CROGHAN — Runners and coaches contribute the Beaver River Summer Running program to their continuous titles in the cross-country season.
“It’s one of the reasons cross-country is so successful. It prepares the kids by doing our pre-season running. This is strictly voluntary, we don’t make kids show up,” said boys cross-country coach Jay Steiner.
Last fall, the boys took second at the Section III Class “D” while the girls took third. Both teams claimed the Frontier League “D” Division title, the boys marking their sixth consecutive win with the girls taking their fifth win in six years.
Summer running had been in the school for years, but Steiner attributed the success of the program in recent years to girls cross-country coach and his wife, Cheryl Steiner.
“It’s been going for years, but you got it amped back up,” he told her as the group prepared for a run at Balsam Creek State Forest July 22.
“Five or seven years ago we were lucky enough to get six people. We mostly ran the roads and around our house,” said Cheryl Steiner. “But it’s gotten bigger. We run dirt trails and roads, but we mostly do these [dirt] trails. Now, we’re getting 30 or 30-plus people.”
“Parents, also,” her husband added.
The team, several alumni and some community members meets Tuesday and Thursday evenings and Saturday mornings. Varsity runners who put in 150-miles and attend 12 runs receive a special T-shirt. To qualify for the same prize, modified runners must put in 10 days and 75-miles. According to Steiner, the group has seen more than 30 runners on a night.
“This year has been harder for me because I have job now, but I’m still trying to do as much as I can because it’s senior year and I want to have a good turnout,” said Ciera Verschneider, who hopes to beat her personal record of 21 minutes and 21 seconds this fall.
“You definitely can’t go into the season and having not been running at all. Then you’re that much farther behind the competition,” said incoming senior Andrew Purcell. “I credit the summer running to all the sectional [winning] teams I’ve been apart of.”
“This is definitely what gives us our power during the season,” said Lucas Schmitt, also a senior.
Once the season starts, the cross-country program runs six days a week.
“Summer running gives our runners a base to get started, to get their legs into that routine,” said the boys coach.
“When they don’t get summer miles in, it’s so hard go from zero to six days a week. You end up injured or it takes a long time for speed work,” added Cheryl Steiner.
Incoming senior Rachel Steiner has been with the girls team since she was a seventh grader. Of the summer program, she said, “We do at least five miles a day but we like to go towards eight or nine.”
Twin sister Sarah added, “Summer is time off from school, so our competition doesn’t focus on training. Having this three times a week and a lot of summer miles helps overall.”
The program started June 16 and will continue into the end of August.
A few trails the group has made sure to hit this summer include Hough Memorial Forest, Croghan, Whetstone Gulf, Lowville, and Brantingham’s Blueberry Trail — a favorite for several runners, as well as the coaches.
“It starts behind Brantingham Lake and runs almost a nine-mile loop over to Confusion Flats around Alder Creek. At the other end you wade through rivers and creeks. That’s the fun part, you get to wade through water, run, wade water and eat blueberries on the way, too.”
Another favorite trip was a Saturday visit to Oswegatchie Camp, where a roughly six-mile trail and a pancake breakfast were prepared for the runners.
On the road the group takes proper precautions, wearing bright colors and reflectors. In the forest trails they hardly run into safety concerns, save for one little critter. Well, maybe not quite so little.
“Bears, lately, have been more of a problem than cars. We’ve had bear sightings on our last few runs,” she said.
Bear sightings are common in the summer, especially in generally unpopulated areas.
But that aside, the Steiners are confidant their teams will fare well this fall.
“I’m hoping the team comes together this year. Obviously Sauquoit beat us pretty good through [last year’s] season, but their two fastest runners graduated. We’ll be pretty evenly matched, I think,” said Jay Steiner.
Construction of the new high school athletic field and track, which began before school let out this spring, should not disrupt the program too much this fall. Although the Steiners said their usual course for the Oct. 11 Beaver River Invitational will have to change.
“The invitational will be at the other end of school in the elementary playground versus behind the school between the track and field,” said Jay Steiner.
“[The field] will be freshly seeded and they have the new track,” added Cheryl Steiner.
“It’s going to be a busy season, but we’re excited to see a track coming to Beaver River,” added her husband. “We hope to see the track team build back up, because cross-country and track tie together.”
According to Schedulegalaxy.com, Beaver River cross-country will begin racing Sept. 16 at South Jefferson.