Mandarin Mustang Ladies’ Cross-Country

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Mandarin Mustang Ladies’


Team Handbook

The real purpose of running isn’t to win races, it’s to test the limits of the human heart. – Bowerman

Sidney Forrest

Head Coach, Girls’ Cross Country

Work: (904)260-3911

Cell: (904)540-7740

Table of Contents

Table of Contents 2

Desire, Discipline, Determination, and Dedication 3

The Program 3

The Commitment 4

Sports Philosophy and Physiology 6

Training strategies for distance runners 6

Injuries 7

Practices 8

Race and Meet Information 9

Travel 9

Uniforms 10

Sports Bags 10

Varity Letter Criteria 10

Academics 11

Additional Guidelines 11

Quotations that define our program 14


Cross-Country Team Contract 15

Desire, Discipline, Determination, and Dedication

Welcome to the Mandarin High School girls’ Cross-Country Program. We are in the process of building the best running program in the state and we welcome you as a prospective member of our team. Cross-Country is a sport that will challenge the most disciplined athlete. It is also a sport that enables the least talented athlete to participate and see growth and success. Cross– Country is about desire, discipline, determination, and dedication. In short, athletes who participate in this sport must have the drive to challenge themselves, the fire to keep going, and guts to succeed through adversity. It is a sport where the most skilled athlete might fail because she does not possess the strength to push herself to her limits. Jack London wrote that he would “rather be ashes than dust.” Within these words lies the core of my coaching philosophy. You must press in cross-country from the first day of conditioning to the final seconds of your last meet. To leave nothing behind is our belief. If you are an athlete who believes in these things, then cross-country is something in which you will excel.

The coaching staff and our returning athletes expect much from those who participate. Your participation on this team is a choice. It is not a right. As a member of this team, you will work to become better athletes and better people. Our team is centered on athletes who are willing to dedicate themselves to making a positive impact on their teammates, their team, the school, and most importantly themselves. Our training and our races require all athletes to work to the same level, train with the same attention to detail, and run the same race distance with focus and intensity. A student who learns to give of themselves and sacrifice their needs for the sake of the team will be an asset to this program.

The Program

The Mandarin High School girls’ team been growing and developing over the past several years. Since 2008, the team has continuously been a state qualifier, a regional qualifier district champion or runner-up and finished 1st in the conference for multiple consecutive seasons. For the past two years we have placed 11th in State and are setting up a standard for excellence that we hope to continue. This season’s emphasis will be on gaining state and national recognition as we continue to build a championship level team.

The concept of champion means more to me than winning. A winner can walk away with a trophy. A champion walks away with the knowledge that her path to success was lined with proper behavior, discipline, and character. The end does not justify the means to a champion. A champion does not need a trophy to show her true value to her team or to herself.

This program is championship oriented. The athlete who is also championship oriented will ultimately achieves her goals. To become successful one must address each of the following:

  • Patience. Positive results will come to those who continue to grow.

  • Confidence. Believe in yourself.

  • Enthusiasm. Championship teams are surrounded by enthusiasm.

  • Persistence. To continue in the face of adversity shows the strength of your character.

  • Desire and Determination. Champions must pay the price each day.

  • Positive attitude. Belief is the first step on the road to success.

  • The mind must control the body. The good athlete stops when she feels competitive pain (not pain from injury). The great athlete realizes that pain is a negative result of effort and must be defeated. Many unsuccessful people have great talent. Likewise, many successful people have little natural talent. Patience, confidence, enthusiasm, persistence, desire, determination, and a positive attitude will make you a champion.

The Basics
Cross country is an event of worldwide acceptance and support. Virtually every high school across the nation sponsors boys and girls teams, with standardized distances in most every state, the majority being 5 kilometers. Collegiate races have men racing 8k or 10k with international races going out to 12 k for men. The courses vary, but in most cases dirt, gravel, or rough terrain are incorporated into an easy-to-follow route which the runners follow. Due to turns, slower footing, and resistance such as hills, long grass, or sand, the times run are usually slower than road races of the same length. Championships are held for high school runners at the county, district, region and state levels with Mandarin competing in the large school sections, and hopefully, in the Footlocker Southeast Regional championship.

Cross-country is the ultimate team sport. It centers on a group of dedicated young men or women who work together to succeed in middle distance running. It is an essential sport for any athlete (basketball, soccer, baseball, and track) who wants to develop stamina, increase speed, or participate in a varsity sport with an opportunity to make lasting friendships and become part of the high school experience.

A varsity team consists of seven athletes with women and men competing separately for team and individual awards. Five athletes score for each side, with two more serving as “displacers” by knocking back the opponents scoring runners, but not contributing to the team total. A runner is given the same number of points as the finish position, with the lowest team total declared the winner. Consequently, a team which runs 1-2-3-4-5-6-7 would score a “perfect” score of 15 (1-2-3-4-5) with 6 and 7 knocking back the opponents, who would then score 8-9-10-11-12 for a total of 50. More teams equal more points and high scores, but the fewest points still wins. Invitational meets may have 30-15 teams in one race and a score of 100 may be a clear winner in a field of 300+ runners. Junior varsity athletes run alongside varsity in Gateway Conference meets, but have their own separate races in invitational meets.

The Commitment

Although the traditional state cross country season goes from August to November, to compete at a high level our athletes train virtually year-round. The vast majority of our athletes begin training in June, with team runs five times a week through the summer. Once the season starts in August, the athletes are expected to work out almost every day with weights and conditioning, and runs of various emphases. During the hot season, practices will go after study hall, to enable students to complete school work and allow the sun to cool down. During our build up phase students will have morning practices during the week.

We take a three week break from formal training after the end of the cross-country season and then we begin conditioning for track season. Track season goes from February to May with a similar workout schedule as that of cross country.

Distance running is a sport and skill which build cumulatively throughout the school years of the athlete so we do our best to provide an opportunity for each athlete to reach his potential by incorporating workouts which are written as part of a year plan. This allows our athletes to reach tremendous potential in distance running as well as represent our school in two separate sports, cross country and track and field.

Since each workout is part of a holistic approach to training, each workout, whether morning or afternoon, is important. Athletes who are not able to complete the workout schedule, or are unable to make the commitment to train effectively do not have a fair opportunity to succeed and therefore do not compete for our school. We ask athletes to schedule every possible appointment around workouts that are given to the athlete at the start of the season. Those athletes missing a practice are subject to missing the next competitive event, a penalty which is universal to every competitive program at Mandarin High. Athletes are also expected to attend rare special events, from the Fundraising Water Stations, to banquets honoring their achievements. We hope our parents agree that the immense benefits of cross country outweigh the time commitment involved. This sport rewards the committed athlete and parent, but our athletes have time for top-notch academics, church positions, extracurricular activities and even work if they choose to budget their time…another lesson learned in this sport.

While the commitment is great, and at times forces parents to wiggle vacations into tight spots, and to travel around the state to spend time with their son in his sport, we believe that the benefits outweigh the costs. Each sport at Mandarin High School has its price; we believe that cross country offers a tremendous bargain for competitive opportunity and lessons learned versus time spent in the program.

What will Cross-Country do for you?
If you give to the sport, it will give back. It will:

  1. Provide a foundation for current and life-long fitness and health.

  2. Provide an opportunity to have success in a sport that is directly measurable and requires nothing more than commitment and work.

  3. Provide a Team situation where life-long friends are made and memories of good times and accomplishments last forever.

  4. Provide you with a chance to be different and make a difference.

  5. Provide you with motivational and organizational skills that will benefit you the rest of your life.

Sports Philosophy and Physiology

“Promoting participation and sportsmanship to develop good citizens”

Sports participation is an important aspect of an athlete’s life, but it is not the only aspect. As coaches, we respect the reality of the student-athlete and realize that the well being of the athlete comes before winning. While we demand effort and excellence, we will never compromise our focus on the team and the athlete over winning. Decisions will be based on the impact that they will have on the integrity of the team and the overall development of the student-athlete.

Our training philosophy revolves around the goal of developing the individual into a well-balanced athlete. It is important to work all aspects of Biomotor development in order to improve the athlete. The components of our training emphasis are as follows:

  • Speed

  • Strength

  • Endurance

  • Coordination/Skill

  • Flexibility

Examples of the various Biomotor aspects of training:


Sprints of varying distances, ins and outs, variable speed (tempo) runs


Weight training, plyometrics, medicine ball work, throwing exercises, body weight exercises


Circuit training, various running workouts


Agility Drills, hurdle/mobility drills, technique work


Stretching, hurdle drills, sprint drills

Training strategies for distance runners

  1. Promoting running economy and efficiency:

    1. Stretching & yoga for flexibility, injury prevention, and increased range of motion

    2. Hurdle drills for coordination, hip-flexor strength, joint strength, mobility

    3. Sprint drills to enhance speed and coordination

  1. Regular sessions of short, fast runs to enhance the appropriate neuromuscular response. If an individual is to run fast, he must run fast!

  2. Easy mileage in appropriate doses for varying levels of ability and experience. This is to increase capillarization (the avenues by which blood transports oxygen to the needed muscles)

  3. Sub-maximal pace runs of 20 to 30 minutes. This is at lactate-threshold pace (the edge of “oxygen debt”), the level at which lactic acid begins to build up and inhibit performance. Repeated threshold doses tend to inoculate or buffer the athlete against the negative aspects of lactic acid and allow the athlete to run at increasingly faster paces with less discomfort.

  4. An emphasis on training on soft surfaces (grass, dirt, etc.) This is to protect against injury and “dead” legs.


Cross country rarely sees any catastrophic or long term injuries, but nagging pains and/or discomforts should always be reported to the coaching staff. Athletes will be able to avoid almost all injury by following the guidelines below:

  1. Follow the training program set up by the coaching staff. Athletes who alter or vary the training schedule are not trained in physiology, sport science, or training theory and undoubtedly will put themselves at risk. Each workout is designed to build upon the one which went before…alteration diminishes recovery or prevents continued improvement.

  2. Wear proper footgear and monitor it closely. There is no excuse for bad shoes. If you were cheerleading, playing in the band, or participating in another varsity sport, you would be required to spend a lot more. Keep an eye on the condition of your shoes.

  3. Report any injury to the coaching staff. Generally, low-grade and transient pain is not a problem unless it continues past a few days. Any clicking, popping, or snapping noise should be evaluated by a trained professional. Alert the coaches and then follow through immediately with medical treatment.

  4. Seek medical help promptly. Athletes are never held responsible for training injuries, but they are certainly held responsible for delays they cause in seeking adequate treatment. Delays in getting treatment only prolong the injury and prevent you from being able to improve.


Success in cross-country has a direct correlation to how hard you are willing to work and how dedicated you are over the summer and throughout the season. To earn a uniform in season, you must dedicate yourself over the summer. To earn a letter, you must dedicate yourself year round. It is not easy. But it is rewarding. Our first team rule is also the most important: Do nothing that identifies you as an individual, or undermines the team. The following Thirteen Lucky Rules will also ensure a productive season:

  1. Practice is never optional. Athletes who wish to compete will train. End of story.

  2. Get used to getting dirty. Cross-country is not a pretty sport.

  3. Be responsible for your training. Athletes are expected to keep a daily log of your running and performance. You cannot improve if you do not record what went right in the past.

  4. In order to be successful, an effective, disciplined practice is critical. It is your responsibility to ensure that you are present and focused.

  5. Athletes will adhere to an appropriate dress code at practice. Jewelry is not allowed in meets or at practices.

  6. Cutting corners, literally or figuratively, reflects negatively on the team. Athletes will remain in their workout assignments until their team leader or coach shifts them.

  7. Have fun, but remember the purpose of practice is to strengthen you and lead you to success in competition. You cannot help the team by giving less than your best.

  8. No runner will compete until they have successfully completed two weeks of strong, effective practices. This will ensure that you are running at a level that is acceptable to the program, and that you reflect positively the team’s core values.

  9. Students who are suspended from practice or injured will not be eligible to compete until they have returned to the practice regimen and are prepared to compete.

  10. Distance training will take place on trails off campus, as well as on the school track.

  11. There is no such thing as “no practice”. If the weather is intolerable, we will work inside until the danger has passed. Rain, by itself, is a positive running environment. It helps to keep the body temperature down.

  12. Athletes will respond to and support the guidelines and directives of any coach, regardless of sport or team affiliation. Respect is always the first response of an athlete in our program.

  13. Veteran runners are held to a higher standard when it comes to commitment and fitness. Rank has its privileges; rank has its responsibilities.

Race and Meet Information

During the cross country season, our athletes have races which test their ability against, local, regional, and state class competition. The simplest race is the traditional Tuesday “dual” meet, which in our county is more often a race of 3-5 teams. These meets are at home this season and are a 3K race. These meets are considered “training” events, because the results do not count towards the actual Gateway Conference Championship and no individual awards are given, but athletes compete for lettering points.

Most courses are roughly 5K races. Invitational races are held on Saturdays, usually early in the morning while the weather is relatively cool. Many teams from different FHSAA regions participate as well as some teams from out of state. Races are usually held for varsity and JV. Individual and team awards are won at these competitions, and mandarin usually gets a first look at the top regional and state competition.

The Gateway Conference Championship is a tremendously fun experience for each athlete as we typically run on a course that has remained standardized for years. This event is held at Patton Park and actually opens up the Championship season. In addition to team honors, the top eight athletes are honored as all-conference athletes and achieve countywide recognition at a formal banquet in May.

As the team advances through the State Championship series, the competition continues to increase. The top seven teams at district advance to the regional meet, where the top 6 teams will continue on to the state championship meet.

The overall focus of our meets should be on reflecting positive values and discipline to our families, our school, our opponents and the community. Because of this we will adhere to rituals and routines that limit distraction and support a focused and positive experience.

  1. The team completes team warm-up together, and sits together and supports their teammates during the meet.

  2. Athletes will follow the directions of the team’s leaders and captains. These athletes have been directed to ensure that our pre-race and post-race routines are followed. There is no argument or discussion on meet day.

  3. The primary focus of a meet is to perform for your team, not to hang out with athletes from other teams or schools or with friends and family.

  4. Textbooks or appropriate reading materials will be allowed, while waiting for your race to begin. No cards or other games will be allowed.

  5. No hats or headgear will be allowed at meets.

  6. Athletes will remain with their team until the team is dismissed at the end of the meet. We need to warm-down together, and may need to complete an additional workout after our race in order to build our endurance and level of success.


Any time Mandarin High School Cross Country leaves the school for competition we travel together. Athletes travel together using the same mode of transportation. Travel will be arranged by the school for county and invitational meets. Remember at all times that you represent your family, team, school, and community and must maintain a strict behavioral code when visiting other places.


  1. Team uniforms only. No shirts underneath.

  2. Runner’s bicycle-type shorts will be allowed underneath uniforms but must be solid black in color.

  3. Spikes or training shoes only.

  4. Singlets may be secured in the back with safety pins. No knotting.

  5. Shirts must be tucked inside shorts at all times.

  6. Athletes will wear team warm-ups or sweats as designated prior to meets. No exceptions.

  7. No jewelry.

  8. Travel outfit will be dresses unless specified otherwise.

Sports Bags

Athletes will maintain a sports bag at practice and at meets with the following equipment:

    1. Tee shirt

    2. A motivation tee shirt (orange or green color)

    3. An extra pair of shorts

    4. An extra pair of socks

    5. Warm-ups/sweats, in season

    6. Large towel

    7. an extra pair of training shoes, for wet, muddy days

    8. Shoe inserts, as needed

    9. Snack pack

    10. Big, big water bottle

    11. Toiletry kit for specific needs (Petroleum jelly, Pumice stone or sandpaper, Bug spray, Band-aids/mini-first aid kit, including, Neosporin, ankle wrap, tape)
Varity Letter Criteria

Those who epitomize the core values of this program earn varsity letters. A varsity letter in Cross-country is something of which an athlete should be proud. The coaching staff will not award a letter to a student-athlete who does not represent his team in accordance with our core values.

Criteria for earning a letter:

  1. Top 20% in Conference Meet

  2. Run varsity in District, Regional or State meet

  3. Run 3 varsity races during the year

  4. Run less than 23:00 during the season on an established course

Discretionary letters may be awarded to an athlete who does not fulfill the above criteria if, in the eyes of the coaching staff, that athlete personifies the level of commitment, discipline, and pride in team and school that represents the sport with honor. Varsity letter earners are expected to attend all practices, compete in assigned meets, participate in championship meets, and reflect the teams’ positive image at all times.


Duval County Schools require a student-athlete to have a minimum GPA of 2.0 in order to be eligible to compete. However, most parents, and this coaching staff, are interested in grades much higher than the minimum. In fact, distance running and the dedication that goes into it go along quite nicely with superior grades. Our team goal is to encourage all girls to maintain at least a 3.0.

Coaches will take an active role in the grades of each athlete and we also support individual parental monitoring of the grades. Students will be expected to complete biweekly progress reports in order to remain eligible to compete in events.
Our philosophy on grades encompasses the following:

  1. Grades come first. If an athlete is struggling with academics, he cannot afford to spend time on the track. Plan ahead. Manage your time effectively so you don’t have last minute assignments that interfere with your ability to practice.

  2. Cross Country athletes will be expected to attend study hall if requested by Coach Forrest. If there is inclement weather, students will be expected to have study materials ready for potential study hall days. This is not optional. Our practice schedule and enables you to use the time after practice to rest and recover and maintain a high level of academia.

  3. If poor performance becomes habitual, the result will be suspension or removal from the team until your grades improve.

The Mandarin Mustang Cross-Country Team will not tolerate less than excellence on the training field or in the classroom

Additional Guidelines

  1. Student-athletes who undermine the school, the program, their teammates, or themselves will be subject to consequences at the discretion of the Coach. Consequences include additional push-ups or drills, suspension from practice, removal from competition, and removal from the team. This is a team sport. When you choose to identify yourself as an individual, you detract from the goals of the squad.

  2. Members of the Mandarin Mustangs High School Girls’ Cross-country Team will adhere strictly to the policies and guidelines of the school. They represent the school, their team, and themselves. Their behavior and demeanor will reflect positively on these facets.

  3. Students will be held to an appropriate appearance standard. This may include hairstyles, jewelry, and clothing. Our ultimate team rule: Do nothing to identify yourself as an individual.

  4. The Coach reserves the right to treat each athlete and each case differently. There are no Automatics. Each infraction will be weighed against the athlete’s history and the specifics of the problem.

  5. Rest and sleep are essential to athletic and academic success. At least 30 minutes of relaxation and proper sleep (bed no later than 10:00PM) will make you a better-prepared athlete.

  6. 4-5 healthy meals each day (avoid fried foods; eat a balanced diet: fruits, vegetables, milk, and water (2-3 liters each day, prior to practice). Bring water and appropriate snacks to school (pretzels, fruits, Fig Newtons, carrot sticks, and celery). Practices run long; you will need to prepare food to carry you through the practice.

For Our Parents

General Information

Whether you are an experienced parent from our team, or brand new to distance running and high school athletics, we welcome you to this wonderful experience, the Mandarin High School Girls’ Cross Country Team.

We operate under the rules of the Florida High School Activities Association (FHSAA), the Duval County School Board, and the Mandarin High School Athletics department, but we have found over the years that we are much more responsible to the principles of dedication, perseverance, teamwork, honesty, sacrifice, and fairness. To limit understanding of cross country to only the world of sports is to limit the potential impact this activity can and will have in the lives of the young women who persevere in this most difficult of challenges. Although skill and talent have a place in what we do, the athlete who dedicates herself to improvement will eventually prevail, not only on the field, but in every aspect of future life. No other activity in high school comes anywhere near the intensity and thoroughness of cross country as it prepares the youth of today to be the consummate leaders of tomorrow. The cross country runners who immerse themselves in this sport develop the mental ability to deal with life’s difficulties, the physical understanding of health and its relationship to overall happiness, and most importantly, draw the connection between personal hard work and the truly satisfying rewards that come from it.

Cross country has only one aspect which can be both positive and negative: it is the great discloser of a human being’s internal character. When you challenge yourself in this sport, in time you are forced to look inside yourself and confront what makes up the measure of the woman you will be. Other sports offer a way out, in my opinion, an excuse or rationalization for substandard effort. Cross country gives no such luxury. The negative aspect of this can frighten a young athlete, but our team universally confronts this fear, overcomes it, and re-channels it to a positive experience, and encourages the athlete to draw upon the inner strength of character developed by this sport as he battles life’s future great challenges. It is truly more than just a sport of running.

As parents, we hope to enlist your support, not just by attending meets or providing team treats, but by fully understanding and encouraging the principles which we try to develop in each of our young athletes, regardless of physical talent or prowess. We have sought to provide the best possible environment for each athlete to develop their personal skills according to the tenets we listed above, and they work very well with the highest of community and personal standards. Allow us to provide the best opportunity for success b y supporting them fully as they learn what it takes to work for personal excellence.

Please feel free to communicate with the staff at any time. We understand that our involvement with these athletes may go far beyond the field as we work with you to encourage them to become the best they can be…in running as in future life.


The cost for travel and uniforms is provided through our booster club and fund raising programs. We are expected to raise funds for our school wide booster club each year through the sale of entertainment books. This money goes towards awards, travel to local events, and various miscellaneous needs for the sports program. Our team booster club will plan and organize fund raisers to support our program. We need the help of all team members and parents to ensure that our program will function at the highest performance level.

Additional Parent Suggestions

You can help our team by assisting as follows:

  1. Schedule doctor/orthodontist appointments on early release days. This is usually the first appointment after lunch and should have the shortest wait. Your daughter will miss minimal class time, and minimal practice time. Please be assertive; you pay them a lot of money and should be entitled to a favorable appointment time.

  2. If your daughter commits a “transgression”, please do not punish her by removal or suspension from the team. Their participation in athletics teaches them the right lessons. There are many other actions that can be effectively taken. Feel free to contact me, and perhaps we can work out an appropriately difficult “reminder” of how they should behave.

  3. Help emphasize the importance of commitment. Practices should be a priority to a team-centered individual.

  4. Schedule SAT/ACT tests on dates that do not conflict with our season.

  5. The girls bear the responsibility of getting out of bed, arranging rides, and behaving. Please do not baby them, or make excuses for them.

  6. Logistical help:

    1. Transportation to various parks/meets on Saturdays

    2. Filming of meets/ pictures for team yearbook.

    3. Assistance with our Fundraisers.

    4. Transportation to some out of town meets

    5. Gatorade, bagels, and fruits for meets

Thank you for all you do. In many ways, your role is more challenging and “coach-like” than mine. I have access to your sons for two to four hours of stress; you are responsible for the recovery phase. Help your daughter take responsibility for rest and recovery. They cannot grow as athletes if they do not take care to eat, sleep, and relax appropriately.

Quotations that define our program

Some people run races to see who is the fastest. I run to see who has the most guts.

Steve Prefontaine
I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather that the spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than that it should be stifled by dry rot. I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom in me in a magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet….The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them. I shall use my time!

Jack London

It is difficult to get in front of someone who is in front of you by doing less than they do.

Eddie Reese

Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.

John Wooden

The discipline of desire is the background of character.”

John Locke

We win and lose as a team.

George Allen

Dignity does not consist in possessing honors, but in deserving them.


There are two ways to get to the top of an oak tree. You can grab the lowest limb and begin climbing, or you can sit on an acorn and wait for it to grow.

Bill Walton

I don’t think the mile has really been tapped yet. There’s still time to come off. But you can only do it by being courageous and going fast from the start.

Sebastian Coe

The world judges you by what you have done; not by what you started out to do, but by what you have completed.

Alfred A. Montapert


Cross-Country Team Contract


I ___________________, recognize that participation in an extracurricular sport is a privilege and not a right. I agree to abide by the core team values of dedication, determination, and discipline and to represent the team as a character-centered student athlete. I have read and understand the guidelines provided in the Team Handbook, and understand that my continuing membership on the team and the opportunity to represent the team in competition and as a Varsity Letter wearer is dependent on my ability to reflect the goals of the program, and the Championship Model that is explained in the Handbook.


Signature: _____________________________

Printed Name: __________________________
Date: ________________
My daughter has read the above contract, and agrees to adhere to the team guidelines. I understand that her continuing membership on the team is contingent upon grades, attitude, and respect for the program and the school.

Signature: _______________________________

Printed Name: ___________________________
Date: _____________________

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