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Teach the children well...

June 25, 2008 - Erik Brown
There are two GREAT opportunities coming up to get youngsters involved in the lifetime sport of competitive distance running. These are:
The Hollidaysburg Area YMCA - Altoona 4th of July Races – an annual tradition in Altoona, this is the Y’s biggest race of the year. They offer a 15K race , a 5K race, a 5K wheelchair race, and a 2 mile walk. There’s even a lollipop run for children that is free to the public between the race completion and the awards ceremony. Download an entry form here or better yet, register online here.
Track & Field and Cross Country Camp at Penn State - Altoona - It will be held Monday through Friday, July 14-18 from 9am to noon. Registration is $80 and information is available at Penn State Altoona's website. The camp is for students entering grades 3-7. Coaches Heidi and Matthew Manfred will direct this camp for any young student athlete interested in the sports of cross country or track and field, or who wants to improve their athletic ability in any sport. Participants will be exposed to seventeen track and field events as well as cross country running. They will learn through discussion, demonstrations, and most of all practice of every event, basic knowledge of the sports, and physical fitness in general will be emphasized.
This camp will serve as a great introduction to the sports or a good time to learn fundamental athletic skills for those who participate in other sports. The week will revolve around learning and DOING and will conclude with a mini-meet.
On a personal note I’d like to add that Heidi and Matt not only coach the PSU-Altoona Mens’ and Womens’ Cross Country Teams, they also coach the Bishop Guilfoyle Boys’ and Girls’ Track Teams and, from everything I’ve observed, they’re doing an outstanding job with the student athletes at B.G.
So, why should a young athlete choose cross country over other sports? Here are my Top 5 Reasons to go out for XC:
5. Nobody sits on a bench, because there is no bench. Everyone starts. Everyone competes. Everyone “plays” the entire “game”. In fact, less talented runners get more “playing time” than their better counterparts.
4. Coaches don’t decide who the best athletes are. A stopwatch does that, and the stopwatch doesn’t play favorites. With just a few exceptions, the fastest seven run varsity – whether they are freshmen, sophomores, juniors, or seniors. Everyone else runs JV. Did I mention that everyone competes.   
3. You’ll never hear a cross country coach say he (or she) is too small, although being really big can be a disadvantage.
2. Harriers (i.e. cross country runners) learn that perseverance leads to success, and that discipline, effort, and determination lead to excellence.
1. Cross country has a terrific social aspect. Many high schools have one set of coaches for both the girls’ and boys’ teams. The girls’ and boys typically practice together and cross country meets are always a “twofer” – with a girls’ race first followed by the boys’ race.      
News and Notes:
Ben Hatch, the outstanding middle distance runner from Bellwood-Antis High School, recently announced his decision to attend I.U.P. In doing so, Hatch also revealed his dream of running in the Olympic Games. That dream had a lot to do with his choice of I.U.P. Hatch, who won the PIAA Class AA gold medal in the 800 meters this year, jumped at the chance to run for I.U.P. coach Ralph White whose coaching resume includes 15 Olympians, 31 national champions, and more than 300 All-Americans.
Phil Cmor’s story in Tuesday’s Altoona Mirror covering Ben’s decision included the following words of wisdom I want to share with any high school runners reading this:
One big change for Hatch will be weight training. He never lifted weights in high school.
“A stronger athlete is a better athlete, whatever sport you’re in,” White said. “The last 40-60 meters, you better have some upper-body strength, because your legs will only go as fast as your arms go.” 
Since Ben's path to the Olympics will require an incredible amount of training and personal sacrifice, and because the 2012 Summer Olympic Games will be held in London, I thought I'd throw in this video to provide a little extra inspiration.   
Speaking of Olympians, the first installment of Selling Out – On The Road To Beijing with Olympic Marathoner Brian Sell appeared in Sunday’s Altoona Mirror. This is Brian’s Summer Olympics Diary as told to Mirror Managing Editor, Neil Rudel. It will appear in the Mirror through the Beijing Games.
High School 2 Mile Record Falls – German Fernandez ran 8:34.4 for 2 miles at the Nike Outdoor Nationals in Greensboro, North Carolina, to set a new national high school record. The old mark, 8:36.3, had been established way back in 1979 by Jeff Nelson. Click here to see the video of the record setting race.

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