From "date pace" to learning to count to 15 in Thai, there's a lot more terminology in cross country than you might think.
The words "teamwork" and togetherness are part of the group attitude instilled by coach Kristen Uhler, and thoroughly shared by her athletes heading into the 2011 Columbia River Conference schedule.
"Running is an individual sport but in a bigger sense it is a team sport," Uhler said. "Running as a pack, that's really how you win races; keep your top five together."
"It's definitely a team sport," said second-year runner Danae Burck, a senior, who also has five years in track.
Burck helps lead a young Eagles team that embarked last week on an 11-meet schedule. The boys and girls return four standout seniors from 2010, and the team has a number of promising younger athletes, according to Uhler.
"Our goal is to place a girls team and a boys team at state," said Uhler, who for the second year is assisted by Steve Noteboom. (Uhler has coached at HRVHS since 1986; 25 of those years with boys' coach Rich Hedges.)
"I think it's a pretty good chance," said senior runner Sage Deenik, "If we train and go hard, and live up to our potential."
Deenik said he is looking forward to today's race at Hermiston, the team to beat in the Columbia River Conference this year.
Burck said, "I think it's going to be a really good season, because we have a lot of girls who are willing to work hard. We don't have anyone who's way ahead of anyone, but everyone is good at packing and helping each other. I like how motivated everyone is, and encouraging."
Senior boy Sean Compton said, "I feel like we have a lot more people than normal showing out this year, which is good. We have a decent chance for going to state. Our main opponent is still Hermiston but we're not going to be like 'Oh, they're amazing.' We're going to try to beat them; but it all depends on how our training comes together."
Hermiston will be even stronger than last year, according to Uhler.
"They have a tremendous work ethic; they're pounding all summer, they have that running culture, and they have the heat," she said.
"We're really trying to get ready for the heat," Uhler said. "The body has to adapt to heat, and we're not really used to it. It's going to be hot in Hermiston."
So in summer training, the team has worked at setting its biological competition clock for the 3:30 to 5:30 time frame, Uhler said. "The body gets used to running at that time every day, because that's what time they will race."
"It'll be nice and hot in Hermiston," Deenik said.
Compton said, "We need to do some good training. Our district race is at Sorosis Park in The Dalles. We have a good opportunity to train on hills, but there in Hermiston they don't have as many hills. If we can power through the hills we might be able to get ahead of Hermiston."
And now, to those terms:
"Date pace" has nothing to do with social calendars. It's a training concept in which runners log a baseline mile time early in the season and then use that as the marker for improvement in future workouts.
"We established date pace so I know how fast they should be run for our four-by-one-mile repeats in Tuesday's training," Uhler said.
"This will get us fit and race-ready for our first big meet Saturday at Hermiston," she said.
She's looking to senior boys Deenik, Compton and Ben Fischer for leadership, both on the course and in training.
"All three are really good at mentoring the younger guys. That's what we're trying to do, is build character, and work at putting the team first," Uhler said.
She said the team is well on the way to that goal.
"A lot of times with runners you get really talented runners who aren't necessarily easy to coach," she said. "This year I come home from practice with a big smile on my face. They are respectful, hardworking, they show up, they're coachable, and they listen. It's painless."
In all, Uhler has a large group this year: 18 boys and 17 girls, including four female foreign exchange students: Kankanok Wichiantonon, of Thailand, or Kathy, as she is known, led the team through a leg lifts regimen in warm-ups, counting in her native language. Then Karen Yoshida from Japan had her turn, as did Kim Kaldasch from Germany.
The multilingual counting "gives it kind of a fun flavor," Uhler said. (Elodia Vial from Switzerland has also signed up to run cross country.)
Uhler also points to young, yet talented, runners such as Jessica DeHart and Rhue Buddenbeck, "a tough freshman," sophomore Ricardo Castillo and freshman Nels Engbersen.
But the success of the season depends on teamwork, and training, she said.
"We want to peak at district and state, and we have a lot of big meets to gauge our fitness level, at Concordia, and a meet on the state course in Eugene (the Northwest Classic)."