For the last 10 years Southern Utah University has been putting a whole new spin on a runner’s high in the most literal way possible with it’s Southern Utah High Altitude Cross Country Camp.
High school students from across the nation come to Cedar City one week out of the year to run trails named “Highway to Heaven” and “Top of the World Race” that take them up to 11,307 feet, making this cross country camp the highest in the state.
What’s the purpose though in training at high altitudes? Eric Houle, SUU cross country coach, explained that if one can acclimate their body to train at levels with less oxygen, it will increase red blood cells, which prevents lactic acid build up in muscles. Giving athletes the edge necessary to a perfect season.
This ability to properly train high school runners has made the SUU High Altitude Cross Country Camp a powerhouse in the running world. With participants going on to run at NCAA Division I universities across the nation, and even produced SUU’s Cameron Levins, two-time NCAA champion and 2012 Olympian.
But it’s not just the physical aspect of running that Houle targets at the annual camp, much of the camp focuses on the mental game. He explained that psychological aspect of the game is half the battle and true athletes can conquer it.
Houle noted of the program’s effectiveness, “Because of our location and prestige we attract the nation’s top young athletes to prep physically and mentally to eliminate interruptions during the racing season. Most importantly though we get athletes ready to compete at the collegiate level.”
And what a great way to prepare for collegiate racing then to run each day in forests and red rocks, getting a taste of the southern Utah scenery and the clean mountain air with races that begin on SUU’s campus and Brian Head Resort.
The 50 runners participating this year won’t just be running and sweating across Color Country; they get a chance to also play such as attending the Utah Shakespeare Festival as well.