Runners are made in the summer and crowned in the fall.
That’s what William Calvert tells the runners attending the second year of the “A Step Ahead Cross Country Summer Running Camp.”
The St. Bernard cross country coach believes this camp does exactly that — push participants a step ahead of other runners who take the offseason easy before school picks back up.
“The work you put in the summer will determine your success in the fall,” he said. “The first day of practice, it’ll pay off. They’ll be so far ahead of the others. It’ll really pay off when they get to those first few meets. You’ll be able to see the difference.”
The camp, which started June 11 and will continue until Aug. 2, has the runners doing far more than training from 7-9 a.m. four days each week. They’ve also had the opportunity to learn about a variety of topics, like nutrition and proper shoe selection.
“It’s been really beneficial because we’ve learned to make sure that the shoes are not just for color, but they’re good for your feet,” said Ayleana Mami, a St. Bernard sophomore. “It’s got me eating a lot better, too, because I normally just eat whatever there is.”
The campers range from grades 7-12, and some of the younger kids have had no problem keeping up with the older runners.
“We have kids that aren’t even going to be running cross country season because they’re too young that are coming here,” Mami said. “I think it’s going to help them a lot when they actually start. Some little kids here are sixth graders, and they’re pretty fast. They’re beating some of the seventh and eighth graders.”
While the heat this month may break records, Cullman High senior Matthew Huddleston said running earlier in the morning has made a big difference.
“In the trails, it’s really not that bad,” he said. “It was a good 10 degrees cooler this morning, and it felt really good. It feels good during the day if you go on and get your run knocked out.”
The camp isn’t all work, either. Along with the other 17 runners from Cullman, it’s another opportunity for Huddleston and his friends to hang out. He said he’d be pounding the pavement every day anyway, so running with others makes it more enjoyable.
“We’re all really close-knit friends, so we see each other all the time during the season,” he said. “This isn’t unusual to see everyone here because we hang out all the time.”
St. Bernard junior Logan Ayers said it does take extra effort to get up early every morning.
“We run different drills, we do tempo runs and long runs where we can run up to seven or eight miles,” she said. “It gets pretty intense.”
A majority of the 37 total campers are from Cullman and St. Bernard, but there are also three students from Fairview, two from Holly Pond and one from Cullman Christian.
Fairview sophomore Colby Chapman recently started running cross country and has enjoyed getting to know other runners from around the area.
“It’s a really helpful atmosphere because everyone else will help you out,” he said. “If you’re doing something wrong, and they notice it, they’ll show you what to do.”
Calvert said he really appreciates the cooperation between the schools in events like these.
“We’ve got kids from Holly Pond and from Fairview that their coaches trust us, and we trust them,” he said. “When we do things together like this, I think that benefits the whole running community here. Everybody pulls for everybody except when we get to the race.”
‰ Laura Owens can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 258 or at email@example.com.