Leeloo Grissom had a quick answer when asked how she felt after running laps around the Warren County Middle School track Wednesday morning.
“Sweaty,” she said.
Leeloo and other members of the WCMS cross country team definitely broke a sweat on what turned out to be a muggy morning. Conditioning has begun as coach Patty Kelly prepares her squad for the start of the season next month.
“You don’t just get endurance in one day. It’s something you need to build slowly,” said coach Kelly. “You don’t want to do too much too fast. That leads to muscle fatigue and burnout. You want to build up your endurance over several weeks.”
Coach Kelly is entering her eighth season at the helm of the WCMS cross country team. It’s a program she launched on her own and she says it’s been gratifying to watch her young runners go on to excel at the high school level.
Kelly has developed a four-week course of specialized training that’s catered to the 2.1-mile distance. That’s the length of a middle school cross country race.
In addition to running around the Nunley Stadium track, Kelly also works with the team on core muscle exercises and strength training.
Kelly said unlike many school sports, running is something which can be enjoyed, and which can produce health benefits, well into adulthood.
“Running helps you feel so much better when you wake up in the morning,” Kelly said. “It helps you in so many ways to stay healthy and stay focused.”
WCMS seventh-grader Lila Preston admits practice can be challenging.
“I’ve never really been much of a sports person,” said Lila. “I decided to try track last year and now I’m doing cross country. It’s a lot of work.”
Kelly organizes one of the biggest local cross country races, the Pioneer Invitational, which is set for Aug. 28. She traditionally holds several home meets each season, but the Pioneer Invitational is the largest.