New Cross Country Team Starts at Middle School
By Catherine Brown, Reporter | Oct. 19, 2018
Middle School athletes interested in long-distance running can finally start racing competitively, thanks to the school’s newest team sport: cross country.
In previous years, while middle school students interested in cross country could train with the high school team, they were not allowed to compete in meets due to a Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA) rule stating middle schoolers and high schoolers could not compete together.
Now, in an effort to open up cross country to more students, the school district’s athletic department has arranged with other schools to race against McMurray.
“We got some other teams in our area to enlarge the program and finally get it official, so that’s how this first year came around,” said head coach Bruce Cyra.
Cyra has a long history with running. He grew up participating in cross country throughout high school, and later passed the tradition on to his children. More recently, Cyra assisted with the high school cross country team, though this is his first time coaching officially.
“I’ve kind of been on the sidelines of the [high school] cross-country team for the past six to eight years, so it was an easy transition,” Cyra said.
The team has started off their season well, especially in terms of the 22 participating students who signed up for the sport — 13 boys and nine girls.
“The turnout was quite surprising; I was expecting maybe six or eight kids,” Cyra said.
In addition to their successful numbers, the middle schoolers have also performed well at their meets — the boys team has won three of their races. The girls team has also shown strong results, with four runners competing.
Creating the new team has not come without its challenges, though.
Because cross country requires five runners to produce a score, and because WIAA prohibits sixth-graders from competing in sports, the girls team — comprised of four seventh-graders and five sixth-graders — has not been able to score in meets.
Still, Cyra remains positive.
“It’s a great bunch of kids,” he said. “You have kids who have never … [run] in their life, and kids who have run and raced in half-marathons, so there’s a wide range of abilities.”
Until the season’s end in October, the middle schoolers will continue practicing after school five days a week. These practices consist of conditioning to build speed and strength. Endurance is equally important, and while the longest distance the middle schoolers are allowed to race is two miles, the team has been training for more. Practices also include a variety of different workouts to support the team’s varying skill levels.
Cyra is already planning for next year. In particular, he hopes to get more girls involved so they can race and score as a team.
“Our seventh-graders will be in eighth grade and still be eligible, and they’ll have a year of racing behind them,” he said.
Cyra is excited to see where the team will go.
“Our league championships are at the end of October, so we’ll know how we stack up against the other schools at that time,” he said.