Siloam Springs’ cross country runners had plenty of motivation to get their miles in this summer.
Sixteen boys, five girls and SSHS cross country coaches traveled to Colorado Springs, Colo., July 24-30, as part of incentive trip and got to tour some of the most popular scenic spots the area has to offer.
Head coach Sharon Jones said the program has struggled over the years with getting kids to get their mileage in over the summer time.
So this summer, an incentive trip was planned for boys who ran 280 miles in an eight-week stretch, and 210 miles for girls in that same time frame.
“We were very strict,” Jones said. “You didn’t go if you got close (to the goal). You had to make the miles. We had a cutoff date. We were monitoring them.”
Jones said coaches used the Strava app to track and chart mileage for each athlete.
“It was great accountability,” she said. “Before we’d ask them to get miles and we’d keep a log. We didn’t know if they really did it or how fast they ran. We could tell all those things (with the app).”
In the end, five girls and 16 boys qualified for the trip.
“It was good. We felt like we’ve met our goal,” Jones said. “Our kids have run a crazy amount of miles this summer, more than we ever have done before. We can’t wait to see how it transfers into our season.”
The trip to Colorado was mostly paid for by the Siloam Springs cross country program, using money from gate receipts at last year’s Panther Cross Country Classic, Jones said.
The only expenses to the athletes were a handful of meals on the road and one night of dining out in Colorado Springs, she said.
“We had a pretty good payout on our home meet,” she said. “How can we use this money to make our program better? We know that in the past we’ve always struggled with trying to get our mileage in. … So we felt like this was a pretty good incentive to get them all bought in on getting more miles.”
The group left Siloam Springs on Sunday, July 24, and made the long trip to Colorado Springs, where they stayed at an Airbnb rental house.
The team had outings each day, sometimes multiple outings, and at night, different groups of kids did all of the cooking for meals.
“That was my favorite part was watching the kids cook,” Jones said with a laugh, “and we had some good meals.”
On Monday, July 25, the first full day in Colorado Springs, the group went to the Garden of the Gods, followed by a trip to the Olympic and Paralympic Training Center.
“Our guide (at the training center) was a gold medalist in the Paralympic shooting competition,”Jones said. “He was so fun.”
On Tuesday, July 26, the group took on the challenge of the Manitou Incline, which Jones said was 2,786 steps, rising 2,000 feet in elevation over a one-mile stretch.
“I don’t care if you loved it or hated it, I think everybody felt such a sense of accomplishment finishing that thing,” Jones said. “It was one mile straight up.”
The group opted for the three-mile hike down from Manitou Incline and then took the driving tour to the top of Pike’s Peak.
Jones said the temperature atop Pikes Peak, which is at an elevation of 14,115 feet, was quite cold.
“You could see your breath,” she said, adding that she was prepared for the cold weather with a hat, gloves and coat, but a lot of the kids weren’t.
She said the altitude that high up certainly played a factor in being able to catch your breath.
“The altitude was real,” she said.
So was the wind.
“We stopped one place before (the summit) that had a neat little place you could walk around,” she said. “The wind was ridiculous. It was really cold. Our kids were freezing to death. They wanted to get back in the car. We got all the way up to the summit, for some reason, the wind had already died down. It was just cold. It wasn’t windy. We were able to get off the platforms and hike around the rocks. Just getting from the rocks back to the platform, I was crazy out of breath.”
On Wednesday, July 27, the group went for a two-and-a-half hour drive to Rocky Mountain National Park.
“That was more of a stop here, get out and hike, see the sights, drive a little further, stop, get out,” Jones said. “The kids had a little snowball fight on the top of the mountain. There was still quite a bit of snow. We saw elk, we saw deer, we didn’t see any bears or moose. It was really fun. It was really beautiful.”
On Thursday, July 28, they went to the Broadmoor Seven Falls, a series of seven cascading waterfalls of South Cheyenne Creek in South Cheyenne Cañon, in Colorado Springs.
“That was my favorite,” Jones said. “You could walk up to the top of the falls, and then there was a short hike you took and a longer hike you took that overlooked the valley. It was beautiful too.”
On Friday, July 29, the group got up early with the intention of hiking up Pikes Peak on the Barr trail, she said.
They made it seven miles and planned to stop at a campground to regroup and see how everyone was doing.
“It was a good thing we did,” she said. “When we got there, the ranger said you can’t go any further. There’s a storm at the summit.”
Jones said the group had to hike back down.
“It was a long seven miles back down,” she said.
The group returned home on Saturday, July 30.
Jones said they’re already talking about what incentive trip they may be able to take next summer, maybe Florida or visiting the Smokey Mountains in Tennessee.
“Now that we felt like we had good success, the goal is to go someplace different four years in a row,” she said, “and the we can cycle back through.”