During their three-day stay at Pickett State Park in Jamestown, Tenn., the members of the Vanderbilt cross country team were able to check off everything on their to-do list.
Miles were logged. S'mores were cooked. And team chemistry was enhanced.
The fact that the weather was ideal for running also enhanced the experience for the Commodores as they geared up for their first meet of the season, the Belmont Opener on Aug. 29.
"Out of the all team camps, I felt the training aspect of this one was by far the best we have had," said assistant coach Rhonda Riley. "The team got in some good mileage, and the cohesiveness of the group was great."
Over the next few days, vucommodores.com will recap the camp with a series of videos. Today's footage focuses on the most rigorous part of camp: Running the hilly terrain. Head coach Steve Keith can be spotted running with the team in one clip as the Commodores are shown navigating the trails throughout the sprawling state park.
Vanderbilt's Vanessa Valentine said the courses were challenging, but said she and her teammates didn't mind the work.
I" enjoyed running the two routes," said Valentine, a junior. "We have hills here (in Nashville), but the hills (at camp) were very steep. So we definitely got some good miles in. … And I think it really just rejuvenated our excitement for the season. After running alone all summer, it was great to get back together … and get re-aquatinted with your teammates."
Riley said this year's camp had a little different twist, as the Vanderbilt seniors were given a more hands-on role.
"The seniors have gone through three camps (previously) with us, so we really let them have a leadership role in terms of picking the activities and things like that," Riley said. "And to me, giving them that ownership was what really made the camp so successful."
Unlike some years, the weather was fully cooperative with the Commodores this year, with pleasant temperatures during the day and almost-fall like temperatures in the evening.
"It was perfect running weather," said Valentine. "After being in 90 degree weather all summer, it seemed almost cold. We definitely got some good use out of our Commodore cross country sweatshirts at night."
Valentine said she and her teammates always look forward to camp, both in regard to the training and the down time.
"I think when most people think of a team camp, they think of football camp -- and (they visualize) just grinding away the whole time. Cross country camp is a little bit different; it's a little bit more laid back," she said. "But still, there is work involved. You can imagine what happens when you bring 15 Division I runners together. We definitely start pushing the pace."
Riley said she believes that camp, as a whole, was beneficial for the Commodores.
"It was a great way to get the season started out of the right foot," Riley added with a smile.
XC camp video -- part 1