The Golden Valley cross-country team. Photo courtesy of Wes Hinson

Golden Valley, Saugus cross-country teams take to the mountains

Training at altitudes higher than 6,000 feet above sea level has many advantages for all types of athletes. Running at such a high elevation decreases the amount of oxygen getting to the muscles and in turn, allows the body to produce extra red blood cells.

Taking advantage of the free time, Golden Valley and Saugus cross-country teams are both headed to higher ground this summer in preparation for the upcoming cross-country season.

The Grizzlies headed north to Mammoth while the Centurions headed east to Big Bear in the hopes of creating team chemistry and train in elevation, among other things.

“We are coming out of the dead period, training hard and getting to know one another as a team,” said Golden Valley coach Wes Hinson. “It’s a pretty new dynamic because we lost a lot of key people and it’s a pretty young team. They are just learning to take those leadership roles and learning to bond as a team.”

“Summer training is the most important time of the season for us…” said Saugus coach Kevin Berns via text. “Without a base, it’s hard to build the other phases of training. It’s like scaffolding or building a house. You can’t build a house without the foundation.”

The Grizzlies, who have been doing this trip for about a decade, arrived on Sunday and leave on Saturday. They have been sleeping in tents under the night sky with the hopes of bringing a fairly new team comprised of mainly sophomores and juniors closer together. 

The Centurions got to Big Bear on Monday and also depart on Saturday. They’ve dealt with some inclement weather as they participate in group building and training exercises.

“Like every team, spending a week together and focusing solely on training brings us closer together and makes our ultimate goal that much more special,” Berns said. “We build a strong bond with one another.”

Both teams have enjoyed their downtime or “family time”, as Berns referred to it, when they are not training. That downtime includes hiking, kayaking, bowling and watching movies.

The Grizzlies like to play card games together, and Hinson mentioned that a card game or two even got a little heated.

“We have some serious card games going on, it gets a little competitive,” Hinson said. “We do things a little different, we camp and by camping we can set up the tables and they will play different card games, talk and bond that way.”

With the start of the year school year about a month away, both teams are taking full advantage of their opportunities to get their bodies, minds and lungs tuned up and in gear for the upcoming cross-country season.

“If you take a break, you’re just losing that development that you had,” Hinson said. “You may be in shape, but it’s the progression year-after-year of developing aerobically, that the foundation carries on. You can really see that transition especially in the guys that have been with the team since freshman year. If you are not committed to it year-round, you are just not making those jumps from year-to-year. You are just setting yourself up.”

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