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Written by Rod O'Donnell on 12 October 2017.

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As temperatures begin to drop, and leaves begin to change, thousands of high school athletes are participating in the great sport of cross-country. Many have worked very hard, running hundreds of miles, preparing for the season. Goals will vary among these runners and their teams. For the elite runners, qualifying to the State Meet will be their mission. In order to accomplish this, a total team concept is absolutely necessary. This includes everyone from the slowest to the fastest. If the 30th runner pushes #29, and the pattern continues, soon #2 will help make #1 stronger, thus making the team better.

The following examples illustrate how important this team concept is: In 1985, Eric Nelson and future Olympian Bob Kennedy placed first and second in the State Meet; unfortunately, their Westerville North teammates did not run well in the Regional, and they did not qualify as a team. In 1988, Caldwell High School won one of their nine state championships when their #6 runner finished one place higher than the second place team’s #6 runner, after scoring the meet as a tie through their first five placers. Hudson’s 2001 State Championship almost did not occur when their #4 man got caught up in the excitement and passed the 800 meter mark with his teammate, Foot Locker Runner-up, Wesley Smith. When asked how he persevered to make the contribution necessary for his team to win, his reply was simple, “I couldn’t let my teammates down.” There are countless stories similar to these throughout the history of the State Championship Meet, and they all have one thing in common: The team concept was a key to the success of those that stood at the top of the podium.

To the teams that are fortunate to qualify for the meet held on the first Saturday in November, at National Trail: Good luck, and remember that it is an honor to compete. To those who reach the pinnacle of any high school sport – a State Championship, 1)Focus on the moment, not the post season meets, regardless of your national ranking; 2) Appreciate this most memorable day; 3)Enjoy the journey getting there; 4) Understand that victory on this day will change your life forever in a very positive way.

I wrote the follow for my team after they won in 2001. As the years pass by these words are becoming more true:

The next day, we said, “Time just went too fast yesterday. I wish it could have lasted forever.”

After one week, we said, “What a week it has been!”

After one year, we said, “Can you believe it has been a year since we won it?!”

After ten years, we said, “Remember those work-outs, when we ran through two feet of snow in March, practiced when it was 120 degrees in May, and carried 100 lb backpacks up that hill?”

After 25 years, we said, “Yes, kids, we were the champions. Your grandparents were so proud of the team and their son that beautiful sunny day.”

And after 50 years, we will say, “I miss those who aren’t here, but we are better people because of what we did on that day.”

Absorb every second of the experience, it goes by so quickly, and it is so very special.

Yours in track,

Rod O’Donnell

Read more of Coach O'Donnell's articles on

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Can we do anything else to alienate sports fans -

Keeping Track - National Governing Body for High School Sports (NFHS)  - 

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Keeping Track - Frank Shorter -

KEEPING TRACK, Two Iconic Coaches-

KEEPING TRACK -  Caldwell Story -

KEEPING TRACK - Furman Elite Training Group -

Keeping Track - 2 Divisions for 120 Lacrosse teams?

Boy's Division II and Division III -

Boy's Division I -;utm_campaign=july+2015+news&utm_medium=email


KEEPING TRACK - Football and Track Athletes -

 The Ohio High School Athletic Association State Cross-Country Championships -

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 Track Faces Challenges that could have adverse effects thus causing severe damage -

Marketing Track & Field -

Student Athlete’s Questions -

The Need to Speak Up -

A new book by John McDonnell -

KEEPING TRACK - From September-October 2013 print RUNOHIO -

Random Thoughts -

Another Division I institution has dropped its men’s track program -

 Ohio University Athletic Department's Worst Decision -

Life Lessons from Cross Country -

Ten Pledges for Cross Country Coaches -

London Olympics -

 Improving as a Coach –

You Only Go Around Once -

Dear Jesse Owens –

West Virginia State Cross Country Championship –

SPIRE Institute -

Why is the OHSAA Treating Cross Country Different than All of the Other Sponsored Sports?


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