The NTF Youth Cross Country is open to boys and girls from 8 to 18 years old interested in distance running. It can be a great way to stay active and fit over the fall season regardless your athletic specialization. The program is all-inclusive and welcomes both beginners and experienced athletes. On weekdays we will meet for practice in Tudek Memorial Park; on Sunday afternoons, we go to explore some running routes in other parks and locations around town. There are a number of youth cross country meets that our club participates in. Every year, we build age-group teams for traveling to the Regional and National Youth Cross Country Championships in November.    

Below are some frequently asked questions and answers that may help you in your decision to sign up for the program.

Q: Would this program be suitable for my children who play sports, but have no experience in distance running?

A: Yes, it would. No prior experience is required to join the team. The kids get that experience step by step as they go through the program, and in the end they really start thinking of themselves as runners. Besides running, this program includes strength and speed training that would help kids perform in other sports as well.

Q: What activities does a typical practice include?

A: We normally start with ~5 min easy jog for a warmup, some dynamic stretches and agility drills. After that, we either go on a group run or do a workout. At the end of practice, we play running games, do some core exercises, and finish with another set of stretches. The length of runs and intensity of workouts progress gradually through the season.

Q: How long are the runs? Will my child be able to endure them?

A: Coaches gauge the ability of athletes attending and form several groups. The beginner group may use a mix of walking and running and go for 10-15 min at first, gradually increasing the volume as season goes. More advanced group may run for 25-30 min. We include walking breaks and let the kids build their endurance and confidence step by step - nobody has to go over limits. Our regular group runs are done on trail loops within the Tudek Park. We have coaches running in the front and in the back of the pack to make sure no one is left behind.

Q: How big is the group and what ages do usually participate?

A: The fall program usually enrolls 80-100 kids (approximately equal boys and girls) of various ages, with majority being 4-8 graders. For warmups, we break into two cohorts: 10 and under and and 11+, which have their own coaches. For workouts we may split into smaller groups by age or ability.

Q: How many days per week do you have practice?

A: During cross country season we typically hold practice 5 times a week - Monday through Thursday at Tudek, and on Sunday afternoons we meet at other parks and trails for a long run. Different coaches may be in charge of practice on different days.

Q: Is attendance on all days mandatory?

A: No. It is quite common that the kids are involved in many different activities in the fall, so feel flexible and choose the days that fit best into your schedule. 

Q: How many days is preferable to be at practice?

A: It depends on your goals. If you want to see progress in endurance, fitness, get faster, or if you have competitive goals, at least 3 practices per week are recommended. Athletes who choose to be on the travel squads for Championship meets should try to commit for 3 practices per week. If you are not there yet -  just want to try it out or do it just for fun  -  even 1-2 days would be fine.

Q: Can we try it out before deciding to join? 

A: We have a try-out period (usually until Labor Day) when you can check out our practice and request a refund if for some reason your child does not want to continue. We still require registration and signed waiver for joining practice. Check with Coach Mark for other arrangements.

Q: Can parents participate?

A: We welcome parent volunteers (especially if they accompany young kids who are new to running and may need help). Perhaps ask your kids if they like that idea though :) If you plan on coming regularly and can help coaching, please inform Coach Mark who coordinates volunteer schedule. 

Q: Is there a deadline for registration? Is it possible to sign up later in the season after the soccer season is over?

A: The official registration deadline is September 10th. So even if you plan joining practice later in the season, we still encourage you to register early to get a spot on the team and to be included in the T-shirt order.

Q: Are there any cross country meets and how do we sign up for those? 

A: There are a few local all-comers meets, which are run in September-October. Those are free and open to athletes of all levels and ages. Then there are travel invitational and championship meets in late October and November. For those, registration should be done in advance through the Club. We will set up Google forms to collect sign-ups for cross country meets, and the information will be sent by e-mail to all team members and posted on the NTF website. NTF pays the meet registration fees for all club athletes.

Q: What distances do athletes run at the meets?

A: The athletes in the youngest group (8 and under) run 2k (1.25 mile), 9-10 and 11-12 groups run 3k (1.75 mile), 13-14 athletes run 4k (2.5 mile), and older athletes run 5k (3.1 mile), the same as high school.

Q: Is participation in meets mandatory?

A: Not at all. Although we always encourage our athletes to try racing, there is no pressure about it, especially if this is the first year of them participating in cross country. It is up to parents and athletes themselves to decide when they are ready to race. Every year, there are quite a few competitive kids on the team who train for racing goals and represent NTF at the Regional and National meets. 

Q: What is required for joining the Club's travel teams for the Championships?

A: To form a cross country team for championship, we need 5 to 8 runners in the same age/gender group. Anyone who is ready to commit to training and travel to the meet can join - it does not depend on your running times or ability. Every runner is valuable. Quite a few first-timers participated in such teams in previous years and got a great experience!

Q: What should athletes wear or bring to practice?

A: Well-fitting running shoes, water bottle, warm-up clothes (pants and hoodie for cool weather). Please do not bring other sport equipment (like footballs, etc.)

Q: Does practice get canceled because of rain (or snow)? 

A: Light rain is usually not a problem. As cross country runners, we dress accordingly and run through it. In case of strong, cold or freezing rain, or thunder, the practice may be cancelled. Then, a notification will be sent to all participants via e-mail at least one hour before practice. 

Q: Are there any Covid safety measures? 

A: We encourage athletes to watch their symptoms and not to attend practice when sick. If tested positive, athletes are required to quarantine for 5 days and clear symptoms before joining practice. Masks or physical distancing are not currently required at practice.

With more questions: e-mail to ntfxc.club@gmail.com                                                                                                                            REGISTRATION opens on the 1st of August