Cherry Creek's Jordyn Colter appeared to ready to capture her second consecutive Class 5A individual state cross country championship last October when she collapsed and didn't finish the race.
It was learned that Colter had low sodium and potassium and her white blood cell count was high, but seeing one of the state's top runners break down scared many cross country runners to pay more attention to nutrition and hydration.
Two months after her scare at the state cross country meet, Colter ran fourth in the national Foot Locker Cross Country Championships in San Diego. She won the 800- and 1,600-meter runs at the Class 5A state track meet last May and was third in the 3,200-meter run.
“She looks strong and healthy,” Creek girls cross country coach Holly Lane said of Colter, who is a junior this season.
Lane and boys coach Ethan Dusto view what their runners eat and drink.
“Some of them sort of have a misconception,” said Lane. “They don't realize how many calories they're burning off during training and they don't realize how many calories they should be taking in.
“During track season a few years ago, Ethan made them keep journals just so they could keep track of what they were eating so we could make sure they were eating enough. We had a nutritionist come speak to them during our summer running camp to emphasize how important proper nutrition is because you need that fuel for your body to go.”
Sometimes, even with journals, it's tough to monitor the food and water intake of runners.
“We try to make sure they drink water during the day and are eating properly but when they are at school, depending what their schedule is like, they don't always eat properly and then come out to practice and try to run hard, but they just run out of gas or they end up cramping up because of dehydration. We try to emphasize they should always have a water bottle with them.”
Mountain Vista has a dominant cross country program in the Continental League. The Golden Eagles boys won the state championship last year and the girls were fourth.
“We play up nutrition and hydration probably a couple times a week,” said coach Jonathan Dalby. “We try to educate as much as we can about that kind of stuff. We try to get them to carry a water bottle around with them all day long or always have that with them.
“We talk about eating fruits and vegetables. We want them to eat carbohydrates but what they always don't think about is eating fats and protein. We try to educate them on eating the right kind of fats and protein. Those three things kind of fuel you up as an athlete and help better performances day in and day out.”
Mountain Vista senior Connor Weaver, who was the first Golden Eagles runner to cross the finish line, in 12th place at the 2012 state meet, tries to eat healthy and watches his iron levels.
“Every day I take a vitamin supplement and an iron supplement,” he said. “My sophomore year I found out I was anemic and that when I run, I sweat a lot. I lose iron more quickly than a lot of other people. Without iron, oxygen can't be transported throughout the body as quickly. So that is a big thing for me, making sure my iron levels are good.
“I know everybody on our team drinks two full 32-ounce bottles of water a day. I know Andrew Walton and I do protein shakes typically an hour after a hard workout. That seems to help the muscles recover.”
Highlands Ranch also has their girls and boys runners keep journals on what they eat, and Clifford and head boys coach Nicky DeBolt harp on their athletes to keep hydrated.
“I play a lot of attention to my diet,” said Highlands Ranch senior Nick Meis. “My goal is to keep consumption of junk food to a minimum. I keep a water bottle with me at school. I make sure I sip water throughout the day when I know I'll be running in the afternoon.”
Clifford has issued a warning to Highlands Ranch teachers.
“We did tell the kids we were going to email their teachers,” related Clifford. “If they yell at you for having to go to the bathroom all the time, have them email us because you have to stay hydrated all the time.”