ShareThis Page
North Park: Training grounds for cross country runners |

North Park: Training grounds for cross country runners

| Thursday, September 1, 2011 12:00 a.m

Running on the sidewalk next to a busy street can be a dangerous proposition.

That’s why Pine-Richland girls cross country Coach Ken Judson takes his team to North Park to run two or three times a week, even if that means traveling off campus during rush hour.

“North Park has a wonderful selection of places to run and surfaces on which to run,” the second-year coach said. “We can run trails. We can run up on the fields or on the ridges. We can run on the pavement. We’ve got long hills; short, steep hills, and a fair amount of level terrain, so we can structure just about any kind of workout that we want.

“It’s really a key element to our training program.”

Once thought of as the home course for North Hills and North Allegheny, North Park has become a go-to training spot for a number of WPIAL cross country teams. In addition to Pine-Richland and North Hills, North Allegheny Coach John Neff says he has seen runners this summer from Hampton, Central Catholic, Vincentian and Seneca Valley.

“North Park has really become the training hotbed for a lot of schools,” said former North Hills coach John Wilkie, who stepped down this off-season but has remained on staff as a volunteer assistant, overseeing the Indians’ summer runs at North Park.

For Hampton Coach Dean Longwell, holding training runs on school property is a thing of the past. Besides running at North Park twice a week, Hampton makes frequent trips to Hartwood Acres in order to avoid streetside training.

“Sending the kids out on the road, there are just too many distracted drivers anymore,” Longwell said. “So from that standpoint, it’s safer. And if we stick by the high school, the kids get bored running around the school and the neighborhood across the street.”

North Park is located about 15 miles northeast of Downtown and features more than 3,000 acres of land. Teams generally have to arrange their own transportation, with schools only footing the bill for off-site dual meets and invitationals. Runners gather at certain landmarks around the park, the most popular ones being Pie Traynor Field, the Boat House or the Boy Scout Cabin.

The busiest running area loops around the 75-acre lake, which coaches enjoy because they can watch most of their team at once. Running around the lake even has its own mystique for young runners, often serving as a “welcome” to the varsity squad.

There are clearly marked trails and plenty of bathrooms and water stops.

“There’s so much there,” Judson said, “much more than people realize.”

The frequency of training differs from school to school. North Allegheny trains at North Park all summer, but stays closer to home during the season. Neff said the Friday before the official start to the season is the team’s last day at North Park, a saddening reality for runners.

North Hills, Pine-Richland and Hampton continue to run at North Park two or three times a week during the season, with all three enjoying longer runs on Saturday mornings — provided there`s no meet to attend.

“I don’t feel like people are trying to copy us or anything like that, but the allure of it is overpowering,” Neff said. “It’s really the perfect place.”

Categories: News
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.