With the summer Olympics now in full swing, there will be cries to add more sports, or bring back some sports.
The softball and baseball communities are trying to bring their sports back. Some longtime Olympic historians would love to see the good old tug of war back.
A sport that once was in the Olympic schedule and dumped way back when should be brought back. Unlike softball and baseball, the sport of cross-country running takes place all over the world.
If you want to see it in the Olympics, you’re going to have to wait. It won’t be added for at least the next two games. Cross-country is not among the sports up for consideration for inclusion.
According to one person in the know, the International Association of Athletics Federation, the world’s governing body for track and field, is not pushing for cross-country’s inclusion.
That’s too bad because there have been world championships every year since 1903, with two five-year breaks due to World Wars I and II.
If the worlds are any indication, the team competition will be won most likely by Kenya. Kenya has won every men’s world title since 1986, with a two-year exception when Ethiopia took the team title in 2004-05. The Ethiopians won five straight titles from 1981-1985.
The Kenyans and the Ethiopians have won every women’s title since 1991, with the exception of 1994 when Portugal won.
“Not too many people know cross-country as a team sport,” said David Poulsen, a 2001 graduate of Half Moon Bay High School.
The 1999 Central Coast Section champion, Poulsen ran on four straight CCS champion teams.
As Half Moon Bay cross-country coach Paul Farnsworth points out, some who succeed in cross-country might not be able to succeed in track.
“Pat Porter excelled in cross-country,” Farnsworth said.
Porter, who was killed in a plane crash last week, won eight straight national cross-country titles. Porter finished fourth at the 1984 World Championships and helped the United States take second.
His best showing at the Olympics was a 15th-place finish in the 10,000 meters in 28 minutes, 34.59 seconds — 47 seconds behind winner Alberto Cova of Italy. Porter didn’t make it out of the qualifying heat in 1988.
“I loved the sport of cross-country more than the sport of track and field,” Poulsen said.
Some would say that cross-country is sort of represented at the Olympics, with the marathon. Even though the marathon goes 26 miles, 385 yards, the race is longer than all cross-country events, which go from 2.5 to 7.5 miles. In addition, nearly all marathons go through the city streets, while cross-country races go on hills and trails. The course at Crystal Springs in Belmont is close to a perfect course. With its hills, trails and turns, the course is the epitome of what a cross-country course should be.
Farnsworth noted cross-country is a fall sport while track takes place in the spring and summer. Aside from thunderstorms, cross-country goes on no matter what the weather. Weather would not have been an issue this year.
There is one school of thought that says maybe cross-country could be part of the winter Olympics menu.
“The NCAA championships are held in late November in Indiana,” Poulsen said. “Sometimes we ran in cold weather at the state meet in Fresno.”
Regardless of when the sport is run, cross-country should still be an Olympic sport.
“It seems like the sport dies off in college,” Poulsen said. “There isn’t an Olympic event for that sport. A lot of athletes who are good in that sport will never have the realization of attempting to get a gold medal.”
“A cross-country runner puts a lot of time into preparing for a race,” said Rachel Restani, a 2002 graduate of Half Moon Bay. “I would love to see that sport in the Olympics. I’m a big fan of cross-country.”
Another Half Moon Bay graduate, Kathleen Abadie, is a member of the Rice University cross-country team.
“Having the sport on the Olympic menu might make an impact,” she said. “Maybe more people would do the sport and that would be great. It’s a great sport. That’s why I love it.”