In the very competitive world of prep athletics, the Culver City High School cross-country program has managed to put together a competitive team while balancing a solid program and maintaining high academic standards. “We want to be competitive within our league, but we came to realize that the overwhelming majority of the kids and their families cared more about their grades, having fun and being involved in a positive team experience and being with their friends,” said long time head coach Tom Fritzius this week. “Coach Fritzius shifted our focus to address the needs of the student athlete in the cross-country program at Culver City high school,” said long time assistant coach Steven Heyl. “We emphasize becoming the best person you can be through the vehicle of cross country and distance running. The kids learn how to set and achieve realistic goals for themselves within the framework of the team. They can take those skills and apply them to their schoolwork and other interest.” The program tries to support the student athlete that have other interest like scouting and service groups at school and in the Culver City community. Those are just some of things that the athletes do in addition to running cross country. “We are especially proud of their academic achievements,” said Fritzius. “We stress the importance of consistent attention to studies. We think it helps because our kids are at the top of their classes grade wise. We have been blessed to work with some fantastic young people and their wonderful families. They have brought into our approach and their enthusiasm and energy has helped us to grow the program from 25 kids to over 100 student athletes.” One of the ways Fritzius and Heyl have used to generate interest in the program was to create a Summer Training Camp in Mammoth. What started out the summer program with 25 kids and four chaperones and it has grown into a weeklong event with over 45 kids and 12 chaperones. The camp helps with team bonding, goal setting and training. “It helps when you can explain to a young person that if you can run six miles at 9,000 feet all the other tough stuff in their lives can be managed,” said Heyl.