MONROE CITY, Mo. — The Monroe City R-1 School District will be adding a middle school cross country program for the 2021-22 school year.
Monroe City high school cross country and girls track head coach Laura Mulvaney said it had been the intention of the school district to begin a middle school cross country program after the high school started their program three years ago.
“The high school (cross country) program was kind of like our guinea pig to see if we could get enough interest,” Mulvaney said. “I thought we could.”
The biggest push for the middle school program came from a group of parents who had middle school students taking part in the Monroe County Running Club in Paris.
“Without them, this program would not have been possible,” Mulvaney said. “They deserve a lot of recognition for this because they are the ones that really pushed for it and really got it where the kids would be interested in it.”
In the three years Monroe City has had a high school cross country program, the Panthers have sent several athletes to the state meet and had Emmalee Williams named to the All-State Team last season.
Now that Monroe City will have a middle school cross country program, it will allow the school district to better develop distance runners.
“To be able have younger kids get to experience (cross country) at a younger age and get a feel for what cross country really is because it’s a very different sport,” Mulvaney said. “It’s just not what everybody anticipates with just running. It is a very different atmosphere than what you have in track.”
Middle school cross country runners typically run a shorter distance than the 5,000 meter courses that high school runners run in, with middle school courses varying from 3,000 to 3,600 meters.
Mulvaney said that the high school cross country athletes can help encourage the next generation of distance runners in the middle school program.
“We kind of saw it with the track program,” Mulvaney said. “We saw these younger distance running kids starting to gravitate toward some of our cross country kids. They saw their work ethic and how they were actually performing in track and how much they improved because of cross country.”
Another benefit of the middle school program is that students can compete in cross country and still be able to play other fall sports.
“You can run cross country and play softball or football,” Mulvaney said. “You don’t have to give up a sport to make yourself better for distance.”
As of right now, Monroe City has not named a head coach for its middle school cross country program.
Mulvaney has been helping establish the program until a coach is named. Parents of interested students can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“I’ve taken the role of the (public relations) person to talk with kids and welcome them into the program,” Mulvaney said. “If there’s parents who have questions about what cross country is, what it details and what the practices are like, I’ve told them to contact me.”