On December 3rd, 2022 the AAU Cross Country National Championship was hosted at Victor Ashe Park in Knoxville, TN. This was the first time that all 3 of the boys were racing in the national championship at the same time. The course is a hilly course looping around Victor Ashe Park and this year was especially tough since it was raining almost the whole night before the race and the day of the race. It was definitely classic nasty cross country weather.
Even though times would be slow we knew that the boys would have an advantage on this type of course and in this type of weather. Before running track or cross country the boys are trail and mountain runners more than anything. They have done many runs descending 14ers in Colorado and descending the highest peak on the East Coast (Mt Mitchell). And their first race ever as small kids was a trail race at altitude in Frisco, Colorado. Jude would be running a 1k in the 6 and under category and Eli and Everett would be running a 3k in the 9-10 category. Even though Eli and Everett ran in the same group they scored the 9 and 10 year olds separately.
We will tell you the result and then circle back and tell you how we got there. All 3 boys finished in the top 8 of their age-groups making them all-Americans! Top 8, and an all-American finish, was our big audacious goal going into the cross country season for each boy. Last cross country season Eli got 85th at the AAU national championship, Everett got 25th, and Jude did not run because he was too young. So the goal of each of them getting all-American would be a huge result for the whole 205 Endurance crew!
The boys did a 13-week training block leading into cross country nationals, with 6 races throughout the cross country season. The focus of the training block was first about building to a new level of weekly mileage. Eli and Everett average around 30 miles a week for this training block and Jude averaged around 20-25 miles a week. On top of weekly volume, the boys averaged around 2 workouts a week and ran 6 days a week with one day off. Knowing that the main goal of the season was the AAU cross country nationals we really built the training block to have the boys peak going into nationals.
It took a couple specific ways we designed the training in order to peak at nationals. The first thing we did was do a lot of sub-tempo and tempo work at the beginning of cross country season. While this is not the most specific training for the early season races, this type of training would pay off later in the season. We also had to accept not being as fast early in the season if we wanted to really peak at nationals. Another thing we did with the training, is we did not taper mileage even a little bit for any races except for nationals. Our Saturday workouts became Saturday races and we rarely took any days off going into races. This enabled the boys to build fitness throughout the season in a slow and steady way.
The last thing we did in this training block is slowly work on more speed the closer we got to the end of the season. We started the season doing a lot of sub-tempo workouts and eventually these workouts turned into tempo-ish workouts. Eventually in the middle of the season we worked on workouts that were trying to hit race pace for each of the boys. But the last 2-3 weeks of the training block we actually started doing a number of workouts that were faster than race pace. For example, a staple workout towards the end of the season was 6x300 at faster than race pace, with short rest between each rep. What this did is it allowed the boys to work on strength and fitness for as long as possible during the season and then add that speed on top at the very end of the season. Speed training will bring short term fitness but the long term sustained gains come about through tempo type efforts.
Many of the races this season were on slow courses or really muddy events but we knew each of the boys were fit when they each ran a PR at the AAU NC state championship on a fast course with good conditions.
Last year at the national championship Eli placed a dissapointing 85th place. He had a lot to work on in one year if he wanted to place higher. Eli worked really hard on 3 things. He worked on his start, his speed, and his overall fitness. Eli has always started slow and really has to make up ground in the race. A lot has changed in a year, and after the start of this race Eli was right towards the front in the top-10. Eli raced towards the front for the entire race and used his strength and fitness to stay towards the front. Ultimately the 3 top kids in the race pulled away in the final kilometer but Eli kept running strong and finished in 7th place among 10 year old boys, making him an all-American for the first time!
Everett placed 25th last year and had his hopes set on an all-American finish this year! Everett used his crazy strong start as always to jump into the very front of the race from the beginning. Everett came around the first turn in the top 5 overall among 9-10 year old boys and then settled into his pace. The 9-10 year old boys raced together although they were scored separately after the race. Everett was definitely one of the youngest kids in the race having turned 9 only one week before the race. Everett raced towards the front until about 1 kilometer where he fell back a little bit against some of the older kids. From there Everett stayed strong and ended up finishing top 20 among all 9-10 year old boys. But among 9 year old boys Everett finished in 5th place getting his 2nd all-American finish in 2 years (the other was at the USATF 2021 cross country national championship)!
This was not only Jude's first national championship but also his very first season of cross country. Although he was been running for about 2 years he only started racing about 2 months before nationals! Even though this was Jude's first season we knew he had a chance of actually competing for the national championship! Jude placed 1st place for boys at the AAU state championship and so we knew he was fast and fit. The strategy for Jude's race was after the first right hand turn in the race to take the lead at that point and push the pace. Even though Jude doesn't have a ton of race experience he took the lead at the first turn and began to really push the downhill. One other boy went with him and they began to extend their lead over the whole field. Ultimately Jude came into the finishing shoot in first place with one boy right behind him. The other boy sat on his heals and pulled ahead right before the finish line for a sprint finish! They finished within milliseconds of one another with Jude taking 2nd place in the country!
Congratulations boys! 3 brothers and 3 all-Americans! Keep up the hard work!