In this neck of the woods, the most visible sports programs from a spectator standpoint are football, basketball and volleyball. In terms of spectator sports in Kansas, the next tier includes wrestling, track and field, soccer, baseball, swimming, gymnastics, softball and tennis.
Golf and cross country are likely the most isolated sports, invisible to all but the most devoted parents or friends.
My interest in cross country increased this fall when Liz Kleinsasser came to Tabor College.
As you might guess by our last names, we’re related. If you’re interested, she’s my cousin’s daughter.
Of greater significance, Liz also happens to be a niece to Ruth Wysocki, a former U.S. Olympic track athlete.
My personal bias aside, Liz had a great freshman season. Qualifying for nationals was icing on the cake.
In following her season, I was reminded how easy it is to learn the score of almost every high school football and basketball game on game day. Good luck in finding out how a cross-country runner or team finished.
Kudos to the Free Press for covering the cross country scene better than most media. Covering a race when you rarely see the participants isn’t easy. Where is a blimp when you need one?
For some reason, I don’t sense that cross-country runners worry about a lack of publicity. They simply enjoy running and the competition.
I wondered if cross country was started to give runners something to do when it’s not track season, so I consulted Wikipedia.
Here’s what I learned. Cross country originated in England in the early 1800s. In 1868, members of Thames Rowing Club apparently took up cross country in the winter when rowing did not take place.
In 1878, the sport was introduced into the United States by William C. Vosburgh. At first, the sport served mainly as training for summer track and field athletes. It became a formal sport nine years later.
Despite the international popularity of cross country, it was dropped from the Olympic Games after 1924 due to it being an inappropriate summer sport.
It’s good to know that there are runners with a sense of humor. I came across a Web site that posted cross-country jokes, courtesy of Maple Grove Cross Country. A sampling follows.
You might be a cross country runner if…
n your shoes have more miles on them than your car does.
n you need a magnifying glass to see your name in the paper.
n people say, “You run three miles…at once?”
n you find yourself running between classes just because.
n you spend more on training clothes than school clothes.
n you’ve been to a golf course in every city, but not to play golf.
n you drink more water than Free Willy.
n your Saturdays for the next four years are ruined.
n your room smells like Icy-Hot and New-Skin.
Much more could be written about cross country, but I get tired just thinking about it.
I know this: If the Kleinsasser clan chooses to hold another family reunion someday, I’ll pass on any invitation to run in a family cross-country race.