Catholic High’s Pete Boudreaux, Episcopal’s Eddie Cole land coach of the year honors _lowres

Pete Boudreaux, Catholic High cross country coach

Pete Boudreaux begins his 48th cross country season with the Bears on Saturday with St. Michael the Archangel’s Bayou Boogie meet at Highland Road Park. The 73-year-old coach says there’s still a thrill involved with each new season.

What does excite you about the start of a new season?

“With the first meet there’s always that sense of the unknown. You may have an idea about who some of the top runners and teams will be based on last year. Inevitably, there’s always some individual or some team that comes out of no where and surprises you.”

There’s some excitement for your team, isn’t there?

“We’ve got a couple of guys returning. I wouldn’t call this a young team, because we’re not. We have several seniors who haven’t been asked to step into the roles they have now. And it’s all about seeing who will step up and take on those roles. To me, that’s part of the excitement.”

What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in cross country through the years?

“The big thing is the numbers. You have so many kids involved now. When we started we had one guy who was a swimmer, another who was a diver and a couple of other kids who just wanted to be part of a team. It took us a while to get five runners. The last count I have on this group is 75 and 33 of those guys are eighth and ninth-graders.

“And then there’s the growth on the girls side. I’m not directly involved in that, but through the years it’s been amazing to see.

“In the beginning you had girls who struggled to run two miles. Now you have girls who run some very fast three-mile times.”

How much mileage do your teams do each week?

“Not nearly as much as we used to. About 20 years ago, you would do 75 or 80 miles a week and not give it a second thought. These days there’s just too much going on, whether it’s other school activities, honors classes or something else. We have two days where we do heavy mileage, and our top guys run seven to 10 miles. The rest do six to eight. We probably average 35 to 50 miles each week.”

What are some of the biggest misconceptions about cross country?

“The biggest one is that it’s easy for the top teams. Cross country is not an easy sport. It takes work. For example, you can’t start out now, in September, and expect to be real successful. You have to have some sort of training base.

“I don’t think you have to be structured to the point that you run every day in the summer. But you do have to meet a couple of times a week and get some mileage in.”

What is biggest benefit you see in cross country?

“Like swimming, cross country is a sport that allows kids to compete on a variety of levels at the same time. In some sports, you might be second or third string for a couple of years and not have a gauge for progress. If your 3-mile time drops a minute from one year to the next, you know you’re better regardless of where you finish.”

By Robin Fambrough