Editor's note: This is part 2 of a 2-part story looking at a week of training by the Bureau Valley cross country team.
MANLIUS - Rest comes but once a year.
Bureau Valley cross country coach Dale Donner rests his team heading into only one regular season meet, and that meet is the Spartan Classic at St. Joseph-Ogden. Rest paid off in 2008 when the Bureau Valley boys team won the team title at the Spartan Classic.
This year the Spartan Classic is Saturday, Sept. 26, and the two days before are light workouts. But only the two days before it.
"I think that if you hit them hard, hit them hard, hit them hard for three months then they're dead at the end of the year," Donner said. "This is our little time we take it easy."
Donner allowed the NewsTribune to spend a week with the Storm. The week between the Bureau Valley Invitational and the Spartan Classic, the NewsTribune received unfettered access to meetings and practices.
Here is a day-by-day account of Bureau Valley's cross country training during one of the peak weeks of the season.
Wednesday, Sept. 23
3:10 p.m. - 4:56 p.m.
Donner expects discipline from his team.
This day, he makes it evident both during practice and in the team meeting he holds after practice.
Practice consists of repeats on the track. The girls run 400-meter repeats, and the boys run 800-meter repeats.
Donner tells each runner the time he wants them to run, and he expects each runner to be disciplined and know their body well enough to hit those times.
He uses the football scoreboard as a big stopwatch. It only helps them half of each lap. None of them can see the clock during the backstretch when they run to the east and away from the scoreboard.
Cody Taylor, a junior, does the best at hitting his assigned times. Taylor is supposed to run each 800 in 2 minutes, 38 seconds. He runs 2:38, 2:39 or 2:40 on five of his first seven 800s.
No one else is nearly as consistent.
"Cody hit his mark all day," Donner said. "Cody is real good at it."
Taylor finishes second to sophomore Derrick Johnson on each of the first six 800s. It is a drastic improvement from last year when Taylor was Bureau Valley's No. 7 runner and far behind Derrick.
"(Freshman and sophomore) years, I wasn't as good as I (have been) this year and didn't run as well," Taylor said. "I got help from my other teammates pushing me along, and I think that's what helped me most this year. I put a lot more miles in this summer and mental toughness. I got a lot stronger mentally."
Donner brokers a deal with the entire team after the sixth 800. If everyone hits their assigned time on the seventh 800 and they run all out on the eighth 800, he will eliminate the ninth 800 that he planned for them to run.
Everyone makes sure there is not a ninth 800.
Practice on the track ends around 4:30 p.m., and the team goes for a 25-minute meeting in the library. The topic is the two-day weekend trip to St. Joseph.
Donner's expectation for discipline on the trip is evident. He says that anyone misbehaving on the trip will be sent home, and if sent home, they will never be allowed to go on an overnight trip with the team again in their high school career - including the state meet.
Thursday, Sept. 24
3:10 p.m. - 4:23 p.m.
The Spartan Classic is only two days away so Donner sends the girls team to run 3 miles. The boys team goes out running 4 to 5 miles.
Donner and assistant coach Nick Hartz stay at the school and help junior Nate DeVenney in the training room.
DeVenney is getting an ice bath.
"This is the worst day of my life," DeVenney says as he crawls into the 40-degree water that Hartz prepared in the training room.
DeVenney is not a fan of ice baths on his legs, but he is sitting with the water well above his waist today. DeVenney sits in the water to submerge his lower back.
It is now 15 months that DeVenney has been dealing with a lower back injury, which is related to displaced hips.
DeVenney has not raced since the Oregon Invitational on Sept. 5. He fell at the end of the race after colliding with another runner. The fall temporarily led to a pulled groin, which has since healed. The fall also triggered inflammation in his back.
This is the busiest day of the week for DeVenney - getting in and out of the whirlpool every three minutes. He gets used to the cold water after the first three-minute period, but he is not used to watching the team go run.
It is painful to be left standing and watching them disappear into the distance. Not painful for his back but still painful.
"I'd rather be out there," DeVenney said. "I'm just doing what I can to try to get healthy."
Even if it means ice baths every other day the rest of the season.
"It kills me (to watch the guys)," DeVenney said. "It's still nice to be part of it and help them be successful. â€¦ I'm still involved. I know that I'm giving them motivation to keep trying. I got to help them get what they deserve by coming back later, if I can."
Friday, Sept. 25
3:05 p.m. - 3:58 p.m.
It is an early dismal day because of Homecoming so the team jogs to the track a little early today.
The 1-mile warm-up and the 1-mile cool down constitute a big chunk of practice.
Only one day until St. Joseph means a light workout.
The bus for St. Joseph is scheduled to leave the high school at 5 p.m. so there is no wasted time today. The team wants time to shower before boarding the big, yellow bus and heading south.
"We don't let up for many meets," Donner said. "We go easy a day or two here. Hopefully, we're ready to go tomorrow and get our legs back under us before hitting it hard again next week."
The plan after leaving the high school is to stop in Bloomington for food before staying at a hotel in Champaign. Donner thinks it is important to give his team the experience of an overnight trip before the state meet.
Spending this much time together also helps to strengthen the team.
"It's a great team builder," Donner said. "The kids will watch a movie together and spend a lot of time together. In cross country, the kids always get real tight. The sport is not about the running. It is about everything else that goes along with it."
Erik Hall can be reached at 223-3200, ext. 195, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.