Skip to main content

Manhattan Cross Country Club

Age-appropriate distance running for youth in grades K-8 (six week season).  Registration forms and more information will be posted at or sign up HERE

Manhattan Cross Country Club 2019

The next cross country season starts on August 26!  We are so excited for another great year! Our goal is to set a positive environment so that all runners feel safe and can just run for fun!  We will be following the Road Runners Club of America program (  Every week we will have a new lesson.  These include:
  • Concepts of walking, jogging, running and sprinting
  • Concepts of warm-up, pacing, cool-down and stretching
  • Physiology and good form
  • Eating healthy
  • Safety
  • Good sportsmanship and encouraging others

Please see the 2019 schedule (also available at  This schedule is subject to change. Notice that all practices we are at Northeast Park (located on the east side of town, off Casement and Allen) and the second to last week of practices is at Anneberg Park (to get the kids used to the fitness challenge route).  We will have a practice at Memorial Stadium on Tuesday, September 10, for our Marathon Run! A few important dates:

  • August 27 – Time Trials (pre)
  • September 2 – No practice (Labor Day)
  • September 10 – Practice at Memorial Stadium (Marathon Relay)
  • September 21 – School Fitness Challenge (9 – 11 AM at Anneberg Park) 
  • September 26 – Pizza and Cookie Party (& Cream the Coaches!) at Northeast Park
  • October 7 – Competitive Season starts (ask Julie for more information)

For the first week of practice, I will provide name tags for the kids.  Children are encouraged to wear their shirts as often as they want to but I certainly don’t expect them to wear it every day (that’s too much washing for parents)!  Kids are not expected to be at every practice. We offer 3 days, hoping that you will be able to make at least 1 or 2. There will be a healthy snack, provided by HyVee, every day at the end of practice.  These will be nutritious, low-sugar snacks that are put together by the HyVee Dietitian. Here are a few things to bring to practice every day:

  • Comfortable running shoes.
  • Water bottle 
  • A SMILE!  

Parents and caregivers are welcome to stay and run with the kids.  Parents with children under the age of 5 will be asked to stay in the area during practice.  

Please call or email me if you need anything throughout the season.  Now let’s have some fun!  

Julie Gibbs, Head Coach



About the Club

The Manhattan Cross Country Club was formed in Fall, 2004 to encourage age-appropriate distance running for youth as a means to lifetime fitness and health. The Club’s guiding philosophy is to promote good sportsmanship, respect for teammates and self, and a positive attitude toward self-improvement, confidence-building and goal-setting. All we care about is that kids give their best effort at whatever they do!

Our five-week program runs from the last week of August through September. The athlete-to-coach ratio is typically 7:1. We teach a curriculum that is primarily geared to non-competitive running, though we do offer a more competitive program for those youth who are physically and mentally ready to run a little more. Our guidelines are based on recommendations from the Road Runners Club of America, and USA Track and Field.  HyVee has been providing healthy snacks for EVERY PRACTICE for the last 3 years!  We appreciate their support!


The Club is non-profit. Youth pay a $10 ($12 if registering online) membership fee, which includes a six-week competitive or non-competitive running experience, and entry into the School Fitness Challenge. Each membership is valid for a year (usually beginning each August), including the opportunity to participate in such non-season events as weekly Group Runs, a New Years Day Fun Run and other fitness activities. Area road races often offer discounts for Club members.

Fifteen youth in grades 6-8 participated the first season, and the numbers grew to 36 youth in grades 3-8 in the second year. A new record was set in 2011, with 71 youth members, and 13 volunteer coaches, but just one day into the 2012 season, the record was again broken — 79 youth members and 15 volunteer coaches! By the time we finished the 2012 season, 107 kids had signed up.

Those numbers ballooned to 127 in 2013 and 132 in 2014!

In 2005, the Club initiated the Manhattan Youth Cross Country Festival. Co-sponsored by Youth as Resources, the Manhattan Optimists Club, and USA Track and Field, this event attracted 129 youth (ages 4-14) to Manhattan’s Northeast Community Park. In 2007, we moved the event to beautiful Warner Park in west Manhattan, and in 2008, changed the name to the Body First School Fitness Challenge, which in 2015, had 1,052 youth participating and awarded $12,000 to the physical education programs of local schools. Since 2008, the Body First School Fitness Challenge has provided $58,500 to area schools to support fitness and exercise through their physical education programs.  The next Body First School Fitness Challenge will be held in fall 2019.


Body First School Fitness Challenge

 The 2019 Body First School Fitness Challenge will be held on September 21, 2019 at 9:00 AM @ Anneberg Park!  Last year more than $10,000 was awarded to participating schools based on the students registered for the event. This year’s awards bring the 10-year total of funds to area schools to $90,000, made possible by the generous support of the title sponsor, Body First Health and Wellness, and many more local sponsors. Below is a summary of awards sent to each eligible school. For a breakdown of how the funds were awarded to each school, click on this file.


Amanda Arnold Elementary — $1,265
Bergman Elementary — $815
Bluemont Elementary — $665
Flint Hills Christian — $1265
Lee Elementary — $1015
Manhattan Catholic — $785
Marlatt Elementary — $1015
Northview Elementary — $665
St. George Elementary — $765
Theodore Roosevelt Elementary — $765
Wamego West Elementary — $385
Woodrow Wilson Elementary — $615

The mission of the Body First School Fitness Challenge is to provide support and money to K-8 schools in Manhattan and the surrounding area to assist with fitness-related activities or equipment. Children register through their school in the fall and choose which distance they would like to run. Schools are awarded money based on total number of students participating, and the percentage of students participating.

Though based in Manhattan, Kan., the club is open to all youth in grades 8 and under, regardless of where they live. The Club is governed by a Board of Directors and President, and is a member of the Road Runners Clubs of America.
Learn more about the Manhattan Cross Country Club on this site, or contact Pat Melgares at

What is ‘age-appropriate distance running’ ?

As a member of the Road Runners Club of America (RRCA), the Manhattan Cross Country Club has adopted the standards for the Kids Run the Nation program.

Ages 3-9
Encourage regular exercise, which might include organized running for fun.

Ages 8-12
Children may enjoy participation in a more organized running program with more systematic training that lasts 2-3 months.

Ages 12 (girls) and 14 (boys)
Youth at this age are undergoing key developmental changes. They can slowly increase training distance and duration, leading to higher levels of participation in a systematic and competitive training environment.

Additional guidelines for the Manhattan Cross Country Club

  • Make running fun
  • Focus on participation and self-improvement
  • Increase running workload gradually — consider such training factors as volume, intensity and frequency. Children should start a running program with low volume and intensity, and run just a couple days a week to begin.

When entering youth in races, consider distances that are appropriate:

  • For children 5-under, focus on “dash” events that range from a few yards to 400 meters
  • For children ages 5-11, Fun Runs of one-half to 1 mile are appropriate
  • For children ages 12-over, a 5K run is appropriate, given that they have received the necessary training for this distance
  • For children ages 15-18, a 10K or half-marathon event might be appropriate, with the appropriate training
  • The marathon distance (or farther) should not be attempted until at least age 18