This guest post is by Doug Petrick, a member of HSRC, and the boys and girls track and cross country coach at Upper St. Clair High School, in Pennsylvania.
If you follow high school running, no doubt, you’ve heard of American Fork High School, coming straight out of Utah. This past spring, American Fork’s 4x1600m boys relay team smashed the National Federation of High School’s previous record by over 10 seconds! When you do the math with their record time of 16:41.30 for the event, it works out to 4 minutes and 10 seconds for each 1600m split leg!
In fall 2015, American Fork finished second as a team at Nike Cross Nationals (NXN) and had the individual boy’s champion. This past fall, American Fork repeated as the second overall team at NXN and had three runners in the top 10 individually- along with the individual winner in the boy’s race. This is quite the model of successful high school distance running, and the coach orchestrating all this success is Timo Mostert.
To achieve these types of result, Coach Mostert obviously knows something about training milers and cross country harriers. Coach Mostert has been at American Fork High School in Utah since 1998, and has demonstrated a model of successful high school distance running year in and year out. Additionally, Timo Mostert’s runners have gone on to continue achieving at an impressive level in college. Timo must have sound, proven training methods and a unique philosophy that helps breeds this success at American Fork.
As a member of High School Running Coach, I’ve been granted access into Coach Mostert’s system for successful distance running at American Fork High School. The results speak for themselves, Timo is simply one of the best High School Coaches in the country. With the culture he has created at American Fork, Coach Mostert has created a created a distance running powerhouse, as student-athletes cycle through his program.
One of the key points of success in Coach Mostert’s cross country training is his focus on working the aerobic system for the bulk of the season. Timo Mostert attributes his athletes’ ability to stay healthy and injury free, and continually improve as distance runners, to the focus on the aerobic system for the majority of their training. At American Fork, Timo ensures the terrain used in training is utilized to it’s fullest advantage. American Fork runners always focus on proper downhill running form, and Coach Mostert has used manipulation of the training terrain as valuable factor. Anyone that has watched American Fork race knows this firsthand. Coach Mostert has used the concept of running negative splits to strengthen his runners’ finishing kick. In the training documents on the site, and in the podcast interview with Timo, the details of how modeling this at practice pays big dividends in races.
I found it interesting to learn that American Fork’s most weapon is “pummeling opponents with pace.” Competency at a variety of distance running paces is something most high school programs do not hold in high regard. Again, focusing on the building the aerobic engine and pace, has allowed his athletes to successfully make the jump to college training without getting injured. Rest is another component of Coach Timo’s training that other high school programs may neglect. Before NXN Nats, American Fork uses recovery as a valuable tool to perform high level when it matters most. I’d say most teams don’t consider rest to be an important element of training high school cross country runners. Two NXN Nats runner up team trophies say otherwise.
As our training system has evolved at Upper St. Clair High School, there are key elements we have used that were inspired by the American Fork Cross Country team. Mostert communicates the process behind his training system to his athletes. This is a trait that we’ve mimicked with the distance runners at Upper St. Clair High School. Similar to American Fork, we’ve found that the kids buy into our program and culture easier if they understand the philosophy behind the training. Timo Mostert holds mileage through a good deal of the competitive racing season in cross country. This allows his runners to feel strong throughout key races, while other teams may fade in critical moments. We’ve used that model in our own program in the fall, and found a good deal of success with it. Our distance runners derive a lot of confidence from not backing off mileage until the last possible moment, which is directly taken from the American Fork method. Another takeaway with Coach Mostert’s training is the use of strides throughout the week’s training. This is an intelligent way to keep a neuromuscular stimulus throughout the fall and all competitive seasons. Incorporating strides into our training plan has allowed our cross country athletes to execute a nasty finishing kick and switch gears as needed in racing situations.
The only way for a high school program to evolve and improve is through learning. The key factor for me is determining where I will get that information. The information I consume needs to be reliable and vetted, since I want the runners at Upper St. Clair to get faster, but also stay healthy and keep injury free. High School Running Coach has been an invaluable tool for me to help move things forward for the runners in an intelligent way. Listening to the podcast, reading the training documents, or asking questions in the Q&A forum have all been instrumental in helping me move the program forward. It’s stimulated many a discussion with my peer coaches and helped us evolve our training. Coach Mostert of American Fork, Utah is just one of the top coaches showcased on the site.