Gerry Steele
The Baker City Herald

By Lisa Britton

For the Baker City Herald

Mike Knutson wants more runners.

"We're pretty small," he says of Baker High's cross country team.

He and assistant coach Davey Peterson are coaching 11 athletes this season - nearly half of last year's roster.

"We had a lot of seniors last year," Knutson says.

He does this year too - Sarah Spaugh, Cody Gyllenberg, Nate Baeth, Franklin Bowers, Ian Krohn and Evan Krohn.

Juniors on the team are Anna Payton and Katie Sandefur. Ben Spaugh and Taylor Hawes are sophomores, and Josie Stearns is the lone freshman.

The girls team has only four members right now, which means they won't be able to compete as a team this season unless someone else joins.

"You need five to score," Knutson said.

He's hoping the start of school will bring more runners to the team.

Cross country is a team sport that depends on independent performances - the top five runners make up the team's score. (If the girls team remains at four, the athletes will simply compete as individuals.)

Cross country runners compete on 5K courses (3.1 miles).

"Racing 3.1 miles sounds like a long way, but it's not like we just jump off the couch," Knutson says. "These guys have been preparing all summer."

Ideally, he says, these athletes train in the off season.

"The challenge as coaches is running needs to be a year-round sport," he says. "Ten weeks is not enough time."

He admits that cross country is hard work.

"These kids train 10-plus hours a week to race for 20 minutes," he says. "You have to be intrinsically motivated - it's a special breed of kid."

And equipment? Well, that's pretty easy.

"All you need is a pair of shoes," he says.