Prep cross country: Local coaches react to increased distance for girls

Prep cross country: Local coaches react to increased distance for girls

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Prep cross country: Local coaches react to increased distance for girls

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Last week, the WIAA Board of Control agreed to lengthen the girls cross country race from 4,000 meters to 5,000 meters.

Though discussions about the change are nothing new, a majority of coaches from around the state voted to table discussions about possibly increasing the distance of the girls race this past January.

However, the move was accelerated due to a complaint that was filed with the federal Office of Civil Rights stating that the discrepancy in race lengths was possibly a form of gender discrimination.

Beginning this fall, girls races will be the same distance as the boys race. The move only pertains to WIAA sectional and state meets, but any school hosting regular season races can increase the distance of their girls courses if it sees fit.

As one would expect, discussions with several area coaches yielded a mixed bag of opinions. But none of the coaches interviewed doubted that their girls possessed the ability to run a 5K race.

“I think once they start doing it, they’re going to realize that it’s not as horrible as they maybe envisioned,” Roncalli girls coach Tim Schroeder said. “A lot of these kids are doing 5Ks or 10Ks already at some of these fun runs. I don’t think it’s going to be as dramatic as some of the kids think it’s going to be.”

Schroeder said perhaps now is the time for a change.

“I know that most of the coaches felt they were more comfortable with the girls doing a 2 ½ (mile) or a 4K,” Schroeder said. “We are one of maybe eight to 12 states that still do a 2½mile for girls. I think maybe it’s time for Wisconsin and the girls to move up to the 5K.”

Though girls are physically able to run a longer race, some coaches, like Manitowoc Lutheran’s Abbey Bubolz, believe that increasing the distance wasn’t necessary.

“Girls can definitely handle a 5K, that’s really not a problem,” Bubolz said. “However, when you look at the times that the boys are out there compared to the times the girls are out there…they are actually out there the same amount of time.”

While Bubolz took issue with the change, she was mostly frustrated by how the change came about.

“I’m just a little disappointed that…the opinions of a few overrode the majority of the state,” Bubolz said. “However, my team is going to adapt and we’re going to do the best we can with where we are at now. As a coach, I’m not happy necessarily with the way it was gone about, but we’ll adapt and it will be fine.”

Valders head coach Bill Dietrich was also displeased by the fact the decision was taking out of the coaches’ hands.

“It looks as if though the WIAA got backed into a corner. They didn’t want to fight it because they thought they were going to lose it and just gave in,” Dietrich said. “I’m not going to bash the WIAA. They have to do what they have to do.”

Dietrich is concerned that the increased rigor of the girls race may mean less girls coming out for the sport.

“Those mid-packers and the back-packers, those girls who enjoy it as a sport for fun, now all of a sudden, it’s more challenging for them,” Dietrich said. “Are they going to want to continue to run? I have your varsity athletes, but then I have a team that has another 15 girls that like being a part of the team for the social fun of it, or the exercise fun, or getting in shape for basketball.”

Some proponents of the change point to the fact that, at the Division I and II college level, female competitors run a 6,000 meter race.

Dietrich countered by saying that few high school runners take up the sport with the hope of competing in college and even fewer are offered the opportunity to do so. As of now, none of the coaches surveyed had plans to drastically alter their training regimen.

“It’s not going to really change our workouts or anything,” Schroeder said. “Most of our practices go beyond that distance already. It’s just a matter of them mentally adjusting to take on that extra six tenths of a mile in a meet.”

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