CROSS COUNTRY 101: A guide for Muhlenberg County Parents

Congratulations, your daughter or son has chosen to run Cross Country. It is no secret Cross Country is a tough sport; probably one of the toughest out there. With that being said, most runners have fond memories of their time spent with the Cross Country team and refer to it as a rewarding, fulfilling and life changing experience. During the season your athlete will need support as they work hard to reach their goals. The purpose of this guide is to help parents understand what Muhlenberg County Cross Country is all about and what you can do to best assist your athlete.

What is Cross Country?


Cross Country is long distance running over a natural surface course. Races are run through trails, fields, woods, and parks. High School races in Kentucky are typically 3.1 miles or 5k. With Elementary and Middle School races at varying shorter distances. The great thing about cross country is everyone gets to participate. This is a no cut sport where each runner gets to race. Meets could have these Boys and Girls races: k-2 Elementary, 3-5 Elementary, Middle School, High School Frosh/Soph., High School Varsity, and JV or Open. In large invites we may only be able to enter a varsity team. Varsity is where the top seven runners race. The race order and times change from meet to meet. If a time schedule is given to the coaches before a meet, the information will be sent home with the athletes. You can also check our website or on Remind for information.


As a spectator you want to get to the meet early. Parking may be limited or require a small hike to the course. Some meets charge for parking so it's always good to carry $10 on you. Once you arrive you will want to locate the start and finish lines for the race. Parents that have been there before can help with this, and some meets will even post a course map. You should be able to see your athlete at the start of the race and the finish. There is often a good spot somewhere else on the course to see the middle of the race and they typically go past that spot more than once. Just follow the crowd, as spectators who have been there before will head in that direction.

Before the race:

The team will begin their warm up routine a little more than an hour before their race. Try not to hover around your athlete at the team camp from this point on until after the race. For starters, this will probably embarrass them. It’s OK to let athletes know you’ve arrived by waving or saying hi, but keep in mind, they are trying to mentally and physically prepare for their race and need this time to concentrate. We know you’re excited/anxious to talk to your athlete to find out how they are doing and if they’re ready to race - but keep in mind - while you’re talking to them about these things, it’s very difficult for them to concentrate/focus on the race. The same is true for the starting line. Coaches and officials will be giving final instructions and 100% focus should be on the race.


100 to 200 yards out in front of the starting line is the best place to see the race when the starting gun goes off. Plus it's cool to see the wave of legs coming at you.

After the race:

At the end of the race, you can meet your athlete out of the chute and congratulate them. Regardless of time or place all runners have given their best and deserve praise. As a warning: some runners do not want to be approached right away. They will be tired, have rubber legs, some are gasping for air or may be nauseous. These symptoms usually pass quickly or can be cured with some Starburst jelly beans (explained later in team traditions). After athletes have caught their breath they have been instructed to return to the team camp for a group cool down.

This needs to be completed in a timely manner to help their legs recover from the race.

You can stay for as much of the meet as you want, but it is expected that all of the athletes will stay through the entire meet and support their teammates (A meet consists of all elementary races for elementary athletes, middle school races for middle school athletes or high school races for high school races). If there is a special occasion that you need to take your son or daughter home right after the race it should be cleared with the coach prior to the meet.

Team score:

Scoring a cross country meet is a bit different, but not difficult. The places of the first 5 runners finishing for the team are added together to get the score for the team. Lowest score wins. For example, if Muhlenberg County has runners finish 3,5,6,7, and 10 our score would be 31 (3+5+6+7+10 = 31). In the event of a tie, the 6th runner’s place will be counted. So why run 7 runners? Even though the first 5 runners count towards a team score, the 6th and 7th runners can push back runners from opposing teams, thus increasing the score. Let's say our first five runners finish 2,4,6,7 and 9 = 28 points in a dual meet against Apollo High School. If only 5 runners from each school counted in the race Apollo would automatically receive the 10th finishing place 1,3,5,8 and 10 = 27 points and win the meet. However, Cross Country counts all 7 team runners and our 6 and 7 runners are pushers placing 10th and 11th. They pushed the Apollo 5 runner back to 12th place and we won the meet 28-29. Proving once again Cross Country is a true team sport.



Runners do not need much, but must have a good pair of shoes. This is crucial to an injury free season. Running shoes should be replaced every 300-400 miles. Even though the initial appearance of a shoe may look good, shoes with more than 300 miles are often worn on the bottom. Your athlete is logging his/her mileage daily and should note the date of a new pair of shoes. Although we do shoe checks often, it is an easy thing to overlook, so please help us monitor shoes. Specific running stores are recommended because they typically have staff on hand that will analyze the foot strike and gait of a runner to find the best shoe for each runner. There is no standard best shoe out there. What is best for one person may not work for another. Please do not buy running shoes based on looks and name brands alone. Example: Nikes are usually for narrow feet and New Balance for bigger runners. Spikes are another type of shoe that you may want to purchase. These are lightweight shoes that are only used for racing. If you do invest in a pair of spikes, we recommend a model with a full rubber bottom. They will handle the terrain a bit better and be more comfortable on your foot.


Every athlete should have a digital watch to time their runs. There are many advanced options available that some athletes prefer (lap split, distance calculation, heart rate monitor, GPS) but are not necessary. A basic digital watch with a start and stop button will do the trick.


Cross Country is a sport in which participants perform in extreme variations of weather conditions. During the first few months of the season athletes may have to run through extreme heat. It is important that athletes stay hydrated during this time. If the heat becomes too intense, the coaching staff may make the decision to change the practice time to early morning or possibly to the evening. If this occurs we will communicate with athletes and parents as to when those changes are. Towards the end of the season Kentucky weather can get a bit harsh. Cross country runners will run outside as long as the conditions allow. Athletes should come to practice prepared with hat, gloves, tights/pants, and a long-sleeve base layer. Regardless of how the weather looks before a meet, athletes should always bring warm clothing in case it becomes cold, and some extra clothes to put on in case of rain.


A team singlet and maybe shorts will be provided by the school. The team uniform must be worn at all meets. KHSAA rules state all athletes must be wearing the same uniform. Athletes in violation of this rule put their team in jeopardy of being disqualified. Athletes should always have clothing to warm up with as well. This should consist of a sweatshirt or jacket, and a pair of pants that they can run in. We will be offering warm up gear that athletes can purchase over the next few weeks. The gear will have a Muhlenberg County logo, and the purchase of these items is completely optional. Any warm-up gear that is purchased is kept by the athletes. All singlets and shorts that belong to the school need to be returned at the conclusion of the season.

Support at Home

Nutrition: You are what you eat, and if you aren't fueling with the “good stuff” it can hinder your progress in this sport. A solid 3 meals a day is required for our bodies to keep up with the demands that running requires. The athletes receive detailed information on nutrition throughout the season that elaborate on what to eat, when, and how much.


Hydration is a key component to performance and health of an athlete. It is important that each athlete keep a water bottle with them throughout the school day. Athletes should also avoid beverages that dehydrate them. Caffeinated beverages such as soda, tea and coffee are all considered diuretics and will only hinder an athlete from staying properly hydrated.


A vast number of studies are validating the importance of sleep for optimal performance. It's even more important when you are pushing your body to its limits. Sleep is the body’s time to recover and repair muscles that have been broken down through training. If the body is not getting adequate time to repair itself, the risk of injury increases. Please encourage your athlete to have a reasonable bedtime.


The more running you do, the better you will become. Therefore, every athlete is expected to BE AT PRACTICE EVERY DAY! Consistently being at practice will give your athletes the best shot at accomplishing their goals and reaching their full potential. Most athletes will sign up for our summer program. While this is not mandatory, the athletes enjoy getting in shape and building a solid base with friends in a group setting. Since coaches run the program, your athlete will be completing a training program specifically designed for their goals. The summer program runs from June to the end of July. At the conclusion of camp official practice begins. These are mandatory for all team members.

Please do not schedule any vacations, other sports trips/practices or appointments during this time. In cases of emergencies and your athlete cannot make it to practice, a coach should be notified in advance.


In addition to handouts given to the athletes at practice you can stay informed by visiting our website or sign up for the team Remind.

Coaches Emails: or 270-820-9687

Team Events/ Traditions

Pasta Dinners:

A favorite team bonding event! This activity was a tradition for years at other coaching stops. A pasta dinner the night before each race. This activity is organized by athletes and parents. Pasta dinners were hosted at churches, houses and at restaurants. Seniors get first choice for dates. If any spots are still available it will be sent out to the remaining families.

Jelly Beans:

If you are on jelly bean duty expect to purchase 3-5 bags of Starburst jelly beans In the past we’ve found it easiest to have pre-made bags with a small handful of jelly beans for each athlete. This Year we would like to have the jelly beans in the team tent. Athletes will pick up the jelly beans themselves after the meet.

Special Awards:

PR Awards: Personal Record Award for individuals who beat their previous best time.

Mustang of the week: This is a weekly award given to our athletes to celebrate significant achievements. Examples include: showing leadership, running a personal best, having a great workout, or showing support for their teammates. Teammates and Coaches pick the recipient.

Pony of the Week:

This award is given to an athlete that has a great performance in a meet/practice. Each year the athletes are given different items (spike bags, tee shirts, headbands etc.) to celebrate their accomplishments. The award winner will keep the item to celebrate their superhero-like performance.

Parent-Athlete-Coach Code of Conduct

  1. Follow all team rules.

  2. Follow all school policies.

A. Academic Eligibility: Failing grades makes a student-athlete ineligible for cross country

B. Code of Conduct: Student athletes are expected to serve as role models in season and out of season.

3. Chain of Command for player concerns

A. Coaches will communicate with the student athlete on things they need to improve on.

B. The first step of a player's concern is for the athlete to talk to his coach about the problem.

C. Only after the first step fails, the second step is contacting the coach to set up a time to meet with the coach, player and parent.

D. If a concern still exists, the third step is meeting with the Athletic Director, parent, player and coach.

E. Remember a coach's job is to work with each student athlete so they can have a high level of success and a parents job is to cheer and praise their student athlete. If parents see a problem or have a concern they should always let the coach know. Athletes can get confused if parents over step their boundaries.

  1. Injuries/Trainer:

Contact your coach and trainer immediately after any injury to ensure proper treatment. The expectation is that athletes will continue to come to practice unless other arrangements have been made with Coach Orlow..

5. Team Van policy:

A. As in the past parents can take their athlete to meets. For liability reasons they can only transport THEIR children.

B.All student athletes MUST check out with Coach Orlow before leaving with their parents from a meet.

C. Cross Country is a team sport. Coaches will let athletes know when they can leave a meet with parents. This

will usually be after the awards are given out for their race.

D.Team vans will go to meets. If parents can’t bring or return their athletes the student athlete can ride in these

team vans.

E. Team vans will be at the entire meet. Leaving the high school in time for athletes to warm up for the first race

and will not leave the meet until awards are given out for the last race. Usually four to six hours.

  1. Fan Conduct:

Please be a positive role model during all athletic events. Let the coaches coach, the players play, and the officials officiate. A few reminders:

A. Parents are not allowed at the starting line!

B. Do not run, ride your bike, drive your car, or do anything that would allow you to stay next to your athlete during a race. This is considered pacing, and can be reasoning for disqualification of an athlete or team.

  1. EMAIL Policy: If there is any kind of conflict, please follow the chain of command. Any other questions, concerns, or clarifications can be done via email. Communication: We are all in this together; we will solve problems and make this an enjoyable experience for student/athletes, parents and coaches.


  • PR - Personal Record. A record set by each athlete on a timed course. The goal is to continually improve PR.

  • Dual Meet - A meet between 2 teams

  • Invitational Meet - A multi-team meet

  • Starting Box - A designated area to which a team is assigned on the start line

  • False Start - Leaving the starting line before the gun sounds

  • Finish Chute - A roped off area just past the finish line that places runners in order

  • Surge - A tactical increase in pace during the race

  • Kick - A burst of speed at the finish of the race

  • Spikes - A special lightweight racing shoe with spikes

  • Workout - A daily training session

  • Dynamic Stretching- Stretching utilizing movement/momentum from form

  • Static Stretching- Stretching while the body is at rest, utilizing holds of various lengths of time.

  • Warm-up - A running and stretching routine designed to warm the body temp

  • Cool-down - Jogging and stretching routine designed to purge the muscles of lactate and gradually lower core temp.

  • Pack - A group of several runners, running together during a race

  • Aerobic - Exercising without going into oxygen debt

  • Anaerobic - Exercising at a rate that puts the body into oxygen debt

  • Red Flag- Directs an athlete to turn left when competing

  • Yellow Flag- Directs an athlete to turn right when competing

  • Blue Flag- Directs an athlete to go straight when competing

Muhlenberg County Cross Country Athlete code of conduct

Congratulations on joining the 2022 Muhlenberg County Cross Country Team! Please remember that you represent Muhlenberg County at all times. All actions are a direct reflection of our school and program. Team members are expected to act in a respectful and sportsman-like manner for all functions associated with the Cross Country team or Muhlenberg County Schools. Behavior issues will not be tolerated and may result in disciplinary action ranging from meet suspension to dismissal. The Athletic Code of Conduct is to be read, understood, and signed by all team members and their parents.

I, _________________________________ (insert name) agree to follow school and Cross Country team rules at all times. This includes, but is not limited to:


  • ● Appropriate behavior is expected at all times.

  • ● Bullying, teasing, of any variation of team-destroying behavior will not be tolerated. This includes physical, verbal and
    cyber bullying.

  • ● Bullying or other inappropriate behavior should be reported to Coach Orlow. We cannot fix problems that we do not
    know about.

  • ● It is the responsibility of every athlete to create a positive culture on the team. Cheer on or help everyone.

  • ● Respect all coaches, teammates, and equipment.

  • ● Drinking any alcoholic beverage, smoking or the use of any controlled substance, at any time is grounds for dismissal
    from the team. The detailed school alcohol and drug policy for athletes should be read by all team members.

  • ● Never verbally insult, abuse or mock a competitor, no matter what they may have done. Walk away!

  • ● We do not talk trash to our competition. This includes, but is not limited to; internet (twitter, message boards etc.), on
    your phone (text message, calls, snap chat, etc.) or in person. This is cross country, we run with our legs, not with our
    fingers or mouth.

  • ● Athletes will stay off of all private property.

  • ● Athletes will use appropriate facilities to change into and out of athletic gear.

  • ● Never knowingly cut the course in a meet or practice.

  • ● Unless injured, or instructed to do so, we NEVER stop running. ALWAYS FINISH WHAT YOU START, this
    includes all warm-up and cool-downs from start to finish.


  • ● Attendance at practice and meets is mandatory. Any absence must be communicated to Coach Orlow in advance.

  • ● Athletes are expected to check in daily.

  • ● Cross Country athletics are not part-time. We meet five to six days per week. It is a big commitment, and it has great

  • ● An “excused absence” is for sickness or family emergencies.

  • ● An “unexcused absence” is when the athlete misses for “avoidable’ or “optional” reasons.

  • ● Doctors/Dentist appointments should be scheduled outside of practice time. The only exception would be for sport
    related injuries.

  • ● One responsibility of an athlete is to plan ahead and make good choices. While academics are more important than
    athletics, academics will not be an excuse for poor planning and poor decision making.

  • ● If the coaches believe that an athlete’s attendance is a concern, there will be a conversation with the athlete. Depending
    on the situation there may be consequences.

  • ● Athletes will be given a warning for having an unexcused absence. Any subsequent absence may result in a minimum
    one meet suspension.

Meet Travel

  • ● As in the past parents can take their athlete to meets. For liability reasons they can only transport THEIR children.

  • ● All student athletes MUST check out with Coach Orlow before leaving with their parents from a meet.

  • ● Cross Country is a team sport. Coaches will let athletes know when they can leave a meet with parents. This
    will usually be after the awards are given out for their race.

  • ● Team vans will go to meets. If parents can’t bring or return their athletes the student athlete can ride in these
    team vans.

  • ● Team vans will be at the entire meet. Leaving the high school in time for athletes to warm up for the first race
    and will not leave the meet until awards are given out for the last race. Usually four to six hours.

  • General Running Safety Guidelines

  • ● Common sense is always needed. Do not run on busy roads, in construction areas, etc.

  • ● Do not wear headphones, use Ipods, cellphones, or any other device that would distract you

  • ● Run on sidewalks whenever possible. If you must run on a road, do it on the side facing traffic so you can see what's
    coming at you.

  • ● Always have a plan to get out of the way of vehicles.

  • ● Run towards the side of the road and no more than two runners across. GET OVER AND OUT OF THE WAY when
    cars approach.

  • ● Look both ways before crossing. Simple, but very important.

  • ● Run with a partner.

  • ● Always use crosswalks

  • ● All practice or meet running routes will be discussed with Coach Orlow prior to running. Once a route is chosen
    athletes will not stray from the given route.