Coach Sarah White, rear, goes on the trail with Sylvania Striders team members McKenzie est, left, and Leah Zellers.
For more than two decades, teacher and cross country coach Ross Deye has spent his summer vacations instructing young runners on what it takes to be a champion.
Deye, who is the boys cross country coach at Northview High School, established the Sylvania Striders Distance Running Club in 1982. Now in its 22nd season, the Striders Club has produced a number of state champions over the years.
Before moving to Northview in 1998, Deye coached cross country for 16 years at Southview High School. Deye led the Cougar boys' teams to state titles in 1987, 1990 and 1991. He also led the Southview girls' team to a state championship in 1994.
"All of those kids went through the Striders Club with very few exceptions," Deye said. "The Striders without a doubt was a huge factor in winning the state titles. I can't stress that enough."
He said it takes endurance to reach that elite level, which is only built by training year round. That's why he founded the Striders Running Club.
The club, which is held for eight weeks in the summer, prepares junior high and high school athletes for the fall cross country season.
In the initial years of the club, only about 10 high-school-age runners participated. That quickly changed as younger runners joined the club and the total numbers swelled to nearly 50 every year.
Now it is about equally split between high school and junior high kids. Forty kids are participating this summer.
"It's a good mix, which is nice," Deye said.
Deye, who teaches computer classes at Arbor Hills Junior High in Sylvania, describes the Striders as a "low key club."
"We don't use heart monitors or anything like that," he said. "We just run the trails every morning."
Deye said he didn't want the club to seem like a summer camp.
"We run hard and then easy and we tell them why it is important to do that," he said. "It's just the basics.
"All we need is a good pair of running shoes and a stop watch."
The Strider members don't compete in real races.
"Once in a while on Friday we have fun runs where at each mile mark they get something, like a Popsicle. We try not to do a lot of racing in the off season," he said. "Once a month is the limit [according to Ohio High School Athletic Association rules]. The kids tend to get tired of too much competition."
Deye said one problem in high school running is that the kids compete too much and train too little.
"I believe they only have so many good races in them," he said. "So I don't like to have them do too many road races. We keep it low key."
The club members run together at 8 a.m. nearly every day at Wildwood Preserve. The club started on June 14.
"The kids complain about [the morning start]," Deye said. "But in the summer, it's so warm, morning is the best time to do it."
Deye said fellow coaches Sarah White, Kristen Drouillard, Rachel Masters and John Wodarski help motivate the kids. All of them ran in the Striders Club and for him at Northview.
The coaches separate the members of the club into nine levels.
They run either four, five or six days a week and they also choose how many minutes they want to average per day. Some run 30 minutes a day while others run up to 60 minutes a day.
"We talk to them about what's best for them," Deye said.
He said he strongly suggests to his high school runners to participate in what he calls the "6-60 club." Those members run 60 minutes, six days a week.
"The real serious runners should be running six days a week," he said. "Those are the ones that want to win a state title."
But Deye said he realizes many of the kids have other summer activities.
"(The Striders Club) sort of covers everyone," he said.
He said many kids have discovered that they are strong runners after signing up for the Striders Club.
"Cross country is a sport where some kids just find their niche. Some kids find they're really good at running," Deye said. "If things like the Striders don't exist, those kids don't realize it."
Deye said the best male runner to come through the club was Dave Briggs. Briggs was a state cross country champ in 1988 at Southview.
"I also coached him in high school and he definitely was a standout," Deye said.
As far as female runners, Deye said the members of the 1994 team that won a team state title also were special.
This year Deye said all club members live in Sylvania.
"All three junior high schools and both high schools are represented," he said.
Of course that means runners from rivals Southview and Northview must learn to train together.
"We try to explain to them that as a club they benefit by joining forces," Deye said. "If we gave them the option they would probably run separately."
Deye said 12 kids that run cross country for him at Northview are participating in the club.
The Wildcats have won two straight Northern Lakes League championships and won a district title last fall.
"They want to be good this fall," Deye said. "They know they have to do it as a group. They want to get to the next level and be competitive at state."
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