At 11:59 p.m. Aug. 21, Central Kitsap High School’s cross country team began to lace up on a pitch black track.
At 12:01 a.m. Aug. 22, coach Jeremy Duplissey turned on the lights to the football field and track. Parents and kids begin to fill the track for the first cross country practice of the season.
“There is no physiological benefit of doing this at midnight,” Duplissey said. “It’s just the culture and expectations. We do something like this because we have high expectations. It’s the wow factor and shocker that the season started.”
The tradition began last season, Duplissey’s fourth as the Cougars coach. However, this idea has always been in the back of his mind.
“I started doing this at Clearwater High School in Florida during the 1986-87 season,” Duplissey said. “We were ranked 25th in the country, and our coach wanted to build us up publicly as the first team in the state of Florida to practice.”
When Duplissey told his Cougar squad last year about it, they were eager to start the tradition in Washington.
Duplissey said: “They were saying, ‘We gotta do that!’ I was skeptical about the parents accepting it because they got to get up and work the next day. The parents loved it, the athletic director was out watching it and participating. Now it’s expected.”
The practice was similar to a normal workout. The runners began with a few warmup exercises before doing a light run around the track. Afterward, they began working on certain tactics by running 400 meters, 800 meters and one mile. Afterward, they finished with a mile cool down around the track around 1:15 a.m.
As for the atmosphere, the runners loved every second. Despite changing their sleep schedule, they loved running under the lights for the first time in their lives.
Duplissey said: “It’s easier because it’s not hot, and you are under the lights. I played baseball growing up and the first time I played a night game, it was something special.”
In addition, the midnight practice allowed the runners to build a stronger bond. Some runners planned sleepovers afterward while others thought about how they were going to spend the rest of their day together.
Overall, Central Kitsap’s cross-country midnight practice was a successful shot in the dark. “These kids want to be around each other and get better,” Duplissey said. “Doing this workout embodies that culture.”