Sports

Bid Sky X-Country

By CASEY OLSON

Sports editor

Amy Miller had no idea what she was getting herself into.

The high school junior-to-be signed up for a nine-day cross country camp at the postcard-picture campus of Montana State University. Miller was looking forward to staying in the school’s dormitories and learning a few techniques to becoming a better runner with the rest of her Thomas Jefferson cross country teammates.

This happened a year and a half ago, but Miller remembers like it was yesterday. She was on a run through the fabled Yellowstone National Park on a scalding July day in Montana when her emotions, not to mention the miles of mountain training, biking and hiking, finally boiled over.

“I started crying because it was so hard,” Miller said. “And then they left us and we got attacked by bees.”

Was it worth it?

“Yes,” she answered quickly. “It is just good for our team. It gives us a different environment for us to train.”

You can’t argue with the results of the strenuous nine-day training session in Bozeman. In Paul Ruston’s four-year tenure as the head coach of the Raider cross country program, Jefferson has developed into one of the best teams in the South Puget Sound League, as well as the state.

Since Ruston started taking his varsity runners to Montana two summers ago, the Raiders have yet to lose a meet. Last year, the boys and girls combined for a perfect 16-0 record in the SPSL South and both are 4-0 during the early part of this season.

“They take this really seriously,” Ruston said. “Everybody knows it is hard, but the camp is really cool.”

It all started eight years ago when Harry Johnson, the head cross country coach at East High School in Anchorage and elite ultra-marathon runner, organized the running camp that was intended to have the athletes working out most of the day. Ruston was coaching in Alaska at the time and assisted in offering the camp — then held in Gridwood, Alaska. Johnson moved the camp to Montana four years ago and Ruston and Meadowdale High School’s Ben Sauvage took over the Bozeman camp two summers ago.

“He wanted a summer camp that was really intense,” Ruston said. “And more than just running, he wanted biking and hiking.”

This training camp is by invitation-only and is meant for the serious high school runner who is committed to taking their training and racing to a higher level, according to the camp’s flyer.

“This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” said Jefferson senior Kyle Anderson, who has attended the camp during the last two summers. “Nothing has been as hard as those runs. When you drop down in altitude over here it is way easier.”

The MSU campus is at an elevation of 4,800 feet with the running, biking, and hiking taking place at elevations ranging from 4,800 to 10,000 feet. Something that gives the athletes the experience and added benefit of training at a high altitude.

Another unique aspect of this camp is that all the coaches do every run, bike, and hike with the high school athletes.

“So I know what they are going through,” Ruston said.

Last summer, 13 Jefferson runners attended at $250 a piece. Most of the kids earned their tuition money thanks to fundraisers Ruston and the TJ staff set up during the year. The team runs a concession stand at Seahawks Stadium and every day they work, the kids get to take $65 off their tab.

“My goal is to finish in the top-10 at the state meet,” said Anderson. “And this camp is going to help me do that.”

An example of one of the nine days the 13 Raiders spent in Montana includes waking up at around 6 a.m., meeting in the lobby of their dorm and going on a “quick” four-mile run. They then eat breakfast, take a three-hour bike ride through the mountains, eat lunch, meet in the lobby again for an afternoon run, eat dinner, attend a workshop titled “Training and racing in college” taught by Montana State University coach Dale Kennedy. Following the two-and-a-half-hour workshop the runners were in their rooms at 10 p.m. and most were asleep five minutes later. The runners also are required to complete 1,000 pushups and situps over the course of the day.

“We basically get two hours of free time all day,” Anderson said. “One night we got to go see a movie. Some fell asleep during the movie because they were too tired.”

They really had no idea what they were getting into.

Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565, sports@fedwaymirror.com

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