Texas girls runners, coaches advocate running as far as the boys

For as long as cross country has been a recognized competitive sport in Texas, girls have run shorter distances than boys in UIL events (i.e., officially state sanctioned meets like district, regional and state championships). Now, the state's best female runners may finally be getting closer to leaving that antiquated distance disparity behind them.

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According to Dallas station WFAA, coaches around the state are actively advocating for their girl runners to cover the same distance as their male counterparts at state events. The logic is simple: throughout much of season, both boys and girls cover a traditional five kilometer course. Then, at district, regional and state championships, girls courses are cut back to two miles. State officials had long pointed to health concerns as a reason for the reduced distance, but that clearly doesn't wash when girls are running just as far as the boys for most of the season.

"I think it's just silly, basically, we've got these old ideals," Flower Mound Marcus High School coach Andrew Cook told WFAA. "I think we're in the 21st century now."

Now Cook and his coaching comrades are taking to the newest forum of debate to gain support their point: They created a Facebook page. The new-age marketing technique hasn't quite won over all girls cross country doubters, however. A recent Texas Girls Coaches Association (TGCA) found 68 percent of girls cross country coaches opposed to extending the length of official UIL races. Here's what the Executive Director of the TGCA told WFAA:

"They're afraid it's going to hurt participation... Our coaches tell us if we increase that, a girl who is running cross country, and not a specialist in cross country, is not going to look at that sport favorably."

One of the coaches who agreed with the logic behind the TGCA poll findings was Mansfield Summit High School's Shannon Utley.

"As a coach, we want to include as many students as possible," Utley told WFAA. "And anything that will decrease that participation level is something I'm not in favor for."

Cook's runners find that logic shortsighted.

"It's all about training, and if you train hard enough, and you care about it enough, you're going to be able to do as much as you want to do," Flower Mound runner Taylor Light told WFAA.

Considering the fact that most girls cross country runners train 45 miles a week, one more in three races a year doesn't seem likely to kill them. If Light and her coach have their way, they'll finally be running 5K in official meets starting next fall, with the UIL is slated to consider the distance issue in October.

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