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Potomac River “Border Supremacy”: TEAM MARYLAND is Victorious

Girls and Boys from Maryland sweep Potomac XC Cups for 2nd straight year

A second year of Team Maryland showing off their depth was on full display at the 9th running of the Battle of the Potomac XC (Cross Country) Championship, known affectionately as the XC Border War.


One area cross country team boosted Maryland’s Boys’ depth considerably when they committed to racing their top 7 once again at this year’s Border War. That is the defending Maryland 4A State Champions of Severna Park. It was a repeat of 2013. The Severna Park boys had won their 2nd straight 4A title and decided that the Battle of the Potomac XC course would be a tough but fair tune-up for the following week’s Nike Southeast Regional Event, a qualifier for Nike’s Cross Nationals in Oregon. That team had a strong #1 runner and he showed his speed and strength by breaking the course record set in the first Battle of the Potomac.

One year later and Severna Park was back and ready to repeat the racing strategy that worked in 2013. After leading Team Maryland to a win that year, Severna Park was the upset runner-up team at the Nike Southeast Regional and earned spot in the National Meet in Portland Oregon. That post-season schedule worked so the team came to 2014’s Battle of the Potomac with eye on Nike’s Southeast qualifier while getting in some quality work at Smokey Glen Farm, host of the Battle XC. Team Maryland’s depth was much deeper and faster than the group from Virginia. One other thing was on Maryland’s side, a week break from their State Championship weekend. Virginia teams raced the Saturday prior to the 9th XC Border War. Nothing stopped the MD Boys with the Severna Park boys entrenched in the scoring. Maryland Boys dominated and took home their 4th consecutive Potomac XC Cup.

The Girls competition had been in Team Virginia’s hands since a Girls-only Potomac XC Cup was added in the 2nd year of the Battle of the Potomac. The streak ended in 2013 as several top Virginia girls sat out following the State Meet, and the team from the Commonwealth of Virginia was weakened. A similar race developed this year, as Team Virginia had less than half the number of competitors as Maryland. The result was a score nearly identical to the Boys race but for different reasons. Team Virginia had fewer runners and had no margin for error in the scoring.

The overall winner is the sport of cross-country and the continued growth in the number of athletes joining middle school and high school teams. The American Running Association has dedicated itself to increasing the physical activity of youth through running. Events like the Battle of the Potomac XC Championship foster excitement and spirit among the boys and girls who participate. There may be a river that runs through the competing States and District of Columbia. All the runners could see were other cross country athletes in singlets emblazoned with their home state’s acronym united in a sport they all embrace.

AMAA YOUTH FITNESS FUND Team close to Selling out Spots for Boston 2015
BAA extends deadline for Charities to fill remaining slots

Staff with ARA and AMAA will be mailing out the Invitational Entry Forms for the 2015 Boston Marathon soon after the New Years Holiday. If you are a member of the AMAA YOUTH FITNESS FUND Team you will get an update on the expected date that the entry form will arrive. For anyone else motivated to raise funds for AMAA’s Youth Fund that underwrites the training and support materials for NATIONAL RUN A MILE DAYS in schools and communities, there are less than 10 spots left to fill. The staff will assist each runner in setting up a fundraising page on the fundraising website partners at Crowdrise. Runners can direct supporters to the site or collect checks. AMAA and ARA can also provide the documents that are necessary to obtain Corporate Matching Gifts.

To register for the AMAA Boston 2015 Youth Fitness Team, go to the AMAA website, and click on the link to Register for the AMAA BOSTON 2015 team. If you have questions, email us at or directly to Barb Baldwin,

Indoor Track for High School athletes: A tweener sport
A coach’s view on the transition from X-Country to the Winter or Indoor season with the longer Outdoor Season a few months away

Indoor or Winter Track is the one portion of the Distance Runners’ Triad of Seasons that is the poor stepchild sport. Why? Facilities or the lack thereof governs what communities, counties or states hold an Indoor or Winter Track & Field season. For instance, the neighboring states of Oregon and Washington who are well known for their cross country teams’ prowess do not have a high school indoor track season. Head to the southern states and the winter season is the time to prep for a longer outdoor season. The only facilities for indoor track in the South and Southwest found were built by major college D1 Sports programs. For the high school athlete who perhaps ran indoor track in another state or competed with a USATF club team, what are their options if they live in a state or county that does not support indoor or winter track? How do you properly transition from Cross Country to the Indoor Track Season? First thing, let’s examine the distance runner who has to seek an alternative path as his or her state does not have an Indoor Track season.

Shift training back to “base training for Outdoor. Most coaches in states that do not have an official indoor track season have their distance and mid-distance runners restart their base training. Call it a reboot of training. There is no need to focus on intense track workouts or longer interval training when the Outdoor season is 3 months away. Everything needs to get into a cycle so that athletes can get into a training rhythm. The cross country season was a long one and every runner needs to be able to reach peaks on the track. That discipline to be able to maintain a base mileage is key to success on the track. You do not hear about too many successful distance runners who take 3-4 months off in a year. Then again, there are the exceptional high school-aged runners who can do another winter sport like swimming and jump back to Outdoors and find success.

Running for a Club team when your state has NO Indoor season. High School coaches may not like it yet the only alternative for high school athletes in the winter who desire to compete “indoors” is to join a Club team. Yes the high school coach loses control over workouts and preparing for the Outdoor season. The boy or girl in a state like Washington or Florida who excels at Indoor distances must seek an alternative path. Many independent track coaches are available in the locales where the sport of Indoor Track is not offered. Parents may see them at cross country meets or get word of x-coach of a neighboring athlete. This scenario is not what parents want to face, but for those runners who desire to compete and who may have aspirations to run in college, the choice of going with a certified coach and / or a Club team is the only option. There is the case of a high school runner who was able to compete in Indoor Track their first year or two of high school, moves to another state and finds out that there is no Indoor Track season. If they excelled and loved the indoor venue setting, then they will do all they can to find a path to compete. One reason Indoor Track is considered the lesser of the two track seasons is the fact that only 50-60% of track athletes compete during the indoor season. The option of a club team or independent coach is the only option for athletes stuck in this predicament.

Peaking for success Indoors. You have just finished your fall cross country season. You may have extended your post-season racing to compete in a qualifier for Nationals, either Footlocker or Nike Cross Nationals. The indoor season most likely started just before Thanksgiving and now you and your coach have to decide when to start racing indoors. There seem to be two schools on this question. First is the desire to post a fast time that could secure an Auto State qualifying time in the Mile or 2 Mile for instance? Second, you have to weigh mental fatigue and physical fatigue. Should an athlete take off 10 days to 2 weeks to recover and then reboot their training? On the other hand, should that same athlete go race 2 weeks after their final cross country race and go for that state qualifying time. It is not a clear-cut situation. Then the question comes in about peaking for the post-season or Championship season for Indoors. You want to be racing at your peak when the Regional and State Championships occur. You hope to ride that peak for 3 weeks.

Staying fresh and avoiding injuries from the indoor curves. This is the hard part of indoors: building the peak and avoiding injuries that can be the byproduct of the smaller and tighter curves on indoor track venues. Young runners need to strengthen core muscle groups and hip joints in particular. Many young girls have weak hips that include the IT bands and fascia that connect joints like the hip. It is imperative that exercises or strength activities in a weight room work on these injury prone areas. Indoor track also poses the issue of staying healthy and avoiding colds and the flu. One can only step into an indoor track facility and immediately realize that germs are aplenty! All the precautions preached to kids about washing hands are paramount during an indoor track meet.

What makes Indoors special. Many track coaches grumble (me included) about the lack of facilities in states that conduct an Indoor Track season. We moan and groan about overcrowded indoor meets and indoor track venues that are outmoded for competition. Despite the lack of good facilities, there are the premier Invitational Meets and post-season Championship meets that bring out great competition and fast racing. The noise and crowds are right on top of the athletes. It is the one great aspect of Indoor Track at the high school level: fans in the stands bringing energy to the competitors and the meet. Go to places like the Reggie Lewis Center in Roxbury MA, the New Balance Armory in NYC or a college venue like ones at UAB (Birmingham AL), Notre Dame, or Virginia Tech.

Seen and Heard while Running

Training Groups for the Empty Nester
We have all heard of training groups in towns, cities, health clubs or gyms that are oriented towards an upcoming marathon or other endurance event. What is new are “Running Classes” that appear to be luring Moms for the most part and a few Dads who are now in the Empty Nest Mode. Case in point is my wife. She and I ran a 10K together in 1984; well, we ran the same race but at different speeds! Kids arrived in 1991 and running took a seat on the bench. She heard about a program at a local running store in Northern Virginia. I knew the coach and had heard of the success of the former non-runners after a “semester of Running 101”. My wife signs up. There was no prodding from our kids or me. It was her time to reconnect to running. I was curious and looked at the course and did a search online. It appears that classes or non-accredited “Running 101-type classes” had popped up in other regions. What is the secret? It seems that 90% of the students are women and most are Moms. They are in their late 40s to mid 60s. Their common bond is their age and their desire to kick start their fitness in a running group geared towards their ability. The so-called Final Exam was optional, a 5K road race. My wife signed up and off I went with her on a Sunday morning in November for a Veterans’ Day 5K. For the first time in my running life, I played the supporter. I cheered and kept her warm-up gear handy until she finished. The other thing I noticed from her Running 101 group was that most signed up for a winter class. Just the other night, I was getting dinner ready and she was at a local track for a workout. She texted my daughter and I her splits for repeat 400s! You talk about a transformation! In all seriousness, this type of training group or class is exactly the right step for many adults who have been out of running for a period of years or decades. Few are making a direct leap to training for a marathon. The approach of getting in shape to run a 5K and even a 5 miler is the best path to a sustainable healthy lifestyle.

Post-Race Massage – Does It Do Any Good?
For though he was master of the world, he was not quite sure what to do next.
--Arthur C. Clarke, 2001, A Space Odyssey

You’ve conquered the world, or at least 26 miles of it. Is it worth standing in line at the massage tent? Studies show some possible benefits.

There isn’t evidence massage “flushes your body of toxins,” or other slightly mystical effects you might have heard discussed at a spa or health food store. It does; however, seem to mitigate delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). A study in The Journal of Athletic Training found that massage reduced DOMS by 30% after physical activity. However, the study found muscle strength and other measures of recovery were not improved by massage.

A 2012 study by Crane, Ogborn et al in Science Translational Medicine did find cellular level improvements caused by massage in subjects after exercise. In the controlled study, biopsies were taken from the quadriceps of 11 male subjects after physical activity. The authors concluded “massage therapy appears to be clinically beneficial by reducing inflammation and promoting mitochondrial biogenesis.”

Dr. Mark Rapaport, chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Emory University School of Medicine, has also undertaken extensive massage-effectiveness studies. Rapaport found that a single session of Swedish massage (the most common massage offered at spas) decreased cortisol (the “stress hormone”) and increased circulating lymphocytes (white blood cells).

Rapaport then tested the effects of massage over a five-week period, with four cohorts – once a week massage, twice a week massage, and once a week and twice a week light touch controls. Rapaport found that multiple massage sessions led to improved biomarkers vs. a single session. In addition, more frequent massage (twice a week vs. once a week) also caused improved biomarkers. (It should be noted that Rapaport’s studies did not use athletes or people who have recently completed athletic activity.)

What about the college and professional track and distance athletes and their use of massage? Many collegiate teams have chiropractors or others trained and certified in deep tissue massage on staff. Typically, athletes will get “rubbed out” or have their lower legs massaged well after competition and cool-downs. Many runners wait until the next day post-competition or a day after a tough hill or track workout.

Many coaches feel that it is most important to do a cool-down run after a competition. These runs can be the same day or the next morning. Call it a “shake-out” run or an easy distance run. It can solve the dead leg feeling by getting lactic acid buildup to be broken up and transported away.

Certainly, more research is needed, with post-race runners as test subjects. But the psychological benefit of having someone else move your muscles for a change after a long race may be enough for many runners.

Embrace the Holiday Season of December and January!

The American Running Association Staff

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