GPS Cross Country is a growing sport at Sydney Boys High School and is running at capacity on the weekend GPS competition. There are 3 divisions of runners: Opens, Under 16’s and Under 14’s. Participants are required to run the majority of the qualifying carnivals before they can compete in the GPS final meet. The persistence, diligence, mental strength and physical prowess required not just to get to the venues, but also be successful in cross country running are displayed most eminently by all performers in all divisions. However, the mateship displayed between High Cross Country runners in all divisions, in conjunction with these essential attributes is a highlight of the sport.
Before competition even begins, the immense popularity of Cross Country – a sport, which in 2008 had a membership of around forty in all three divisions – means that a selection policy based on commitment excludes many students who believe it to be a leisurely stroll in the park! All divisions train at either Centennial Parklands or Moore Park during the week and race each Saturday morning at various grounds around Sydney.
Training includes warming up and stretches, followed by the traditional 'Lake Run', a timed 1.4km run around the edge of one of the lakes in the park, to better students’ PB’s. This would often be followed by a number of laps around the McKay oval ran at medium to high intensity. The training session then finishes with LSD (long steady distance) training by doing an entire circuit of Centennial Park, with each lap taking between 17 to 30 minutes to complete. Training sessions include hill sprints at Mt Steele; to build up endurance to be able to run up hilly courses on Saturdays. Throughout the season, the training builds up the runners' endurance and speed, helping them to consistently improve on Saturday races. Over the course of the season, participants who struggle at the first invitational carnival, gradually improve their placing through persistence, self-determination and a measure of mental strength.
One of the highlights of the season is the host meet weekend by High at Centennial Park. It is great to see so much commitment by the boys turning up early in school uniform to help set up tents and the barbeque before the race, as well as handing out water to competitors in different races and everyone staying behind long after the events to help pack up again. A big thank you always goes to the number of parents who pitch in to help this day by either working at the barbeque or manning checkpoints at locations along the course. It is truly appreciated by all and a great way to have parents involved in their son’s sport. It is fulfilling to see each and every one of the boys push themselves especially hard for this race, often with a large number beating their previous best finishing rank from earlier races.
In summary, GPS Cross Country is a sport that requires speed, stamina, endurance, and above all, positive and strong mental endurance. Though not exactly a team sport, where there is one winning and one losing team, finishing a race always rewards you with a sense of self-pride and achievement, the feeling that you gave it all you got, no matter if you came first, in the middle of the pack, or last. As quoted by one runner, Kenneth Liu, “Though a strong, positive attitude during the race is important, the will to win is nothing without the will to prepare. On race day, it’s that determination to go harder than you ever have done before that keeps you going; shown especially by the way our runners at the Finals put in 100 percent to make it all the way up that final hill, armed with the knowledge that ‘tough times don't last … but tough people DO’”.