Coast Union cross country coach Ayen Johnson was asked why it’s important for his high school participants to train year around — given that youthful athletes’ bodies bounce back quickly with renewed conditioning after a layoff.
“It’s important for cross country athletes to train throughout the year,” said Johnson, who shares coaching duties with math teacher Jim Hurley. During the summer break, runners who stay in shape are laying down “a foundation for the fall,” Johnson explains.
This summer, Johnson and Hurley have organized a “run club” that meets Tuesdays and Thursdays around 4 p.m. at Coast Union. They expect to have their student athletes complete 18 training runs and upwards of 50 miles prior to the fall season, said Johnson, Coast’s elective instructor and Interact adviser.
Having several athletes running together builds relationships and increases motivation.
Ayen Johnson, Coast Union cross country coach
The summer training mapped out by coaches includes a “hard-easy” program. The team is asked to complete a series of three “up-tempo” runs, followed by a series of easier runs. Following this format not only builds up endurance and prepares runners for the fall, it also helps develop camaraderie among the runners.
“Having several athletes running together builds relationships and increases motivation,” Johnson explained. By the fall, the runners already know the routes, they know the proper stretches, and they have established friendships by taking long runs with other team members.
Hence, they never have to get “back in shape,” since they participated in summer training.
The 2016 Bronco cross country team will be “very talented,” experienced, and “ready to compete,” Johnson continued, in part because a number of runners will be returning following last year’s season.
Two goals set out by the coaches include qualifying for CIF postseason competition, and placing in the top five schools during the countywide competition at the end of the season.
After an impressive freshman year in cross country, Isabella Raethke — who was recruited by Johnson as an eighth-grader after winning all her middle school events on Field Day — plans to take full advantage of the 18 training runs the coaches have laid out for this summer.
She said she “fell in love with running” and was “really surprised” at the success she experienced last year. “I was shocked that I was able to go from a 7:56 mile to 5:40 at the end of the season last year.
She was also surprised at the amount of stamina she had after hard training.
“Mr. Johnson always pushed us,” she said.
Her goal this season, which she admits is probably not achievable, is to beat the Broncos’ top runner, Paul Butterfield.
“I really want to beat Paul,” she smiled. “I’m really competitive, and I try to keep up with him, but he’s about five minutes faster than me.”