Mark Popp started teaching and coaching at Wayzata High School (which routinely has around 100 HS boys participating in Cross Country) in 2008, shortly after graduating from North Dakota State University. He assisted the successful and highly-regarded Bill Miles for seven years before taking over the program in 2015. In the last three years, Wayzata has won the State AA MN Championship twice and advanced to Nike Nationals each year, finishing 14th, 10th, and 11th. In 2015 and 2017 respectively, Jaret Carpenter (4th) and Khalid Hussein (10th) were NXN All-Americans.
In the spring, Popp has coached sprinters since 2011, where his athletes have earned All-State honors 17 times in the sprint relays and 9 times individually. This year, he will continue to hand off distance coaching duties to Eric Jahn and Brandon Heebink, both of whom assist with the Cross Country team in the fall.
Cruise Intervals (Threshold)
One of the staples of our training at Wayzata is Cruise Interval training. We incorporate this a little bit in the summer in order to add a little quality to our base training. Running mostly on feel in the summer, our boys will build to 2 x 12’ at threshold effort with a 2’ recovery. During the season, we try to get between 7k-9k worth of threshold in over the course of a workout. The intervals themselves can be as short as 3:20 (roughly 1k) or as long as 10:00 (roughly 3k). The running surface might be the track, the roads, or dirt/gravel paths, depending on the conditions. In early to mid-September, we try to get a 4x2k workout in. We have 2k loop that is about 1200 of winding gravel path, and 800 of a paved residential street. Our time target ends up being the same as a Cruise 1000s track workout from week 1…but due to the more challenging running surface and turns, slightly shorter recovery ratio, this workout is more demanding.
The workout: 4 x 2k (7:00) at threshold, on the 8:20 + 4 x 150 strides at the end
Because we have 3-4 different training groups within our varsity group, we have a number of different target times. To simplify things, we run for 7:00 each rep instead of an exact 2k. We also sometimes stagger the start (timing) in order for each group to find their own pace as opposed to keying off of the group in the front. We give them a 400 and 1600 split during each interval (I record the 1600 split), and sometimes put a cone down in their target stopping area. During the short rest interval, athletes will jog some and then group up to get ready for the next go around. Jogging is always encouraged to keep their heart rate and respiration up, but there is no set distance that they need to cover. Within 90 seconds of the conclusion of our Cruise 2ks, athletes will start their 150s. They need to run on feel for these, preferably somewhere just south of 1600m race pace. The recovery is not specific on these—it is just to go as soon as ready. I like adding a little bit of pace onto the end of threshold (at least once they are strong enough) in order to develop some running economy. We can work on flat-out speed during strides or build-ups, in the weight room, and during the track season. But the opportunities to run that fast while tired are present far less often.
In 2017, we never did the same cruise workout twice. Probably the closest we came was our first Cruise workout (7-8x1k (3:20)) on the 4:00, and one about eight weeks later (8x1k (3:25) + 4×150). The difference is that we went 5 seconds longer (shorter recovery by extension) and added the 150s. At the start of the year, only three guys did all eight 1000s. Two months later, the entire training group of 17 completed the full workout at slightly more aggressive paces.