CHEROKEE, Kan. – The USD 247 Southeast first semester of the 2016-17 school year started Wednesday August 24. While most students and staff used their first Saturday morning back to catch up on some sleep and rest, 14 members of the Lancers Cross Country team chose to do something different. They got up early and took turns running and riding bicycles the 12.4 miles from Southeast High School in Cherokee to Harry’s Cafe in Pittsburg.
It’s an idea second year coach Laney Lawson took from another coach and implemented last year.
“He said it was a really great thing and the kids really enjoyed it, so I thought I would try it,” Coach Lawson said. “I got permission and we did it, and despite the fact that the kids were really tired, overall all the kids seemed to really enjoy it and love it. That was one of the first questions they asked me when cross country season started up again, ‘Coach, are we going to do the Fun Bike Run?’ So, that was kind of an experimental thing for me and it worked out. It’s hard work but I think the kids really get something out of it and enjoy it.”
The Lancers met at Southeast High School at 6 a.m. and headed east, then north through Cherokee. It was still dark and there was a slight chill in the air. As they continued on towards Pittsburg through the county roads northwest of Chicopee, fog rolled off the farm fields and strip pits, and slowly burned off as the sun rose. A picturesque morning in Southeast Kansas.
Southeast and other area schools are seeing more interest in Cross Country. Coach Lawson thinks part of that interest is because more people in general continue to try 5K’s and similar events. But she also thinks kids are looking for a challenge, and it doesn’t hurt that they try to have some fun along the way.
“Cross country is hard. It’s tough, and I think a lot of kids want to see if they’ve got what it takes to push through. We don’t always just work. We have a lot of fun too and I think that’s one of the reasons why a lot of kids come out is because, aside from the running part, we’re together all the time. We’re doing things. We’re cutting up the monotony by playing games and doing things like this. We try to make things as fun as possible. I think, despite the fact that it’s hard work, they’re having a good time and they’re getting something out of it. I think they reap the benefits of it. I think they feel like they’re getting something done.”
The Southeast Cross Country squad is made up of kids who play basketball, wrestle, baseball and softball. This year there are a couple former football and volleyball players – the other Fall Sports offered by Southeast. But the newbies learn quickly that running in Cross Country is not the same as running in those sports.
“Your body has different ways of metabolizing the carbs that you eat and create an energy,” Coach Lawson explained. “It does it in a couple of ways, one being anaerobic – it’s very explosive, doesn’t require oxygen, quick, powerful movements with a shorter recovery, then go back at. That’s more of what you see in maybe basketball or football or something like that.
“Whereas the aerobic side of it requires endurance and using oxygen – being able to build your body up to be able to withstand the endurance part of it while training your cardio to be able to be able be in the best shape you can be.”
Every mile or so they rested and hydrated, and sporadically Coach made them ran some very light drills.
Three hours after they started, they arrived at Harry’s – maybe more sore and tired than they’d like to admit, but definitely starving.
“I think that kids are a lot more resilient than even they realize,” Lawson said afterward. “When they get out there and they try something new, maybe they have some success, maybe they just find something that they really enjoy out it, but regardless, I think it proves to them that they can do it.”