For distance runners, it's called tapering. At the start of the post-season, cross country coaches will either lower the miles their athletes run or lessen the intensity. Or, in some cases, they'll cut back both.
The theory is that with fresher legs and rested lungs, the runners will begin to deliver peak performances.
Of all the tapering by runners in advance of Tuesday's IHSAA Sectionals, Brenda Diaz is certainly the most unique. All season long, she's been playing three soccer games and running in two cross country meets each week. Now that her New Haven team has been eliminated in the soccer tournament, she is able to focus on just one sport.
“Sometimes this season I've been exhausted,” Diaz said. “Playing two sports every day is hard to do. But I know my legs will start to feel better real soon.”
Diaz will race at the Bellmont Sectional, where she is the defending champion. Last year, as a junior, she went on to place fifth at the Marion Regional and finally 28th at the New Haven Semistate. This year, she hopes to be come the first ever New Haven girl's cross country runner to compete in the state meet.
“That's been the goal all along,” Diaz said of running in the state meet. “I think it would be the perfect way to end my career.”
New Haven coach Larry Stemmler says Diaz is the greatest girl's distance runner in school history, and not just because she has the school record in cross country (19:24) and in the 3,200-meter run in track.
“She is the most determined person in everything she does,” Stemmler said. “She's in the top 10 percent of her class, she serves on the (New Haven) mayor's youth advisory council, she's very involved in the community. Sometimes I think she does too much and wears herself down.”
And, she plays soccer.
“I have to admit: I wasn't very happy when she wanted to play soccer this year (for the first time),” Stemmler said. “I told her that it may hurt her chances of accomplishing her goals in cross country. But, I think it has helped her, especially at the end of races. She's always been strong, but now she has a kick.”
Now, it's ready to taper.
“I think we'll see a much faster runner now,” Stemmler said of Diaz this post-season. “Her legs will come back and she should be fresh.”
What: IHSAA Boy's and Girl's Cross Country Sectionals
Which: The top five teams and the first 15 finishers advance to Saturday's Regionals. Northrop and West Noble Sectionals feed into the West Noble Regional. Bellmont and Marion Sectionals feed into the Marion Regional.
Northrop (5 p.m.): Carroll, Columbia City, Bishop Dwenger, Blackhawk Christian, Concordia Lutheran, North Side, Northrop, Snider, Garrett, Homestead, Leo, Whitko.
West Noble (5 p.m.): Angola, Central Noble, Churubusco, DeKalb, East Noble, Eastside, Fremont, Hamilton, Lakeland, Prairie Heights, West Noble, Westview.
Bellmont (5 p.m.): Adams Central, Bellmont, Bluffton, Bishop Luers, Canterbury, South Side, Wayne, Heritage, New Haven, Norwell, South Adams, Woodlan.
Marion (5:30 p.m.): Blackford, Eastbrook, Huntington North, Madison-Grant, Marion, Mississinewa, Northfield, Oak Hill, Southern Wells, Southwood, Wabash.