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"Winning Isn't Everything."
-Coach Ben Zhao, in response to Southern articles on their cross country team, 1999

    If there's one thing most teams love, it's winning. Beating the snot out of the competition. Blazing it up. Running so fast the course gets lit on fire. Getting all five in runners before the other team got one. And then dancing around happily and showing off your medals.

    Okay, so not all teams do that. But you get the point.

    The truth is: It's fun to win, and it makes you feel good. It's not fun to lose, it makes you feel bad. But Cross Country is a sport in which you can give your absolute maximum using pure determination. It's about pain tolerance. If you really want to win, crank up the pain dial as high as it will go and try not to pass out. But even then it won't always work.

    For many coaches, winning is the ultimate goal. You train to win, obviously. You run fast so you can bring your school glory, and bring home some nice shiny new medals, and feel good about yourselves. For most coaches, grades aren't an issue as long as you don't get F's. Being a bad person is annoying, but as long as you run fast, it's okay.

    For coach Ben Zhao of Minneapolis Southwest, winning is not the most important thing. First you work on improving your weaknesses in life and achieving a balanced lifestyle. Don't stay up late in the night using a computer. Don't glue yourself to videogames. Get sleep. Find your biorythme. Once you start working on those, you trian hard and run till you puke, right? Wrong. For most Freshman and rookies, having fun is more important. Work upward slowly. Train yes, but don't burn yourself up your Freshman year. Back off if you don't feel well. Become a part of the team and be a good role model for others. Talk to Zhao about what's going on so he can help. Do well in the academic department: for IB, C's probably won't cut it. Advice to many? If you get C's, and especially anything below that, don't come to morning practice. Get extra sleep and work on your grades first. Got all that?

    Okay, now maybe it's time for you to train hard. NOW we can win... well, not quite yet... First, get a fitness base. Work on your speed. Get good running form. Don't raise your mileage or intensity too high too fast. Be smart. Work your way up gradually. Train, don't strain. After that, you'll find yourself a hard working, good, well balanced athlete, which will help you be much more successful not only in running but in all aspects of life.

    Okay, now we can win. As long as everything else doesn't falter. That is to say... after working on weaknesses, sleep, having fun, being a part of the team, being a good role model, talking to Zhao about life, getting good grades, getting a fitness base, working on speed, having decent running form, and being consistant with what you do. Winning comes last.

    But even Zhao admits, he would love his team to go to State, because it's fun and rewarding for the hard work each individual has done.

    But be aware... Don't go around trash talking everyone else and saying your the best. Don't be arrogant. Even if you do win. Don't stick your nose up so far in the air you can't see where you're running. That relates back to one of the earliest things: Be a good person first. Everything works together. You take out one piece, and things fall apart, just like other teams fall apart.

Just remember: have fun.
Plus, it is fun to run so fast the course is lit on fire.

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