has not been successful in this person's mind.

Anonymous said...

One thing is the coaching. I'm trying not to generalize, but it seems like there are a lot more competent coaches in socal than in norcal.

Not saying there aren't good coaches in norcal, but the number seems to be less. For example, if you've ever seen posts by coaches in Socal (Paragas @ Saugus and others), they will not pound out the intervals. They will do a "faster" day at a more tempo pace, and take 2-3 days easy to recover from that. Whereas I have seen coaches (and this seems to be more in norcal) doing 2 hard workouts back to back then 1 easy day and back to hard... well, for most kids, that's just not enough time to recover.

Again, I'm trying not to generalize but these are just some of the trends I have seen.

Peter Brewer said...

It isn't even really a matter competence in coaching. CCS, NCS, Sac-San Joaquin, NOrthern, Central . . . all these non-SS areas have plenty of very good and knowledgeable coaches. I know. Their teams beat my teams all day long.

I feel that it is a matter of density. Sure, the population differences in school size factor in, but there is the density of number of schools, and therefore the intensification of a culture of competition. This culture is not just runners and coaches, but the entire support system of parents, administrators, Boosters, the overall student community, local press, alumni, et cetera.

Yes, cross country is seen as a PE class where you roll out the ball . . . but not by the runners or coaches. It is by obtuse administrators who wonder why a cross country team needs a second bus. It is by a Booster Club that wonders why it is necessary to have to pay for a to Fresno during Thanksgiving -- isn't the season over already? It is by the parents who think that merely because cross country seldom has cuts and there is no bench, then it is not really a sport and little Johnny or Susie can take off for their poodle grooming lessons on Saturdays and miss meets, and that's really okay, don't you know.

When a competitive zeal is fostered not just within the team ranks, but is also bolstered by the school and community as a whole, then NorCal can truly compete with the SS. Sure, there are isolated pockets here and there, but in large part, no.

I don't think that we need to be pointing fingers at coaches or athletes here. We have plenty of quality in both areas. Until cross country gets its proper due in the full range of sports in the same range that so many SS teams seem to get, we are very much behind.

Peter Brewer
Northgate HS

Anonymous said...

Coach Ibarra again...
Nice posts!
After re-reading my own post I hope it didn't come across as that is ALL that our program is about... I was posting about the article that Albert posted on how our teams can be more succesful at the state meet. It was a post based on competitive principles for that level... Coach McCrystle hit some great points that I fully believe and use with our program. In fact, last year we didn't make it to the state meet but it was one of the most "successful" years we've ever had!! There was great team chemistry, the team had tons of fun, they worked hard, we set goals and did our best to achieve them, we saw HUGE improvements, etc.. If you look at the paper results and compare them to other years than sure, we had a down year and the beauty of going down is that you are bound to go up someday :)... Every year is different and every team is different, that's the beauty of coaching! Good luck to all this year in ALL of your goals!!!!
Oh, the post about NorCal not knowing how to train and Saugus knowing how to train gave me a good laugh... He didn't want to generalize and that's ALL he did... If it was as simple as some workouts we would ALL be the #1 team in the country every year...LOL..

Anonymous said...

The quote made one a CCS coach was an opinion not shared by all. Here's what Rich Gonzalez of DyeStatCal wrote last month in defense of CCS postseason success in recent years.


Will Pandori said...

I think we have all defended CCS pretty well, but I thought these comments were supposed to be about how we can improve as a section. NorCal can still compete with the bigger population in the south. Think about it. Why is the Dominican Republic producing some of the best baseball stars when the US has a much larger population? Answer: Culture. There are definitely more great ball players from the Caribbean than the U.S. where the sport is the national pastime. This is because EVERYONE, every kid, plays baseball down there.

So, how can the CCS destroy the evil Empire of the Southern Section? Should we all load into our X-Wings and go by the names of Gold Leader and Lando? I say NAY!!!

Change the culture. XC has had a resurgence all over the state because of the Triathlon and fitness culture in the beach communities. Running has become cool again in the south. Football stars will opt to run instead of putting on the pads.

It's up to us to change the culture. The parents, the coaches, but especially the runners. Cross country can't become a cut sport that only caters to the elite. It still needs to be an outlet for all kids to learn about healthy lifestyles and the benefits of being in shape. That said coaches have to keep motivating there runners to be great and not just adequate. Challenge your runners to better themselves and give them high goals. They look up to you and might just need that extra push. (CCS has the best coaches hands down by the way) Parents need to keep supporting their runners. Don't let them quit in the first week or after the first practice because running is too hard. Let them feel it out for a little while so they can see how they can improve. As we all know running can become addicting very quickly. Get crowds out to the races so the little brothers and sisters can see how cool racing is and maybe start running at an earlier age. Start and promote running clubs! Lastly the greatest burden falls on the runners. We need to push ourselves harder and farther, but we can promote the sport too. Hold races during halftime at your schools football games in front of big crowds. Race the student body. Have a run through the school during lunch. Make a recruiting video to show in homeroom. Get the sport out there and show everyone what you can do. Use star power, like Rowe or MacQuitty, to draw big crowds of new signups.

I would frequently walk around my campus and look at all the guys who I knew could crack our top 7 if they came out for XC for just one year. We have all the talent we need. We just need to get it on the course.

Good luck to everyone this season. Sorry for the long post.

Anonymous said...

CCS has had some distance state champions in the recent past... Tori Tyler, Alicia Follmar... Mia Lattanzi was very, very close...

Anonymous said...

Also success at Footlocker and Nike Nationals too...

Anonymous said...

Watch in 09 as Rowe, Macquitty, Moriarty, Myjer, and Summers make up the finest senior class in CCS history and take on the SS single handedly.

Anonymous said...

Haha are you serious? Give me just Orange County on the boys side and Orange County + Saugus on the girls side and I'll make up a team that will beat all of Norcal.

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