It’s one sport to the next for the cross country team

Sports is a year-round gig for these athletes

photo of SFU runner Aiden Good mid-race.
PHOTO: Wilson Wong / SFU Athletics

By: Simran Sarai, Sports Writer

Being a student-athlete requires commitment to a grueling schedule of long days juggling practice, class, traveling, and competing. While most Red Leafs will have a break from competition during the academic school year, SFU’s cross country runners will get no such break. They stare down the indoor track season that is fast approaching with a meet at the University of Washington on January 15.

We spoke to Aiden Good, sophomore cross country and track athlete, and head coach of both the cross country and track and field program, Brit Townsend, to learn more about what it takes to transition from one intense season of competition to the next.

Good will be taking on the 800m, 1600m, and potentially the Distance Medley Relay (DMR) during the indoor season. In the spring outdoor season, he will switch to the 800m and 1500m.

While the women’s cross country team concluded their season at the NCAA Division II West Region championships, the men’s team received an at-large berth to the 2022 NCAA Division championships. The team’s qualification for nationals means their season is extended until December 2, after which they will join the women’s team in shifting gears for the indoor track season.

While both the men’s and women’s teams take a rest week after an intense season of distance-heavy racing, Good says the amount of running done during this week is very individualized.

“Some guys will take more time off than others. I don’t take as many days off — I have a hard time taking days off. I find I get antsy, which maybe isn’t the best. I’d probably be better off if I took off days and allowed myself to recover a bit more.”

Good says the transition from cross country season to competing on the track comes on its own. “That process, the switch and transition, will come pretty naturally once we start racing, and you’re having to taper a bit going into weekends where we race.”

Townsend, who has been coaching at SFU for more than 20 years, also shared some insight into what the transition from cross country to track looks like for her athletes.

“We start transitioning into more event-specific work, then specific intervals, that will prepare them better for the type of pacing they need to do on the track.”

She also shared her expectations for her athletes during the transition period, which naturally falls over the winter break, in between the fall and spring semesters.

“I think the biggest thing is it’s difficult with exams, Christmas, and everything to stay consistent,” said Townsend. But that isn’t any excuse for athletes to completely abandon training in her eyes. “It’s my expectation that they’re going to do that and complete the workouts. But the reality is, if they don’t, they won’t perform well.” 

The most important part of moving forward into a new, but equally intense, season of competition right on the heels of a long cross country season? Both Good and Townsend were clear that the ultimate goal is to stay physically healthy and mentally strong, especially while juggling competition, academics, and a busy travel schedule. 

Townsend emphasized how “getting a little bit of a break mentally from competing” is essential for dual sport athletes during the transition period. Those short breaks from competition, coupled with the continuous effort put in by her athletes across the two seasons, are just a part of Townsend’s everyday expectations for her team.

“The advice I give them is, you gotta try and make yourself better tomorrow than you were today. And that can be in lots of different ways. Whether it’s mentally, physically, or making sure you’re staying healthy and covering all the little things that you do.”