Family guide to the Pioneer cross country season
Our head coach
is Don Sleeman. He has coached this team since 1968 (he retired from teaching social studies a
few years back) and also coaches the Pioneer men's track & field team. By the end of the season, you will be
surprised at how well Coach Sleeman will know your son - not just his 5k times, but his work ethic and personality, too.
Team captains run every morning, all summer, to stay in top
condition, and all team members are welcome to join them. Official pre-season practices begin on August 11 at 8am.
(Yes, it's early, but school will start even earlier…) The team practices 8am-10am on Monday through Saturday
as well as Monday, Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 6:00pm-7:15pm. Once school starts, practices are held daily
beginning at 3:45, typically finishing around 5:30.
All practices are mandatory - cross country success
depends on conditioning, which you develop by running every day. If a runner has unavoidable schedule conflicts or appointments,
becomes ill or is injured, tell coach ASAP either in person, by phone or by email before practice time. Yes, they run
when it is raining or snowing. (Yes, they will sometimes come home spattered with mud - OxiClean helps ...) Yes,
they practice when it is hot or humid or foggy. No, they do not leave to go running in severe weather,
and should a storm arise while they are a couple of miles away from Pioneer, they will seek shelter until it is safe to run
Runners should make sure personal belongings are stored safely during practice - either in a locked locker
or locked in coach's office. Cell phones, wallets, car keys, musical instruments, etc. left unattended during team
runs can get rained on or stolen.
The team travels together
on a bus to & from all of their meets. Cross country is a team sport, and it is important for the guys to be
together - psyching themselves up for the meet and being together afterwards, whether it was a good day or bad. If
your son needs to leave with you before the meet ends in order to be on time for a family wedding, etc., you must submit a
special form to the athletic office and let coach know ahead of time. If your son can't run at a particular
meet due to injury or illness, he should still go to the meet (unless he is contagious!). Guys who are not running perform
valuable tasks, such as timing "splits", bringing warm-up clothes back from the starting line, etc. The
team bus leaves from the flagpole entrance at Pioneer, unless there is a U of M home football game - in which case
the bus will leave from Lawton Elementary School on 7th Street south of Scio Church Rd. Coach will announce what time
you need arrive to catch the bus - it will change depending on how far away the meet is and what time our team runs.
There will be a meet nearly every Saturday in September and October, as well as three after-school meets called "Jamborees"
(see this year's schedule). Saturday meets often take all day and can be as close as Hudson Mills Metropark near Dexter or
as far away as Kalamazoo. Most of these places are beautiful in the fall season and well worth the trip to watch the team
Spectators are always welcome at cross country meets. Parents are encouraged to attend, but must provide their
own transportation (some choose to carpool). See our Maps & Directions page to find out how to get there. At some venues there is a per-vehicle entry fee (such as at the various Metroparks)
or charge for parking. Before and between races, spectators usually hang out near the team "camp".
Often, you'll be able to find the camp by searching for the purple, slightly-droopy Pioneer team tent - or,
just find someone in a Pioneer uniform and follow him "home". Pioneer (or purple) clothing helps
identify Pioneer families to each other. "Experienced" team parents will be happy to answer your questions,
and don't be surprised if you make some new friends during the season. Do not mingle with the team or
hover over your son - your presence could distract the team from race preparation or final coaching instructions.
Drop off that forgotten item quickly, then join the other parents. And remember, even if your son's race is finished,
the rest of the team may be getting ready to race. A quick word of congratulations after a good race is appreciated;
if it wasn't such a good outing, your son doesn't want to talk about it.
About 15 minutes before race
time, the team will head for the starting line, and fans will migrate to find a good view of the start. There
are usually several good vantage points along the course to watch the action and cheer for our team. If you bring
a course map, you can figure out other spots where you can catch a glimpse of the runners and cheer them on. Note that the Hudson
Mills "Jamboree 3" course is a great place for those who might have difficulty moving around the park
- there is a spot not far from the parking lot where you can stay in one place (perhaps bring a chair) and see the start,
the finish and also see the runners as they loop around the course.
After they finish the race, catch their breath
and grab a drink of water, the team will return to the camp, change into their training shoes and go for their cool down run.
When they finally return to camp, it is time to enjoy the nutritious snack parents have provided. JV - if your race
is before the Varsity's, please note that the Varsity will NOT be happy if you eat everything and leave nothing
for the Varsity to eat. New runners may make the mistake of eating too much right before their race - a bad
idea if you want to run well.
Some team members have strong allergies
Please be cautious when choosing team snacks.
There may be
an awards ceremony at the end of the meet, more elaborate at some of the larger meets. Then it's time to pack up
and head for the bus. Parents can help take down the tent, make sure trash is picked up from the campsite and keep
an eye out for misplaced spikes, T-shirts and uniform pieces.
Cross Country Basics
to the sport? Here's a quick introduction:
Although course layouts vary (turns, hills, ruggedness),
the total distance raced will always be 5k (about 3.1 miles). Usually there are markers along the course (sometimes
clocks) indicating Mile 1, Mile 2 and Mile 3. Varsity and JV (sometimes called "Reserve") run in separate
races. In the varsity race, a team has just 7 runners. Although the races are timed (and each runner is always
trying to run faster than last time) scoring is done based on points, not time. The first runner to cross the finish
line gets 1 point, the second finisher get 2 points ... down to the very last finisher. The points for each team's top
5 finishers are added together, that score is compared with other teams' scores, and the lowest score wins.
If by some chance there is a tie, each team's 6th finisher's score is included in the totals as a tie-breaker.
Everyone who does not run on the Varsity squad runs in the JV race (sometimes before, sometimes after the varsity race).
JV races are not always scored, but when they are, the same scoring rules apply.
That's it in a nutshell.
Of course, there are strategies involved, such as not going out too fast at the start, passing opponents on hills
and curves, and the infamous "kick" for the last couple hundred meters. Since points are based on finish position,
it can become very important for a Pioneer runner to pass an opposing runner, even when the Pioneer runner's finish will
not change Pioneer's score, because it might increase our opponents score and give Pioneer an advantage.
Want to know more?
Pioneer is in the Red Division of the Southeast Conference. So are Saline,
Bedford and Ann Arbor Huron. At the first Jamboree, both Red and White Divisions run together (Dexter, Chelsea, Ypsi-Lincoln, Adrian
and Tecumseh). At the second and third Jamborees, we compete only within the Red Division teams. The third Jamboree
is also known as the Conference Meet. While the "invitational" meets provide a chance to test Pioneer's strength
against the competition and may influence Pioneer's ranking in various polls, they do not affect eligibility for the State
Meet. Towards the end of October, Pioneer competes in a Regional Meet against some stiff competition.
The top three teams from each Region qualify for the State Meet (additional slots are available for the top regional runners
to compete individually if their teams do not qualify).
Care and Feeding of a Cross Country Runner
Runners should always, always, always tell Coach Sleeman - and their parents - if they are injured
or something just doesn't feel right when running. Coach can help you determine whether you should call your
doctor or just rest it for a while or can still safely run. It's better to take a week off than to aggravate the
injury and be sidelined the rest of the season!
Pioneer Men's Cross Country is extremely fortunate to have
information on nutrition and hydration for runners prepared especially for the team by Kaitlyn Gwyther, who earned her masters degree in Human Nutrition/Dietetics
from the University of Michigan School of Public Health, and who is a runner herself. Team parents will be organized
to bring nutritious snacks and beverages as post-race snacks, but runners should ALWAYS bring their own (full)
water bottle and a light snack (such as a granola bar or Cliff Bar) to meets "just in case". For longer outings,
also pack a nutritious sack lunch: some venues offer "junk" food - or none at all, and the post-race snack
is just a snack, not a meal.
Each runner will be issued four individually numbered uniform pieces - purple
running shorts, a white singlet, and purple warm-up pants and jacket. Write down the numbers and check during the season
to make sure your son still has all four pieces, and with the same numbers. He is responsible for THIS uniform, and
it will need to be cleaned and returned as soon as the season is over. Uniforms are worn only for meets, not for practice.
Likewise, racing spikes are worn only for racing, not for practice (they don't offer enough foot support, but they are
very light). 3/8 inch pyramidal spikes are typically worn for most races; for especially wet and muddy days, you
might want to consider 1/2 inch spikes. Make sure spikes are clean after every race. Decaying grass
and leaves stuck to spikes in a track bag can make them smell even worse (did you think that was possible?). Mud left
caked onto the spikes and molded tread will make the shoes less effective at providing traction and improving footing
during the next race. Do NOT wait until the night before the next race to wash them off
- DRY shoes are more comfortable.
For practice while it still warm, your son will
want short, lightweight running shorts which also offer support, along with a t-shirt. As the weather turns colder,
he may want to add running tights under the shorts and switch to a tight-fitting long-sleeved shirt (such as those made by
Under Armour) to help wick sweat away from the body to help keep him warm & dry. Synthetic running socks are
preferable to cotton, which may cause blisters. For daily practices, as well as warm-ups and cool-downs on the
day of the meet, your son will need one or more pairs of running shoes. Local running stores Tortoise and Hare and Running Fit offer discounts to Pioneer runners, and it is best to have their experts determine the best type of shoe for each individual
- which can actually help prevent injuries before they develop. These shoes will run a lot of miles and take quite a
beating while protecting a runner's feet, so do replace them when they are worn out.
Team Extras and Traditions
Every year the captains (with team input) design a unique team T-shirt,
which is offered on clothing order forms that are distributed in the pre-season. Also available are "Pioneer Cross
Country" logo shorts, sweatpants, hoodies, knit hats, etc. - the exact offerings change from year to year.
This clothing is not part of the uniform, not a fund-raiser, and purchases are completely optional. This clothing
order is run by the team captains so money has to be collected at the time of order. Many proud parents also
buy T-shirts or hoodies to show their support! Pioneer CC car window decals will also be offered for sale - buy one
and fight back against those "I (heart) Saline CC" bumper stickers!
team's web-site is http://www.pioneercrosscountry.com - please bookmark it, and share it with interested friends and relatives. You'll find announcements, schedules,
the "honor roll", directions & maps, as well as "flash" meet results posted ASAP after each
meet. Detailed results & commentary for each meet will be posted within a few days - the Ann Arbor
News does not give us much coverage, so we create our own!
Memory books compile
team photos and data into a keepsake for each boy. To make this happen each year parent volunteers are needed not only
to exercise those old high school yearbook skills, but especially to take lots of photos at the meets - stretching,
tying shoes, waiting at the starting line, running, celebrating - we will need all kinds of photos (some of each team member
and a few of the coaches, too).
At the end of the season, we hold a planned
potluck banquet in the Pioneer cafeteria. The room is decorated especially to honor the seniors; there may be a slideshow
of team photos (if we have parental talent to create one). This is usually where memory books are distributed.
Team funds will cover the decorations, tableware, beverages and ice; parents will provide lots of food to share.
After dinner, Coach will talk about the season, and then will present awards, including team letters & numerals, telling
us a little bit about each runner as he does so. Next year's captains will be announced. Finally, the team
captains will present their extremely popular "Paper Plate Awards".
The captains' parents traditionally host a team brunch after one morning practice
during the pre-season, and a pot-luck style team BBQ is held one evening near the end of pre-season practices. These
informal get-togethers help the boys get to know each other better.
The Alumni Race
alumni race is also the Pioneer time trials before the first meet of the season. The time trials help Coach decide which
seven will run as the varsity squad at the first Invitational meet, but having alumni - from several decades - come back
to race against this year's team makes it much more interesting. The current Pioneers usually win, but some alumni
are quite capable of besting our fastest runners. This race is held the Saturday morning of Labor Day Weekend, just
before school begins.
The Cider Run
The Cider Run is a training run which ends up at the
Alber Orchard & Cider Mill, where cider & donuts are enjoyed by all. Parent drivers are needed to drop off runners at their starting
distance and bring them back to Pioneer afterwards. Don't worry, coach will ask for volunteers!
Actually, it’s the Footlocker
Midwest Regional Championships – and it is a tough race course! This is a post-season, non-Pioneer,
optional activity which the guys look forward to. Although boys send in individual registrations, parent
drivers carpool the guys to Wisconsin, leaving the Friday morning right after Thanksgiving, attending a big spaghetti dinner
Friday night, racing on Saturday morning and returning home Saturday night. There are separate races for
freshman-sophomores and juniors-seniors, so it is good place to test yourself against runners from across the Midwest.