The Si View Metropolitan Park District has a new cross country program on the lineup for young children. With the help of coach Dutch Siedentopf, the K-5 cross country program is up and running.
Siedentopf, originally from Colorado, volunteered to coach the new cross country program last October. The Si View Metro Parks District had a cross country program that had gone dormant, Siedentopf said, and this program was a revival of that program.
“This program is actually a restart after a long hiatus,” he said. “A year ago they tried to rekindle it.”
The cross country program practices twice a week at Tollgate Farm Park in North Bend.
The 2015 season was only a month long, yet both the participating children and their parents enjoyed the program. For this year, Siedentopf said he knew he wanted to expand the program.
“In the spring I volunteered to do it again, this year I added a month to the front end of the season,” he said. “We started off with almost the same eight kids, and it has expanded to 16.”
With the expanded 2016 season, Siedentopf has been able to expand his coaching staff as well, bringing on Mount Si High School junior Paxson Russell.
“I got started with this because I coach for the Si View track team in the summer,” Russell said. “Dutch handles the workouts and I’m the one that puts it into motion. I get along with the kids and keep them disciplined.”
Siedentopf said training young children for cross country is a little bit different from high school students, but he is running his program similarly to a high school program in order to train them for future programs at the middle school and high school level.
“My philosophy is I’m trying to run it as close as I can to a high school team would run,” he said.
Siedentopf works with the student’s running in the beginning of the season by filming their stride to see how their technique can be improved. Working with the students on their form now can be helpful because once they reach middle school, many of the bad habits they have formed can be very hard to change, he said.
After the training and fitness tests, Siedentopf gives parents a summary of the fitness of their children and some of their numbers for events like the standing long jump.
“I wanted to give them the general idea of the health of their kids,” he said. “The general idea of overall fitness, strength and aerobic capacity. I give the parents two numbers, I give them where they are in terms of aerobic fitness based on half-mile time trial, I also give them what their standing long jump is and where they stand in relation to their peers on that.”
There are three races each season against similar K-5 cross country programs in Renton and Issaquah. Each race ramps up in length as the season goes on. The third and final race has the runners take on a full mile.
The Si View cross country runners ran that final race on Friday, Oct. 21 at Tibbetts Valley Park in Renton. After their season concluded, Siedentopf gave the runners an off-season training program that they can keep up with to stay in shape.
He said coaching these young children has been a gratifying experience because of the improvement that they show over two months of practice and racing.
“It’s an energizing experience,” Siedentopf said. “You watch the progress, you watch the effort. I’m just hard-wired to like it and I can keep up and I get much more out of it.”
For more information, visit www.siviewpark.org/track.phtml.