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Written by Rod O’Donnell on 26 November 2014.

The Ohio High School Athletic Association State Cross-Country Championships regularly features teams that have competed at the championship on a regular basis. The 2014 edition followed this pattern. In Division I, seven of the 16 boys’ teams and 8 girls’ teams qualified for the State Meet five or more times since 2005. This is not a coincidence. When looking at all three divisions at this year’s meet, the same pattern exists. These consistently outstanding programs generally have several things in common. So, what traits do they share?

First of all, they have a well-established distance culture where the sport is an important part of the school and of the community. Much of the time, this is attributed to the head coach, who has led, assisted, or competed at the school for many years.  Because of this consistency in passion, leadership and knowledge, a strong tradition exists. This is evident by the number of relatives, alumni, and classmates who are in attendance. It is also obvious that the parents understand the coach’s philosophy and the fact that year-round hard work is necessary in order to achieve success. Without this support, it is not impossible, but it is much more difficult to produce great teams on a consistent basis.

The schedules of many strong programs feature meets that are held in different locations around the state or region. This gives the athletes the opportunity to compete against a variety of competition and race on different courses under diverse conditions. The ability to have such a schedule reflects the financial support that is available.

The consistent level of excellence can also be attributed to a strong feeder system that comes from middle school, CYO or youth group teams. Not only does this support system introduce impressionable youngsters to the sport, but by using proper training practices and duplicating many of the ideas of the high school program, the beginning of a successful culture is established.

There is one overriding trait that is common to the vast majority of the teams who regularly compete in the State Meet. The expectation of achieving this goal is a constant factor.

When the many factions pointed out in this article have “invested” and “bought into” the program and thus the culture is ingrained within the community, the result is a frequent trip to Columbus on the first Saturday in November and an experience of a lifetime for many generations of young athletes.

Yours in track,

Rod O’Donnell

Editor's note:  Pictures and an article about this year's OHSAA Cross Country Championships will be in the next issue of RUNOHIO.

Rod O’Donnell

Read more of Rod O’Donnell’s Keeping Track articles on

Cross Country -

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 -

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

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