NORTH CANTON  Time is running out on summer … and on summer running.

The time crunch is a definite factor as Hoover senior Ava Dalpra and her teammates, including her friend Maddy Frank, try to get ready for the start of the cross country season.

As the Hoover cross country team looks ahead to its season kickoff at its own Dave Clegg Invitational on Sept. 2, it’s all about that base.

A good endurance and distance base allows runners to withstand the demands of the season and last week featured a train run for the Vikings that got the team up and moving shortly after 8 a.m.

“Today was a long day … it’s a distance day where it’s all about mileage,” Dalpra said. “Today I only went four (miles), but the mileage was from three to seven miles. Long days and distance days are more about endurance and building up your mileage for that 5K run.”

The 5-kilometer (3.1 mile) run is what competitors do during meets, so going beyond that distance in practice is a way to ensure that you don’t tire out during competition. The day of the trail run, the prescribed distance was between three and seven miles, with Dalpra doing four and stretching afterward with Frank as they looked ahead to their senior seasons and what those might bring.

The Dave Clegg Invitational is circled on the calendar for Hoover runners because, as Dalpra and Frank noted, it’s the one invitational the Vikings host and it welcomes some of the top teams in the area for an early season test. The meet typically includes some of Hoover’s Federal League rivals, so showing well against those familiar foes would portend well for the Vikings’ chances to win later in the year when they run at dual meets against those same teams and especially when they see them at the league championship meet at the end of the season.

Additionally, the invitational represents the first chance for Hoover runners to measure themselves against someone other than their teammates and that can be a beneficial barometer.

“The first race is always kind of like that determinator of where you lay within the team and where you need to improve … it’s all about improving each and every race,” Dalpra said.

With her summer dwindling down to its final days, the senior runner believes she’s accomplished most of what she set out to achieve at the beginning of the summer. The primary goal was to be in the best shape possible and to be able to handle the demands of practices and meets once the season starts and while it’s difficult to know for sure until meets begin, Dalpra feels good about where she is in terms of her endurance as the last days of the preseason tick off the calendar.

Before the first meet of the season, the entire team will also go through time trials, which may not be an official meet, but has a big impact on the Dave Clegg Invitational.

“Time trials are the week before where we’re working on our distance and our times to be able to shoot for,” Dalpra said. “Everyone on the team just runs the course and we time it … that determines who runs varsity for the first race.”

For now, the Vikings are preparing themselves for that chance to compete internally and being able to run the invitational would be a meaningful experience for anyone on the roster, especially seniors like Dalpra and Frank. It’s their final Dave Clegg Invitational and kicking off their last season of high school cross country by running in and placing highly at their school’s own invitational meet would be an idea beginning to the year.

Before long, the summer break will come to a far-too-early end - at least as far as most students are concerned - and time on the trail will have to be balanced with time in class. Until then, Dalpra wants to maximize her summer fun while also setting herself up for what she wants to be a successful senior season of cross country. 

Reach Andy at 330-580-8936
On Twitter: @aharrisBURB