Archive for Thursday, August 12, 2004

Altitude adjustment

Cross country coach takes returning seniors on Colorado excursion

August 12, 2004

Chris McAfee and some of his cross country students took their summer workouts to a whole new level last weekend.

As a reward for all of the hard work they've put in over the last three years, the De Soto cross country coach took seniors Casey Johnson, Adam Wilcox, Donnie Gardner, Katie James and Melissa Roberts on a mountain retreat/running field trip last weekend to Colorado Springs.

"They've done an awful lot for me," McAfee said. "They've seen me at my best, and they've seen me at my worst. But they've all still stuck by me."

To make the year even more special, the 2004 group marked the first class of seniors McAfee has coached all through their high school careers.

"I think he's done an excellent job of building the program," Roberts said. "When I joined the team as a freshman, we had just 10 runners go out for cross country. Now we're up to about 25. I think that speaks volumes."

Roberts made her point by discussing the fact that the program has gained much respect at the high school.

"We even had the football coaches show up for meets," she said.

The entourage spent the first 10 hours of the journey on the road. Once from page 1B

they reached their destination, they spent the next two-plus days doing a combination of working out and sightseeing.

During the workout part of the trip, the Wildcat harriers ran through the mountains to places like the Garden of the Gods, up hiking trails and along streams, and took in breathtaking attractions as they ran.

"We had a blast," McAfee said. "I could have made the trip by myself, but I thought it would be fun to share the experience with them."

The De Soto coach learned last season that he needed to at least train a little bit before heading to Colorado because of the altitude. He started training in about mid-May for the trip.

McAfee said that the Air Force Academy was quite an impressive place with many gyms and weight rooms.

The trip to the Academy was not all about pleasure and sightseeing, however. McAfee took the time to set up a recruiting visit for Casey Johnson, who has been considering attending the Academy.

"Our visit was scheduled to be only about 30 minutes long," McAfee said. "But once we got started, they (coaches) spent about 90 minutes with us. We really enjoyed our visit with their coach."

The Olympic Training Center was equally impressive to McAfee. The coach said the complex itself was a cool place.

The buildings housed teams in wrestling, triathlon, gymnastics and ice skating. Plus, it was also home to about 40 or 50 permanent residents -- all of whom had been invited to live and train there.

The Wildcat group also took a trek up Pikes Peak. McAfee was especially fond of the drive up the mountain -- and even more appreciative of the trip back down.

Roberts said an important part of her journey was coming to the realization that she could take a break from the typical doldrums of running.

"After a summer of long runs, it was a welcome change," she said of her mini-vacation that lasted from Friday morning to Monday evening. "You get tired of looking at the same old cracks in the sidewalks. I've discovered a new vigor for running."

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