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Torrance High School Cross Country Parents’ FAQ

What is Cross Country?

Cross Country is long distance running over different types of terrain. The course can consist of grass, dirt (mud), sand, concrete, and asphalt. The race may include hills, valleys, roads, sidewalks, and trails. The race is run rain or shine.

What distances are run ... ?

The usual distance is 3 miles for both boys and girls. There are some courses that are slightly less and some that are 5 kilometers (3.1 miles). While there are course records there are no National or World records for this sport. Our home course is 5 kilometers. 

What league are we in and how do we compete against the other schools... ?

Torrance High School Cross Country Team is in the Pioneer League. In 2014, we compete against local schools which include Centennial, South Torrance, North Torrance, West Torrance, and Lawndale High School. Within the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF), we are a Southern Section, Division III School. The Division placement is based on the size of school enrollment. Following the Pioneer League Championship race, qualifying varsity team (or individual) members will advance through the “playoffs” as a Southern Section Division III School.

What can be learned from Cross Country ... ?

Your student-athlete will develop positive mental and physical attributes that will be invaluable for their school work as well as in later years. Your runner will learn confidence, endurance, and perseverance. Your student-athlete will learn how to work within him/herself as well as working as a team member in meeting a common goal. The “successful” runner continually tries to improve his (or her) “personal record” (PR) while at the same time helping the team to victory. In addition, they will form friendships with teammates and runners from other schools that can continue beyond high school. Because of these acquired personal characteristics, listing Cross Country on a college application as an extra-curricular activity can only be an “eye-catching” enhancement.

How can I help before the season starts ... ?

We have strongly encouraged all of our runners to run all during the summer. Except for the first weeks in August, we continue to run as a “team”. Some will attend private running camps during the summer.  As a rule, we don’t recommend you change any aspect of your normal routine of home responsibilities, family meal planning, bedtime, or social guidelines. A normal consequence of beginning to train is muscle soreness, which will soon go away. If your son or daughter has not participated in any sports before, this may last up to 2 weeks. They should tell this to the coaching staff so we can adjust the training. Any athlete engaged in intensive training and competition can be subject to injury. We can prevent most injuries when our runners tell us about their aches and pains before they become disabling. We can give them information have them seen by our athletic trainers and/or treated by your personal physician.

What does the team expect from the athletes ...?

The way this team is structured, and the way we run our program, athletes are expected to be loyal to the team, themselves, and coaches. There is an expectation of daily practice with the team because "success" is achieved only when they show up and run as a team. As each individual runner improves, so does the team. They are expected to do workouts to the best of their ability.They are expected to listen to coaches and captains, and be open minded to suggestions and advice. Profanity, under any circumstances, is not welcome. They are expected to be at every race, whether they are running or not. They are expected to communicate with coaches and team mates. They are expected to stay within the given practice run, and not go their own way believing their route is either better or shorter. They are expected to follow team rules. They are expected to have fun. Finally, they are expected to do well in class and do their homework. Receiving "U's" on report cards creates ineligibility. 

Is a medical clearance required ... ?

Before your child can practice with the team, he (or she) must have had a physical examination and the results must be turned into one of the coaches. While not a recommendation, if you do not have a regular physician, the Ocean Medical Clinic (310.316-1661) offers a Cross Country examination at a low cost without an appointment. This exam will also be valid for other sports offered during the school year at Torrance High School.

What grades are needed ... ?

A grade point average (GPA) of 2.0 or better and a “satisfactory” citizenship is required to compete in any sport at Torrance High School. A grade check will be done based on your progress report after the first six weeks of the fall semester. If you do not meet the above standards you will be ineligible until your grades or citizenship improves.

What equipment is required ... ?

  • A pair of RUNNING shoes. Tennis, basketball, or “cross-trainer” shoes are NOT running shoes. 

  • It is not necessary to purchase special running apparel. Loose fitting Tees and shorts are adequate for daily training as well as a sweatshirt and sweat pants. 

  • Sweatshirt and Sweatpants.

  • A wristwatch.

Your student-athlete will be issued school uniforms for the races.

How do I care for the school uniform ... ?

Please wash the school issued uniform (jersey, shorts, and jacket and pants) in COLD WATER, and LINE DRY. Otherwise, the colors will run and the uniform can shrink. The uniform must be returned in good condition at the end of the season after the last race. Athletes are responsible for these items and will be billed if they are damaged or not returned.

When are the practices... ?

Practice sessions are scheduled during 6th period of school that continue until late afternoon. Practice days may include school holidays. The actual length of time can vary.  Practice runs are comprised of conditioning drills and runs of different distances. The runs can be performed through neighborhoods near the school, the beach, or local parks. Training is always supervised by the Cross Country Coaching Staff and assisted by upper classmen.

Can my child participate in other activities such as Band or "club" sports ... ?

Yes… we can not stop them. However, we prefer they DO NOT. Cross Country is a wonderful opportunity for personal growth and a demonstration of school spirit. We hope that you, as parents, appreciate this philosophy and equally support this goal. Personal characteristics learned by your student-athlete include “commitment” and “consistency”. Commitment, consistency, and dedication to the school and the team are essential for personal and team success. Other activities should not interfere in anyway with cross-country. His (or her) teammates need to rely on your child to work as hard as they do for the team's goals. Your student-athlete may be asked by the coaching staff to choose between these conflicting extra activities and cross country participation.

How will my child race in Cross Country... ?

Races can be divided by either age groups or divisions. 

Usually, for the boys, there is the Varsity, Junior Varsity, Sophomore, and Freshmen teams. For the girls, there is the Varsity, Junior Varsity, and combined Sophomore/Freshman teams.

Unlike other sports, there is no bench or sidelines for the slower runners to merely watch the faster runners compete and only hope for a chance to run. Every team member will compete and has a valuable place on the team regardless of age, speed, or skill. 

The Varsity teams are limited to 7 runners.  ALL other runners will run the other races. The other divisions can have an unlimited number of runners. Junior Varsity is run by Juniors or Seniors who are not running Varsity. The 9th and 10th graders will usually compete in their grade level. No one will run more than once in a single competition/ day. Every person has the opportunity to run at the Varsity level. Every runner will run the same course and be given opportunities to improve their PRs each week

How are the varsity teams selected ... ?

As a general rule, the fastest 7 runners on the team (regardless of grade) make the Varsity teams. You need 7 runners on the Varsity squad, and at least five to score as a team. However, the athlete's work ethic, as well as the dedication, and commitment they may display is also considered. Ultimately, the coaches have the final say as to who runs Varsity for the next competition. 

When are the races ... ?

The season covers September through the first part of November. Advancement beyond the league is completed by the end of November. League meets are on Thursdays afternoons. We also compete at Invitational Races on most Saturdays against many other schools throughout Southern California.

Where is the schedule and driving directions to the various courses... ?

You can always find this information here at the Torrance High Cross Country web site under “maps” and “schedule”, which are on the left side of the Main Menu.

Can I drive my child to any of the races ... ?

Maybe. Sorry for this answer. Bus transportation is provided by the school district. When the bus is used, the school is responsible to you, for the safety and well-being of your student-athlete until he (or she) is returned to school and released to you. We are legally bound by state law for athletes’ safe transport to and from the meet. However, because of the current educational funding crisis, there is active discussion regarding your ability to supplement the bus transportation. When there is a decision, the parent will undoubtedly have to sign a waiver of liability before you can take you child to (or from) the race. Under NO circumstances high school athletes are allowed to drive themselves to a race. Please have your child ask the coach for an update when you are considering this choice.

How can I help my child prepare before race day ... ?

Make sure your athlete rests prior to race day.  The Coach will provide more specific instructions.  Make sure your athlete eats properly.  Hydrate with WATER (lots). Light, easy to digest foods (primary carbohydrates). Experienced athletes often speak of “carbo” loading prior to a race, with foods such as pasta.  But, small portions.  No milk, carbonated or acidic liquids.  

What foods are good on the day of the race ... ?

Small portions of easily digested foods eaten at least 3 hours before competition are best, but water intake should never be limited. Most athletes feel best when they race a little hungry. Some foods that are good before the run include a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, banana, and water. Foods with a lot of sugar, fat, or anything that will fill your runner up completely should be avoided. He (or She) should not drink a lot of water immediately before the race, but rather a lot of it when he (or she) is not ready to race. Soda pop, chips, fast food, and other "junk" food are not good to eat either. Discourage soft drinks after a race because while he (or she) is thirsty, it will dehydrate your runner.

How can I watch the race ... ?

Cross Country is not the typical spectator sport because you cannot see the entire race from one location. When you arrive, locate the start and finish lines. Spend a few minutes before the start of the race to pick your "spot" which would be a location where you can see as much of the race with as little moving around as possible. 

During the race, you can move from point to point along the course to cheer the runners as they pass. Be careful, however, to stay off the runners’ path and out of their way. Rules forbid running alongside a competitor to pace or encourage him or her. Do not hand any runner any food or water during the race (as you would see during marathons).

Especially at Invitationals, many schools may share a uniform color similar to ours so try to observe the differences while the teams are warming up before the start. It will be easier to follow your runner. 

Remember, cheering for all Tartar athletes is encouraged. Bring friends, family, and a camera; especially for the Saturday invitational races. These can be quite colorful and always entertaining.

What can I expect on the day of the race ... ?

Do not expect the attention of your child before the race. Athletes need time to warm up; be briefed by the coaches; and prepare physically and mentally for the race with their teammates. Don’t be surprised at the seriousness your child shows prior to and during a race. The intensity of competition may reveal a side of your young athlete’s personality you haven’t seen before. 

At the finish of a race, the runners file through a chute. It’s OK to greet them, but please don’t distract them or remove them from the chute. Your runner may need to provide information so team scores can be tabulated. Runners have more responsibilities after a race. They are all expected to cool-down as a team and actively support their teammates who have yet to race. 

The first time you see your athlete after a race may be frightening.  Some runners are more tired than others after a race. They have rubber legs, some are panting and gasping for air, their faces may be red and their eyes glassy. They may be nauseated, stagger, and appear as if they may faint. These symptoms are common and usually pass quickly. 

A mistake parents sometimes make is to take their sons or daughters off by themselves to try to take care of them. Please do not do this! Our coaches are experienced in dealing with these symptoms, trained in first-aid, and responsible for their care. To aid recovery, water is the best thing to drink immediately after a race. Trained medical personnel are on site at most Saturday races and are available for assistance for the extraordinary problems.

Expect the possibility of some disappointment by your student-athlete after the race if the team did not win, or if he (or she) failed to achieve all goals. Athletes may need some emotional space afterward from you, friends, family, and their coaches. When they are ready to talk, they will come to you. Later on, they will need verbal support rather than criticism.

Do I have to buy the fancy "sport waters"... ?

Sports drinks such as Gatorade are designed to replenish fluid rapidly and to replace energy rapidly, as well as replacing minerals and vitamins. They have a place in races and heavy training, but for most purposes water is fine. 

Can I drive my child FROM any of the races ... ?

Generally, no. It is for the same reason that you cannot take your child to any of the races. However, under extraordinary circumstances, a liability release can be given to one of the coaches for a parent to return with his (or her) student athlete after the race. However, for team fellowship and bonding please make this an exception. This liability release can be picked up by your student-athlete in the Office of the Assistant Principal in charge of Athletics. THE COACHES DO NOT HAVE THESE RELEASES. Please do not take your child home with you without this release. 

How can I find the race results ... ?

The overall (all schools) results for the Saturday races are usually posted at the individual web site that hosted the race. The particular host web site can usually be found at  Results for the Pioneer League races and individual team times for the Saturday races can be found here under the “Results” link, which is on the right side of the Main Menu. 

I hear complaints about lower leg pains... 

The following is NOT a medical diagnosis. These are probably “shin splints”. Please ask the coaches about your child’s specific complaint.

“Shin splints” are a common condition for runners. They are characterized by generalized pain in front of the lower leg. In particular, these complaints commonly appear between 8-12 weeks after starting training. The most common cause is a muscle imbalance where the calf muscles (which pull the forefoot down) overpower the shin muscles (which pull the forefoot up). As the athlete continues to train, the calf muscle usually becomes proportionately much stronger than the shin muscles.

The treatment for shin splints is to strengthen the weaker muscles (shins) and stretch the stronger muscles (calves).

Help for your child with “shin splints”: 

  • To strengthen the shins, have your child run up stairs. To stretch the calves, have your child do wall push-ups)'' 

  • Pick up marbles with his (or her) toes and holding onto them for a few seconds.

  • While recovering from shin splints, it may help to use a wedge in the heel of the shoes. By raising the heel, there is a reduction in the pull on the muscles and tendons on the front.

  • Stand on the stairs with his (or her) heels out over the edge. Lower the heels as far as they will go without undue discomfort, and hold for 15 seconds.

  • Slowly raise yourself up on your toes.

I hear complaints about pain in the right side while running ... 

The following is NOT a medical diagnosis. The pain can be a “stitch”. Please ask the coach about your child’s specific complaint.

Stitches can be a muscle spasm of the diaphragm. The stitch is a condition that occurs only during exercise and which causes severe pain usually on the right side of the abdomen, immediately below the rib margin. Frequently the pain is also perceived in the right shoulder joint, where it feels as if an ice-pick were being driven into the joint. The pain is exacerbated by down-hill running and by fast, sustained running as in a race. 

The cause of the spasm is that the organs below the diaphragm are bouncing up and down and pulling down as it wants to pull up. The liver being the largest organ is the biggest culprit which is why most stitches are on the right side. A stomach full of food may also contribute to the problem for the same reason. 

The cure seems can be a simple one. Breathe out when the left foot strikes the ground instead of when the right foot strikes so that the organs on the right side of the abdomen are bouncing up when the diaphragm is going up. The organs attached to the bottom of the diaphragm on the left aren't as big, so exert less downward pulling strain. Conversely, if your stitch occurs on the left side, switch your breathing to exhale on the right foot.

Ensure your child does not eat anything for an hour before running if he (or she) is prone to stitches, BUT ENCOURAGE WATER. Water empties from the stomach faster than solids and the risk of complications from dehydration far exceed the problems one may have with a stitch.

In the long term, exercises to strengthen the abdominal muscles will help prevent stitches because tighter abs will allow less movement of those internal organs. Practice belly breathing instead of chest breathing. For the most part, stitches diminish over time. While they are not strictly a novice runner's problem, they usually will go away after a few weeks of conditioning.

Proper breathing prevents the development of the `stitch'. 

It has been suggested that when breathing with the chest too much air is drawn into the lungs, and not all is exhaled. This causes a gradual and progressive accumulation of air in the lungs, causing them to expand which in turn causes the diaphragm to be stretched and to encroach on the abdominal contents below it. During running, the over-stretched diaphragm becomes sandwiched between an over-expanded chest above, and a jolting intestine pounding it from below. It revolts by going into spasm, and the pain of this spasm is recognized as the stitch.

A change in breathing pattern may help relieve the stitch. 

My child always develops blisters while running ... 

Try out some of the running socks sold by the running stores rather than “regular” white socks. Double-layered ones work well. They are more expensive than cheap "sports" socks, but if your child has chronic blister problems, then they are well worth it. Another good trick is to apply Vaseline to the feet before running.

What should I look for in proper running shoes... ?

Ask Coach Pose! 

Make sure that your child owns a comfortable, new or relatively new pair of running shoes by the start of the season. 

A good pair of shoes is the most important item of equipment to a runner. You need a good, basic well-cushioned pair of shoes that fit well. You don't need “motion control” shoes unless you already know that your child has gait problems (over-pronation or over-supination). You DON'T need expensive shoes with flashy gimmicks.

If possible, go to a store that deals primarily with running footwear and apparel. These stores have experienced runners as sales persons who can help you with the right fit for your athlete. Locally these stores are the Village Runner in Redondo Beach and Springo in Torrance. Both offered discounts for Torrance High School runners in the past. The sales people at the sporting goods chain stores and the mall shoe stores just don't know their products or how to fit runners, despite advertising to the contrary. A real runner's store should allow you to run in the shoe on the sidewalk outside the store or on a treadmill in the store. They should be able to tell you if you over-pronate in a particular shoe and offer alternatives. The advice you get in a good store is very valuable. 

Running shoes should not have to be “broken in”. They should feel “RIGHT”, from the beginning. If they are uncomfortable when they are tried on, don’t buy them, no matter how good they look! There’s no getting around that running shoes can be very expensive. The best way to prolong the projected 300 to 500 mile life of a pair of running shoes is to wear them for running only, not as school or social dress. 

Shoes that are more than a year old or have been through a season of training and racing should be retired or else the risk of injury is significantly increased. 

Good shoes are the only real important piece of equipment that this sport requires and money spent on shoes is less money spent at a podiatrist!

How can my child be successful in Cross Country ... ?

“Success” is not defined as being the fastest person on the team. More than anything else, success in Cross Country takes time. Time to learn; time to train; time to sleep, rest and recover; before-school time; after-school time; weekend time; time with and away from family and friends; and time away from other interests. With the academic responsibilities of being a high school student, most student-athletes are busy all the time because of the delicate balancing act that must be performed. The willingness to devote the time that success demands for cross country is called DEDICATION.

Being a member of the Torrance High Cross Country Team carries expectations and responsibilities. Doing what is expected of every team member is called COMMITMENT. Attending team practices every day is one of the commitments. Our goal is to development team loyalty and individual responsibility and accountability among all our team members. Another part of commitment is COMMUNICATION with our coaching staff. If a problem or illness is going to force your child to miss a practice or a race, the athlete must tell the coaches about it personally and in advance. (This does not mean relaying a message through a teammate or friend!) Many such problems can be solved when athletes talk with us.

Even though your child is not the fastest in any particular race, “success” is achieved when he (or she) has learned “dedication”, “commitment”.

What about fundraising ... ?

The team is given only $200 for the season. Obviously, this will not cover a great amount of expenses. Consequently, fundraising is a “necessary evil”. It is expected that ALL runners participate in meeting this common goal. It is not the responsibility of the parents but any help is appreciated.

In the past, money was raised by selling various products, letter-writing campaigns to local businesses, car washes, and jog-a-thons. The parents conduct a “multi-family” garage sale, which is quite successful. It's a great way to meet the other families. All ideas are welcomed.

Do I have to volunteer... ?

Unlike many other activities, you are not required to volunteer. However, if you have the time your assistance is an excellent demonstration to your child that you support and share his (or her) interests. It is a good source of “family talk”. The Tartars host but one or two races in a season, including the South Bay Cup. Help is needed on these limited occasions. No skill is needed for your assistance. We need course monitors (to make sure runners stay on the correct path); people at the finish chute to make sure the runners stay in the correct order; and a couple of persons to help with scoring. For the South Bay Cup, a couple of parents are useful for setting up tables and flags. That’s it. No help is need for any of the Saturday Invitationals.

Are there any fees ...?

There are no registration or enrollment fees. However, the Torrance Unified School District lists a transportation fee for every extra-curricular activity, including Cross Country. Ask Coach Pose for the current amount. Make you check payable to the Torrance Unified School District.

How do you score a Cross Country race ... ?

Just like Golf, the lower the score the better. At a minimum, there must be 5 who finish the race. If there are any less that finish the race, the team cannot score any points and are disqualified.

The top 7 runners for the team are the only runners involved in the scoring.  Additional runners will not be considered in the scored results.  The top 5 runners are assigned the number of points equal to their place in the race. For example, if a runner finishes in 4th place then the team gets 4 points for that runner. These points are then added together to determine the team score. If there is a tie with the first 5 runners, the 6th place runner’s points are then added to find the team winner. In addition to breaking ties, the 6th and 7th runners also play an important part of the race. They can “displace” another team’s top 5 runners. If the 6th runner for Torrance beats the 5th runner from Mira Costa; Mira Costa will have another point added to its score.  Although the sixth runner's place is not added to the Torrance score, the Mira Costa score is worsened in comparison.

A perfect score in cross country is 15 points (1+2+3+4+5).  In dual meets, if a team has at least five runners and they take the top three positions, it is mathematically impossible to lose the meet (as long as five runners finish).

Cross Country Vocabulary ... ?

Chute - The roped off area at the finish line through which the athletes are directed in order to get their place cards.

Clerk of the Course - The person responsible for all of the races. This person tabulates team scoring and resolves any race discrepancy with the coaches. 

Course - The marked and measured route of the race.

Cool-down - Jogging after the race to allow the muscles to purge themselves of lactates and lower the body temperature to normal.

Displacer - The 6 or 7th team member who finishes ahead of one of the top 5 runners for the another school. Used for team scoring.

False Start - Leaving the starting line before the gun sounds or a runner falls at the start of the race.

Invitational Meet - A multi-team meet. 

Pace - Running speed over a particular distance.

Pack - A group of runners in close proximity.

Personal Record (PR) - A record set by each athlete on a timed course. The goal is to continually improve a PR. 

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.

Racing Flats - Special, lightweight shoes designed for racing, rather than daily training.

Surge - A tactical increase in pace during the race.

Training Flats - Running shoes designed for long wear in daily training (called “flats” because they have no spiked bottoms).

Warm-up - A running and stretching routine that gradually warms up the body for intense running.

Workout - A daily training session

Compiled 2001 for Torrance High School Cross Country. This information can be used but please credit us on your site.
Revised: 07/01/13 .
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