Running – specifically cross country – gets short shrift in Wake County middle schools.
Cary mom Michelle Dawson found that out two years ago when she moved her son from private to public school in seventh grade. At St. Michael’s, Dawson’s son had run on the cross country team in sixth grade.
“That was the thing he said he would miss the most,” Dawson said. “And I thought, well, I think there’s a market so we can fix that.”
A little more than a year ago, Dawson founded Triangle Cross Country, also called TriangleXC, a running club for middle schoolers that offers between five and six meets a season with local private schools.
In its first year, the club attracted more than 30 kids, both public school and homeschooled students. The program has grown to more than 50 kids this season, which started in early August and runs through early October.
“We have about 30 boys and about 20 girls,” Dawson said. “I take fifth to eighth grade but only have a couple of fifth-graders.”
It costs $10 a season to join; practices are held three times a week at Bond Park in Cary, and runners are encouraged to attend the practices they can.
Although TriangleXC is not technically in a conference, local private schools have been great about inviting the team to meets, including Ravenscroft, St. Mary Magdalene, St. Michael’s, Cary Academy and St. Timothy’s as well as an end-of-season jamboree meet that includes multiple teams.
Much to Dawson’s surprise, TriangleXC is actually pretty good.
“I really thought we were likely to lose every meet, although that didn’t matter to me as that’s not why we were doing it, but our boys won most of their meets and did well at the jamboree,” Dawson said. “Our girls also had a few wins up front and remained strong.”
There’s a social component to the group to help team members get to know each other, including an ice cream social run to Goodberry’s on Davis Drive and a scavenger hunt at Bond Park. There are also family runs scheduled at the American Tobacco Trail and WakeMed Soccer Park.
Parent volunteers keep the team running – from providing iced towels at meets to timing runners and mapping out courses for practices.
“The parents are key, and ours have been great,” Dawson said. “Many run with us and help at practices, family runs and meets. We usually have more than enough. It’s been a great experience.”
Practice courses are varied to meet the needs of different runners.
“We have a wide range of runners. Some love to race, some like to run their own race, and some have developed new muscles already while others are not there yet,” Dawson said. “So we try to offer different workouts and distances to accommodate this. These are kids who simply don’t have a school team and love to run. The bottom line is to help them be successful and to have fun.”
For more information, visit trianglexc.weebly.com.