School was out for summer, so the last place you would expect find junior high and high school students was in a classroom and at the media center.
But last Friday, dozens of track and cross country athletes gathered at Land O' Lakes High to learn about how to prevent and treat running injuries, view the newest equipment and apparel and develop strategies to improve times and win races.
The session was part of the Land O' Lakes Family Fitness Clinic and Track Meet. Organizer Kris Keppel, the Gators' track and cross country coach, hopes to make it an annual event.
The athletes were able to meet and talk with local vendors, who gathered in the school's Commons area. Suncoast Running, Shapes, Life Styles, FIT niche, the Running Center, Warrior Running and Cross Fit En Fuego were among vendors who participated.
Throughout the afternoon, breakout sessions were held in classrooms and the media center. One of the speakers was John Hisamoto, a physical therapist and certified athletic trainer who owns Pro-Active Physical Therapy near the University of South Florida.
Hisamoto spoke about common running injuries to muscles and joints and how to quickly heal from them. He recommended the "RICE" method for treating injuries.
RICE, which stands for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation, should be used following every workout and race. He also advised to stretch after running, when the muscles can tighten without proper stretching.
Another breakout session was conducted by Lee Stephens, an all-state cross country runner for Land O' Lakes and Florida Southern College in the late 1990s. Stephens has won more than 160 races, including Saturday's Citrus Summer Showdown.
Speaking on race strategies, Stephens focused on four areas: preparation, pacing, surging and kicking and the mental aspects of running.
One of his more interesting topics was the "3 percent rule."
According to Stephens, he researched winning distance runners and learned they never varied their times more than 3 percent for each segment of the race. For example, in a 5k (3.16-mile) race, each mile should be run in nearly identical times before making a final kick near the end of the race.
"Having Lee Stephens here to talk to us was a great help," said Jonathan Czupryn, 16, who will be a senior on the Gators' track and cross country teams. "He was one of the best runners ever at Land O' Lakes, so having him come back to talk to us was great, especially teaching us how to prepare for a race, exclude outside factors and have a positive attitude to finish strong."
Seeing the excitement as the young athletes exited the breakout sessions, Keppel was pleased his efforts were paying off.
"With nearly a dozen speakers and more than 30 volunteers, this event will grow bigger and better each year," he said.