Cross Country: A Country Club Sport?

by Dan Kearney

Some states are consistently faster than others at high school cross country running. To use a recent example, in 2011, a New Jersey boy won the individual title at nationals in San Diego and a team from the same state won the team competition in Oregon. People often speculate that reasons ranging from climate to tradition affect running speeds above all else. Moreover, some suspect that the states that excel at running are simply the wealthiest ones. This paper aims to find if wealthier states are, in fact, faster than poor ones.

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  • vmbejar / 3 Years Ago
    Has to be one of the stupidest statistical arguments i've ever read. The "author" wants to show that his statistical analysis is correct yet he uses ONE year of data. Hell, apparently ALL of us have more data than this guy. Talk about trash "science".
  • Aggietom / 3 Years Ago
    I think the science is weak, but the pattern definitely exists...particularly on the elite team level.

    I think it would have been better if he showed mean times since he used mean data for income.

    I have tables of data with school size and economically disadvantaged percentage compared to their spot in district and region.

    State elite teams typically have under 10% ED (usually even lower.)

    The only Title I girls team to ever win 5A was down in the valley. I forgot the school, but I know the Coach was Kathy Howell.

    Elsik has won a state XC title, but it was when their demographics were more wealthy. It is interesting stuff.
  • Banker / 3 Years Ago
    Seems like there may be elites from relatively poor states (Texas) who come from wealthy families, and elites from wealthy states who may be from economically disadvantaged families, that may skew the results somewhat.
  • masbill / 3 Years Ago
    I think a big determinant here is the fact that the wealthy kids grow up around generally fit (aerobically, that is) communities. You can find someone running or walking in Kingwood, the Woodlands, etc. practically anytime day or night. That's not the case in the less wealthy areas. Lots of reasons for that, but the bottom line is the kids aren't drawn to running as a viable sport in which to put their time and effort. The kids that are, are usually starting at a much lower point aerobically, having not grown up with parents that even exercise, let alone run.

    I guess what I'm saying is that it's not a lack of ability on the "poor" areas' part..... It's an environment/culture thing. Changing that culture is tough.
  • chrisschrader / 3 Years Ago
    In the poorer areas most kids are usually working to supplement family income so running becomes secondary. Sometimes its a survival thing NOT to run as you might be crossing into someone elses turf.
  • masbill / 3 Years Ago
    In the poorer areas most kids are usually working to supplement family income so running becomes secondary. Sometimes its a survival thing NOT to run as you might be crossing into someone elses turf.


  • ronmonsanto / 3 Years Ago

    All good points in this thread.This sport like others gets support from communities that are on the upper income scale. The recent domination of of the Woodlands, Kingwood, Cedar Park and even Southlake Carroll shows that communities that excel in getting all of the kids involved in some sort of sport, in this case Cross Country or Band or even Robotics, leads to having a better chance of gettting quality kids in any activity by the shear numbers advantage these schools have.

    I would say that the coaching at the upper income schools is better too. Kids in lower income areas have no option but to work to survive and may have had a great running gene in them that would never be brought out. I suppose much could be said for a talent not brought of a kid in Football or Baseball too due to never getting a chance to play the sport.

    The successful programs in Cross Country at least in recent past in 4-A and 5-A all are from upper income communities. But these schools seem to excel in all sports, not just Cross Country. I think the Woodlands had the #1 ranked Baseball team in the USA Today last year and Southlake Carroll has always had top Football programs.
  • kleinareaparent / 3 Years Ago

    I disagree that there is less running in poor areas. I see a lot of running from the popo in the economically disadvantaged areas....
  • rraines / 3 Years Ago
    I think the article is trying to prove that being "economically advantaged" makes it easier to be successful. The common denominator, however, between being "economically advantaged" and being successful in anything(not only sports) is HARD WORK. Obviously there are more successful programs in more "afluent" areas. But it's not because the communities "got lucky" and somehow got a bunch of money. It's because the kids have learned good work ethic from their parents, coaches and peers. The parents expect their kids to be successful. They learn by example that working hard is the right thing to do, and sometimes it pays off. Throwing money at a problem NEVER solves it. The route to success starts with HARD WORK no matter how rich or poor you are. Most Americans are descendants of the working poor from all over the world. We have become successful as a nation through HARD WORK. Hard work and success were once prized in this country. Now it seems more often than not success is frowned upon as somehow "unfair" and Americans are forgetting the work ethic that got us where we are today. Let us not forget that even 90% of the extremely wealthy in the United States earned their wealth in their lifetime and did not inherit it. According to government research, most earned it by working 60+ hours a week for 25+ years. Luck or "advantage" has little to do with it.
  • chansen / 3 Years Ago
    RR you nailed it. There are no magic potions in xc. I take that back. A good feeder program probably helps I like the fact that a so called rich kid born with the proverbial silver spoon lines up next to a kid born with a plastic spoon who might just whoop him. I think the writer of the article makes some points but I hope that wasn't his thesis because he may just have flunked it.
  • panhandlerunner / 3 Years Ago

    i know lockhart (who has dominated parts of 4a the last so many years) is a vast majority title 1 school district. hereford (i think) is the same way. while being "rich" helps with some things, i think having a system to buy into makes the program. having $ doesnt hurt, and makes some things easier, but having a belief system and some kiddos to buy into it are what it is all about.
  • Aggietom / 3 Years Ago
    While the work ethic is usually all that is needed, I think many of you are overlooking some points.

    Economically disadvantaged high school students typically HAVE to work. If not, they usually HAVE to watch other siblings. They also don't have parents who get them to practice during the summers. They also have different belief systems - they attribute their status in life and what happens to them externally (I'm poor because I'm unlucky) whereas wealthy people attribute it internally (I'm rich because I work hard.)

    I also know that this wealth versus poor thing is only applicable on the 5A level. 4A and lower have higher ED%s, but most of the schools in those classifications are also closer to Title I status.

    Very few coaches have worked in a Title I and then gone on to wealthier (or at least middle class) schools. There is a huge difference.

    The data alone shows that you almost have to be wealthy to win state. One Title I school has ever won the girls' state title on the 5A level. Most of the powerhouses sport ED% under 10% (usually lower.)

    I do think that a good coach can turn things around at some of the poorer programs, but I have yet to see a school with high ED% that has fallen actually rise up on a consistent level. Name one. Seriously.

    There are some programs where the program remained successful as the ED% skyrocketed, but it already had the tradition in place. Very few programs maintain it once a coaching change occurs. It is difficult to keep it going and it is very, very difficult to turn around once things go downhill.

    Regarding earlier posts...Lockhart is 55.1% ED (not Title I). Hereford is 67% (Title I). Lockhart has had the same coach for about 20 years (correct me if I'm wrong.) Hereford has had a coaching change. Will that program remain the same? We will see.

    I think what we need to look at is that the majority of state champions schools tend to be wealthier than the rest of their classifications...particularly the ones that are there year after year. Why is this the case?
  • panhandlerunner / 3 Years Ago

    lockhart (coach hipp) and hereford (with coach baca) had great systems to be bought into. whether the kiddos were working, or watching other siblings, they were running. all the time.

    im not disagreeing with the $ factor playing a part in allowing kids to participate more, focus on running instead of surviving, etc, im just saying it CAN BE DONE in other situations.
  • rraines / 3 Years Ago
    To reiterate: the reason the wealthier areas are successful in cross country is the same reason they are successful in other areas of life and that is because they work hard. While the successful programs are located in areas with low percentage of "economically disadvanted" students, not all of the athletes at the highest levels of cross country come from wealthy families. Many in fact are from hard working families with lower income. But even the wealthy people weren't born "rich." They earned it. The successful families make good choices on where to live and raise their children. They tend to have children later in life. They tend to stay away from drugs and alcohol. They are also very generous with their success and donate much of their time and money in helping others. If you look at how public dollars are spent (all those taxes that the "rich" pay), there are many more dollars per student being spent by the school districts in "economically disadvantaged" schools than there are in "economically advantaged" schools. Yet the "economically disadvantaged" students usually perform at a lower level than the "economically advantaged" students both academically and in athletics. In my mind the only answer to why? must be the lack of a proper work ethic. Having a good work ethic means making tough choices and sacrificing now for future success. These kids need a coach/mentor who can teach these truths. There is no place for covetousness, jealousy or envy. It is no mystery how people become "rich" and successful. Success is all about personal responsibility and self-determination.
  • masbill / 3 Years Ago

    I disagree that there is less running in poor areas. I see a lot of running from the popo in the economically disadvantaged areas....


    good one..... -.-

    rraines... very good points. It is ALL about hard work. The kids that have been taught they have to work hard are an easy sell, I even have some of those and some are even eco. dis. The kids that have been taught that they're "unlucky" like someone else posted , or the entitled ones (ya'll deal with more of those) are a great deal tougher. I wouldn't trade where I am, but the differences are glaring. Unteaching the wrong values is daunting at times.