Ann McHugh contributed to the editing of this story.
Any cross country runner who wants to increase their performance knows that the most important time to do that is summer. Anyone can increase their mileage, but those who want an edge on the starting line next fall can go to cross country camp. One of the closest camps to Cedar Cliff is the Shippensburg Cross Country Camp. The 2019 camp is scheduled for July 21-25.
Every year hundreds of high school students in grades 9-12 gather at the Shippensburg University campus for a week (Sunday to Thursday) to learn how to become better runners.
“Cedar Cliff was fortunate enough to send two runners last year,” said senior Luke Culver, who was one of those runners. The 2018 camp was led by the Shippensburg Cross Country coach Steve Spence, who also ran in the Olympics. Camp staff also included coaches from Divisions I, II, and III colleges and from various high schools.
Campers were divided into groups of about ten, according to their dorms, and given a counselor, who was a college runner. Every night before lights out, counselors shared their stories and other running tricks.
Culver said the runs were designed for everyone, regardless of their experience level. All runners were allowed to go the max or drop out at any point in the run, depending on their normal workout schedule. Most of the runs were on well-marked scenic trails.
“We got five great workouts in that week, as well as a chance to see where they lined up against the competition,” Culver said.
The 2018 daily schedule consisted of various runs:
Sunday: a six mile out and back on a trail next to campus
Monday: a six mile out and back hill run on South Mountain
Tuesday: a two-mile prediction run, where runners guess their time
before the start and don’t wear a watch
Wednesday: a beautiful six-mile run between the lakes at Pine Grove
Thursday: the long run on the same rail and trail as on Sunday
For the Thursday run, a bus took the runners 10 miles away from Shippensburg and dropped them off, then gave them the choice to start running or to get back on the bus if they would rather run eight or six miles instead.
Culver said the average day started at 7 a.m. with breakfast. Then a speaker talked about running, followed by a training session, which was about stretching and making goals, spirituality and running, and nutrition, among other things. After lunch followed another training session, some free time, and then dinner. The daily run would occur after dinner, followed by free time until the dorms locked at 10:00 p.m.
The facilities were excellent. Dorms were assigned by either requests or by teams, if a team sends multiple people. “Even though the campus was under summer construction, it was kept very clean for us,” Culver said. “The food was good and every meal had many options to go with everyone's diets and eating restrictions.”
Culver said when they were at Pine Grove on Wednesday, they were allowed to swim in the lake and also went on a hike to Pole Steeple. On campus the runners had a pool session and learned how to use a pool as a workout. They also watched movies during the week and had a dance on Wednesday.
“I had a fabulous time at camp. I made friends with plenty of kids, who I enjoyed talking to at the meets and invitationals."
Summer camp influenced Culver’s 2018-19 cross country season. “I placed first for my team six consecutive times, and I qualified for the PIAA district III championship.” He also won MVP for his team.
“I attribute some of that success to the Shippensburg Cross Country Camp. I would tell any runner to attend.”
More information can be found on the Shippensburg University websites under camps.