Program is off and running
By CAREY FREEMAN
© St. Petersburg Times,
INVERNESS -- Perhaps the most astounding aspect of a coordinated off-season running program in the county is that it will be the first attempt.
That may come as a surprise to many given the county's long-standing success in distance running, a track record that's seen Citrus and Lecanto routinely finish among the top high school teams in the region and state.
But to ensure the locals maintain that tradition, they have to start a new one this summer. That's the opinion of Charlie Blaisdell, a member of the Citrus County Road Runners and the brainchild of the current effort.
"I just wanted to put together a program that would benefit all the schools and give the kids some summer training -- without getting injured -- and hopefully give them a good base," Blaisdell said.
"I definitely think this will help them do better. If they run the program the way its designed, I think you'll find a marked difference -- at least in the beginning of the season," he said. "And I'm hoping they'll have far less injuries."
The program seems to be a resounding success. On Wednesday, there were 32 runners representing three schools. There's a total of 35 individuals signed up, including former Citrus state champion and current University of Florida runner Cory Presnick.
One of Blaisdell's biggest concerns was to provide the runners with a base from which to work on next fall. Injuries have been a bit of a problem in past years due to runners trying to play catch-up during the early weeks of the season. Blaisdell and others hope the summer program will curtail those problems. "Many of the athletes try to run themselves into shape way too fast at the beginning of season because they've done nothing over the summer," Blaisdell said. "So, hopefully if we can get a base here. We won't have the injury problem we've had in the past.
"The thing is, the kids who were fortunate enough to stay healthy were beginning to peak when the season was over. So, they didn't even reach what they are capable of doing. This program is designed so they will peak at the time they should peak and not get injured."
Charlie Joiner, the president of the Citrus Road Runners, was instrumental in creating the program and thinks it will allow local schools to maintain a competitive edge with other state powers.
"We perceived a need because almost every competitive high school cross country program is running in the summer now," Joiner said. "So, when go into the year without having run at all during the summer, it puts you at a competitive disadvantage early in the season."
Milton Lyons, an incoming senior at Citrus, is one of those looking to take advantage of the program. Though he always kept in shape on his own in past seasons, Lyons welcomes the chance to work in a group setting.
"We just trained as partners or by ourselves before," Lyons said. "It should help us team wise, especially with the newcomers from middle school. It allows them to get the miles so they have a base.
"Two years ago, we got my brother Tony in and he had no base, so it took him a while to get back into shape," Lyons said. "If he had run over summer, who knows what he could have done."
© 2006 • All Rights Reserved • Tampa Bay Times
490 First Avenue South St. Petersburg, FL 33701 727-893-8111