Jeff Benjamin and Alan Webb, photo by Jeff Benjamin
This is Jeff Benjamin’s piece on a cross country camp hosted by Coach Vigilante at the Princeton Cross Country Camp. It is such a good story that we thought you might like it today. Thanks to Jeff, who has written for American Athletics, American Track & Field and RunBlogRun. His love of the sport, his affection for the focus of his stories and his desire for the sport to continue to grow are second to none. When you read a piece by Jeff Benjamin, you share in his observations on the sport.
“Having Fun” With A Running And A Coaching Legend at the Princeton Cross-Country Camp- by Jeff Benjamin
That phrase seemed to personify the atmosphere at Coach Jason Vigilante’s Princeton XC Camp held this past summer. The camp, which is held annually, also seemed to bring out the best of fun in not only the campers, who ranged from youth to high school, but also to the counselors and guests as well.
“It’s all about development and having fun doing it,” said Counselor Alan Webb. “You want to get them pumped up for cross country and the daily training, but also make it fun.”
Counselor Webb has had his share of hard work and fun. One of America’s greatest runners, the Sub-4 minute Mile high schooler in 1999 went on to the heights of the Sport. The World Champion and Olympic Competitor still holds the 3:46.91 American Mile Record, going on 11 Years now. “I’m not surprised the record’s lasted that long,” said Webb. “It’s pretty fast…Jim Ryun held the record for many years until Steve Scott got it and he held it for 27 years,” said Webb, who took it from Scott in 2007.
Jason Vigilante, Princeton Coach, and Frank Gagliano, Coach of Coaches, photo by Jeff Benjamin
Webb was introduced to Coach Vigilante after he left the Oregon Project. “We’ve always been friends and I like how he organized the camp,” said Webb, who also talked about the other concepts taught at the camp. “You want to get the kids running of course, but it’s also important to explain to them why the training is done this way…whether it’s the long run, the interval run, the “head training” we cover it all.”
With these ideas coming from Webb, one might forget that he possess a strong distance/XC pedigree as well. Sporting a 27:34 Track 10k as well as a 3-time USATF top -10 XC Championships finish record, Webb feels just at home whether on the track or trails with the campers. “I really like the kids,” Said Webb. “They’re willing to learn.”
The guest speaker of the day sure had a lot for the campers to learn from. “I love every minute of it,” said HOKA ONE NJNY Track Coach Frank “Gags” Gagliano to the campers. “But you gotta live like a runner!”
For “Gags”, who has coached since 1961, living like a runner means “living by the clock.” The importance of nutrition (“Definitely take a multivitamin everyday”), footwear (“alternate 2-3 pairs of your shoes in training”), crosstraining (“I love our athletes to swim!”), lifestyle (“take care of yourself off the track and listen to your coaches!”), as well as going through the gradual process of improving. “If you have the desire to be a runner, don’t quit!”
As far as becoming great, for “Gags” it’s always about improvement. “It’s the idea of coming back in racing season week after week to compete and there’s nothing wrong with finishing 50th or 100th in a race if you are setting PB’s (Personal Bests) in your Races.”
Aside from setting PB’s, “Gags” also emphasized the mental approach. “Take pride in yourself,” said the coach of 14 Olympians. “No matter where you are on your team, remember that the 7th man displaces another teams’ scoring total, so everyone’s valuable.”
But most of all, according to “Gags” “Have Fun!”
“Not everybody’s going to be number one, so make sure you do your best and have fun!”
A recurring theme heard throughout the Princeton XC Camp!
BELL LAP – Alan Webb is part of a new program to further improve Runners – check out
–Story to come soon!
For further info on the Princeton XC Camp check out
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