River Ridge Cross Country

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River Ridge to have 

cross country again

By Ted Pennekamp


River Ridge High School will have boys and girls cross country this season after a 15-year absence.

A handful of kids said they wanted to give it a try,” said Head Coach Shane Sperle. “We will have 12 boys and five girls.”

Sperle said that the future of River Ridge cross country bodes well because five of the high school boys are freshmen, and there is interest by junior high athletes as well.

The high school team will have no home meets this season and their first meet will be on Sept. 2 in Darlington.

“We look forward to not hosting meets and having to worry about meet management,” said Sperle. “It will allow the coaches to concentrate more on coaching.” Sperle has been head track and field coach for many seasons, and said that home track meets involve a lot of meet management, as do home cross country meets. Maybe sometime in future years, River Ridge will become involved in hosting cross country meets, he said. 

“Cross country is a nice option for students who do not wish to participate in football or volleyball,” said Sperle. “It’s the most lifelong sport we can offer. Cross country athletes can compete in 5ks and 10ks or just run for fitness and fun for the rest of their adult lives.”

Sperle said he is quite pleased with the interest this season. “We’re really happy with 17 kids just out of the chute,” he said. “It’s a team sports and an individual sport. It teaches kids about being part of a team and also motivates them to try for individual improvement.”

Sperle said there will be a junior varsity and varsity team this season and everyone will participate. “The beauty of cross country is that there is no bench. Everybody gets to run and to see how they improve each meet.”

Cross county, like track, allows the athletes the chance to display a lot of sportsmanship by cheering each other on. “Kids will cheer for their teammates and also for kids from other schools,” said Sperle, who noted that there is no defense in cross country so no matter how well an athlete from another school does, it doesn’t affect your performance. “The kids get to mingle and make friends with kids from other schools,” he said. “They get to know them on and off the course. It helps them to get out of their comfort zone. It means a lot when some of the top athletes from other schools finish and then stand next to the course and cheer on those who are still running.”

The River Ridge team has been practicing in Patch Grove and in Bloomington in preparation for the season. 

“We’re just looking forward to watching this team grow,” said Sperle. “We have a pretty raw team, so they’re going to get better and better.”

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