Bulldogs begin summer training
Summer camps are an important part of many high school sports teams' offseason preparation. Not cross country.
Each summer, cross country coaches rely on their runners to prepare themselves with plenty of mileage before the season starts in mid-August.
"It's really important for them to just get out and do a little bit of something during the summer," said Mike Spielman, Baldwin High School cross country coach. "When the season starts, they have some confidence that they are in some shape and that they can handle what we do during the season."
BHS senior Kelsey Verhaeghe understands the importance of summer training for the fall sport.
"It's important, because you want to have a good base before the season starts," Verhaeghe said.
By state rule, coaches are not allowed to make the summer running mandatory. This forces the runners to be responsible for the base training.
Spielman knows that summer training is what makes the difference during the season.
"If you want to be at the top of your game, you need to put the little bit of extra work in and do those things," Spielman said.
One way Spielman tries to get his runners prepared for the season is to get them running in the middle of the summer. He sends them weekly logs to fill out and a letter that helps explain how to train during the summer properly.
"In every letter that coach sends us, he tells us that it's important to want to do well during the season, but the commitment during the offseason is really what makes a team stand out from all of the rest," BHS senior Chris Elniff said. "You have to be willing to put in the sacrifices in the off season, or you're not going to have what it takes when the season rolls around."
Near the end of June, Spielman sends the logs and letters to every runner that signed up for the fall season. He said about half of the logs get returned to him, but that number is about what he expects each year.
"I would say I get about 50 percent back," Spielman said. "Some kids do stuff and don't write it down or send it back."
When the runners receive the logs, they know that it is time to begin their summer training, if they haven't already.
"It is definitely a kick in the pants to get you going," Elniff said.
Verhaeghe likes to begin her training around the time the letters and logs arrive.
"Usually, whenever we get our training logs from coach," Verhaeghe said of when she starts her training. "I do a little bit in late June. I just try to build up and do more miles as the summer goes along."
Elniff said he began his training earlier this year, but has waited for the logs to come in past years.
"I am trying to get at it earlier this year," Elniff said. "I only took two weeks off from track. Usually I don't get started until I get the logs from coach."
The importance of the logs differs between runners. Verhaeghe likes them, because they keep her focused on her training.
"I like them, because they help me stay motivated to run," Verhaeghe said. "I don't want to have a blank spot on my log."
Elniff said he used to look forward to the logs, but has neglected them as he has gotten older.
"I am sure they are helpful to a lot of people, but I usually forget to fill them out and turn them in," Elniff said. "They were helpful before my freshman year, when I was really psyched about everything. As I got older, I started to neglect them. I usually fill out the goals, because I forget to log the miles and I don't want to lie about it."
Spielman got the idea for the logs at a clinic years ago and has used them ever since at BHS. He said it helps motivate the runners to do some running in the summer.
"I went to a clinic one time and that's what one of the college coaches talked about," Spielman said. "It just makes the kids more conscious about trying to do something that they have to document. It's a bit more motivation to do something."
The logs keep coming to the runners throughout the summer, but the actual training still remains their responsibility. One thing that helps the BHS runners is training with teammates.
Usually, the seniors on each team arrange the training runs. The girls' team rounds up a few runners a few nights a week to begin putting in mileage.
"This year, we did our own thing for the first two weeks and now we are starting to run as a team," Verhaeghe said. "Hopefully, we can do that for the rest of the summer, because it helps me stay motivated. It also makes it go by faster when you can talk to people."
Elniff said he tries to gather other members of the boys' team, but doesn't always have much luck.
"We try to, but it doesn't always work out," Elniff said. "We try to set stuff up, but people don't always show up. I am trying to run with people who have graduated, also. It's always easier to run with a group."
In the information Spielman sends out, there are phone numbers of each teammate, which helps the runners congregate as a team.
Spielman's goal for each member of the team is to have a high number of miles run by the time the season starts.
"I have them start about the end of June," Spielman said. "For the first month, they should do a little bit every other day. When they get closer to the season, try to run five days a week."
The BHS cross country team will begin practice Aug. 14. Spielman said the season is approaching quickly, but he is ready to begin.
"We are one month way," Spielman said. "We are excited about getting started again. We are ready for the cycle to start again."
Verhaeghe is also ready to begin the season, despite having to run 4-kilometer races instead of two-mile races this year.
"I am ready, but I have heard there will be some changes to the length of the races," Verhaeghe said. "That will be different, but it will give us something to look forward to."
Elniff said he isn't quite ready for the practice to begin, but he will be when it does.
"I will be ready," Elniff said. "By the time August rolls around, I plan to be in tip-top shape."