Parent Guide

What is Cross Country?

Long distance running - a team sport. Not held on a fixed track like track and field. Athletes usually race across open terrain: golf courses, steeplechase courses; most often through a combination of woods, fields and always a hill or two, or three, etc. Course distances and terrains differ for each race.

What Distances are normally run?

The National Federation of High School Associations has set a minimum distance of 2.5K and a maximum of 5K for cross country races, not to be confused with training distances which can be greater. Most of our races will be 5Ks ( that's approx. 3.1 miles, American).


Cross country scoring is different from most sports, that is, the lowest score wins. A cross country team usually consists of seven athletes. As each athlete finishes the race, he/she is given a place while in the chutes. The places of the first five athletes for each team are added together to determine the team score. In the event of a tie, the sixth athlete's places are added to determine the winner. It is important for the team to run as close together as possible. For example, a finish of 1, 3, 4, 5 & 83 - a score of 97, will lose to a team finishing 17, 18, 19, 21, & 23 - with a score of 96.


All of Medical Lakes Cross Country results can be found at We encourage you view the meet pages for helpful information and historical records


Practice sessions are usually scheduled at school after dismissal from classes this is almost always at 2:45pm and meeting at the "Cross Country Tree" which is located by the High School track. Practice runs are comprised of conditioning drills and runs of different distances through neighborhoods, trails, gravel roads, or parks near the school. Training is always supervised by the Cross Country Coaching Staff, and assisted by upperclassmen. If an athlete has not been training on a regular basis, (s)he will probably experience muscle soreness and various aches and pains. Summer base training is essential to a successful fall cross country season.


There are two main things to remember, WATER, and lots of it, and foods which are easy to digest, primarily carbohydrates. If your body tells you that you're hungry you should eat.

Cross Country Meets

Cross country meets are normally scheduled after school and on Saturday. Meets may last a few hours or all day, depending on the organization and number of entries. Please check the schedule provided for specific meet locations and times. Races are usually divided by age groups or divisions:

V Boys - Varsity Boys - Top 7 runners
V Girls - Varsity Girls - Top 7 runners
JV Boys - Junior Varsity Boys - Unlimited
JV Girls - Junior Varsity Girls - Unlimited

Transportation to and from meets will be provided in most instances. Cross Country is not the typical spectator sport because you cannot see the entire race from one location. Spend a few minutes prior to the start of the race to pick your "spot" and remember, cheering for Cardinal athletes is required!

Pre-Race Preparations

Make sure your athlete rests prior to race day. Coaches will provide more specific instructions. Make sure your athlete eats properly. Light, easy to digest foods. Small portions. Hydrate with water. No milk, carbonated or acidic liquids. Once at the meet, let your athlete go! It is an important time for (s)he to prepare mentally and physically with the team.

Post-Race Preparations

The first time you see your athlete after a race may be frightening. They have rubber legs, some are panting and gasping for air, their faces may be red and their eyes glassy. They may be nauseated and appear as if they may faint. These symptoms usually pass quickly. Trained medical personnel are on site at most meets and are available for assistance. When at the finish line give the athletes space! They are not ready to talk yet. They have responsibilities to the team and the coaching staff. They must complete their cool down routines. When they are ready to talk, they will come to you.


PR - Personal record. A record set by each athlete on a timed course. The goal is to continually improve a PR.
Chute - The roped off area at the finish line through which the athletes are directed in order to get their place cards.
Place - Where the athlete finished the race relative to all of the other athletes.
Position - Where the athlete finished the race relative to the other athletes on his team.
Invitational - A cross country meet where multiple teams participate from multiple divisions.