I recently became "Facebook friends" with my cross country coach from high school. He posted some old photo's of our team and the result was a major avalanche of wonderful memories and a bunch of additions to my friends list. I was fortunate to attend Bath High School in Michigan, back in the '70's. Bath was, and still is, a very small school. My graduating class only had about 100 kids, most of whom I had known for 13 years! I started running Track in middle school and discovered that running was something that a scrawny young girl could actually do fairly well. When I started High School, I was eager to jump back into it, but Track is a Springtime sport, and it would be a long wait. Cross Country, on the other hand, started first thing in the Fall. The only problem was, up until that point, if you wanted to run Cross Country, you had to run with the boys. There was no Girl's CC team. Luckily, there were enough intrepid females in my High School who were willing to give it a shot, and the Boy's CC coach was willing to take us on!
I'm the one in the red jacket...
Those four years of Cross Country were amazing, and so empowering for a shy, skinny teenaged Girl. Coach Roberson was great. He was also one of our Science teachers, and used a Science based approach to our training. He taught us the importance of nutrition, heart health, strength and endurance. To this day I have an intense aversion to smoking, and am very aware of what I put into my body. The human body can do amazing things if you treat it right.
We girls had to train with the guys, something that was both intimidating and thrilling for a teenage female. I was never told, "You can't do that because you're a girl". Instead the message was always, "Of course you can do this, you just have to work hard and don't give up". Even our earliest races were with the boys, because there simply were not enough girls on the other teams to warrant separate races. The biggest thrill, of course, was when one of us girls managed to beat a boy in that grueling three mile race through fields and woods, jumping logs and huffing up hills. Of course the guys on our team never allowed that to happen, but they were surprisingly supportive of their female teammates, in part I think because Coach didn't coddle us, but also because they were just a group of great guys!
That's me, on the right, front row...
Eventually, Cross Country became more popular with the girls in other High Schools, and they began to hold separate races, and then meets for the Girls. We never did get a separate coach, thank goodness, and our Girls CC team were class C State Champions in 1975-76, and 1976-77!
I'm the third girl from the left, front row...
My most favorite memories of Cross Country were the "Cross Country Camps" that Coach Roberson and his wife (my Track coach) initiated. One Summer we all headed down to Warren Dunes, on Lake Michigan, for an intense week of training... in the sun and the sand! What an amazing week that was. Running in the sand works out muscles in you feet that you never knew you had!
This was the dune we had to run up, for training. I much prefered the lovely warm down jog along the surf of Lake Michigan at the end of practice.
I'm very thankful for the gifts that High School Cross Country gave me. Not only was I extremely fit at the end of my Senior year, but I had personal confidence in myself, knowing what I could achieve through hard work and perseverance. When I delivered my first child, was it the popular "Lamas" breathing technique I fell back on? Of course not. I used the same breathing patterns that had helped me survive 3 mile races over rough terrain. That inner core of personal strength has stayed with me through out my life, making me a braver, more confident person. I'm so thankful to my old teammates, Coach, and my supportive family who helped me make Cross Country such a positive experience.