The secret of a national cross-country title? Fun. ^ North Carolina

When the NC State Football Team received a Bod Pod, a human-sized capsule that measures body composition, Henes thought it could be a great opportunity for their athletes, too. But she said, “We realized very quickly that we weren’t using the data and it wasn’t worth the data if someone has a tendency to have eating disorders or compare themselves to other people.” It was an easy decision, it no longer to be used.

Deliberately leaning away from data and toward a healthy, intentionally fun culture is unusual at such a high level of competition.

Instead, it’s more common to hear athletes describe what they call toxicity when it reaches a breaking point. In recent years, many runners have spoken out after reading about and acknowledging Mary Cain’s experience. Cain, a child prodigy once billed as the future of American distance running, described how for years she was mocked about her physique by Alberto Salazar, her former coach. In the months and years since Cain’s disclosure, runners across the US have shared their own similar experiences: fat talk, shaming and manipulation, harassment, and a mental health fixation on body composition numbers.

Creating a healthy, inclusive, and well-rounded culture is at the forefront of the NC State program. Brunch is served after long runs. There are competitive game nights and extremely violent mini-golf sessions. There are cooking competitions modeled on the TV show Chopped at the Hene household and dinners hosted by the high school students. There’s also plenty of basketball, although HORSE has been encouraged via one-on-one matches.

“Coach Henes definitely takes care of us as people before she takes care of us as athletes,” said Chmiel, who is studying to be a veterinarian. “We’ve been here for four years, she sees the ups and downs and sees that running is just a part of who we are and not who we are whole.”

As her athletes raced the 6-kilometer course in the state of Oklahoma on Saturday, Henes said she mostly avoided the path. Even cross-country runs with no timeouts can be overwhelming, she said. She found a place to give her runners the feedback she wanted and entrusted the rest to her training.

Tuohy, the title favorite, only wanted to know one thing as she walked past her coach. “Tell me the team standings 400 meters from the finish line,” Henes recalled Tuohy’s question.