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August 26, 2021

Why Committing Early in Distance Running is Not Best

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Hi guys, today I’m going to talk about committing when you are a distance runner, meaning anyone who competes in indoor and outdoor cross country, or events longer than the 800m in track. 


In the distance running community, it is not uncommon for a high school freshman phenomenon to come out of nowhere and tear up the competition, but then seemingly disappear as time goes on. In many cases, this is due to puberty. As a freshman, a girl is largely pre-pubescent, meaning she has lower body fat and fewer hormonal changes. In many cases, the onset of puberty causes a decrease in performance. 

According to Dr. Matthew Mitchell, who teaches Physiology, Biomechanics, and Nutrition at Palm Beach Atlantic University: “While it doesn’t always happen, many girls see a decrease in performance before an eventual peak in their twenties.” 

So in terms of recruiting, college coaches recognize this. Therefore, they do not actively recruit girls that are freshmen and sophomores in high school. Instead, they prefer to wait until these girls are older, perhaps juniors, so they can see their progression physically over time. 


Dr. Mitchell explains that boys are quite different in puberty, as they go through it about two years later.

When puberty happens in boys, though, their lean muscle mass increases, helping with distance running.

Therefore, a high school runner may not see much success in his first couple of years in high school and might be overlooked by college coaches.

A boy runner should therefore wait until his junior year to start his recruiting process so coaches can see his improvement. 

NCAA Recruiting Rules

In addition to these developmental reasons, NCAA rules also state that coaches cannot participate in unofficial visits or offer official visits until September 1st of an athlete’s junior year of high school.

For these reasons, it’s actually smarter for all distance runners to start their recruiting process later, where their improvement is more notable. This does not, however, mean they can’t reach out to coaches earlier so coaches can passively watch their progress.