Aris has a version of a formula that is powerful.
In Illinois, many of the powerhouse teams like Naperville North (girls), York, Nequa Valley, Palatime and Yorkville have lots of junior high kids in their summer programs.
At York, there's 400 plus boys and girls in grade school running in the Kern camp. When it was Newton's camp, there was far fewer jh boys and very few girls. The boys who ran with Newton around were already in the pipeline, soaking up the York sun and preparing to be good. Preparing because few of them were outstanding until they got the full York treatment of hard, hard work and coaching by a motivational genius.
In Elmhurst, there are running clubs in just about every junior lhigh. The kids will run at lunch or before school with no goal for competition. It's amazing how many kids are in these programs. The two Catholic primary schools have very large and successful track and cross programs. On both the girl and boy side, there are probably 200 kids + each gender in EVERY incoming class who have run at least recreationally. Even with that, York's boys were 16th this year and girls made it downstate for only the first time in several years. It takes more than numbers and a pipeline.
Of the programs listed above, Yorkville has the best girls' feeder. Every year, their girls team can restock with freshmen. And not just with a single kid or two, but they have had as many as 6 kids walk in the door having run under 12:30 for two miles in cross in grade school. Yorkville won the girls state championship in the Class AA (middle enrollment division) 6 years in a row. Before the current coach got there a few years before that, they were absolutely awful, lucky to have 5 to compete, maybe get a single kid under 20 min for three miles.
A few years ago, Yorkville won state and the next year started the season with their top five scorers as freshmen. You can understand that when a program can even slide in two kids into a top notch varsity program each year, you're going to be a contender. Aris not only can usually slide in a freshman or two each year, he can train the kids who are ready to compete with his varsity kids. And with girls, there's usually a 7th or 8th grader who can do that, although according to this thread not this year.
Yorkville just moved up to the big division as the exurbs grow, but they still are close to FM's size. They were around 1500-1600 for most of their title run and are now around 1700. They have one middle school on the same campus. Every kid from that middle school feeds into Yorkville High School. The varsity coach has a great deal of input in the junior high program, which has huge numbers. And therein lies one of their keys to winning.
The linchpin to Yorkville's girls success is that an enormous percentage of girls do track and/or cross in grade school. When other top athletes at other schools are being shackled into the club volleyball/ basketball/ softball etc pipelines, Yorkville's got the good athletes playing track as well.
And that's how they run the junior high program. They work, but it feels like play. The junior high coach is very popular. Kids who at other schools would never touch running have joined the team, liked it, and entered the Yorkville varsity pipeline.
The difference is that Aris has figured out every component of running success. And quite frankly, even though the Yorkville program does big miles (Sunday long run of 12 miles), the coach is fairly relaxed. They have a smart program, just not all encompassing.
Aris says that he is an "all in" kind of guy, and spends most of his day figuring out every aspect of every part of the program. He said his wife is a well paid health care professional and he can afford to be obsessed. He said that he likes to individualize workouts, and had time to do that.
For the edification of other coaches who haven't heard him talk, here's some of his main points. (Don't go hear him talk expecting workout specifics. It's a secret.)
1. Get iron, sleep and diet right. Without those, no method of training will have great effect. Sounds simple, but it's astounding how many programs and how many girls suffer by not ever putting any emphasis on these at all.
2. The Stotan philosophy. Wherever you see a good program, they usually have a philosophy that combines hard work with self sacrifice for the good of the team. Aris found something unique, fun and motivating.
3. Train all year with the same philosophy. He goes for strength, in the weight room and in workouts. He says he is almost never on the track and is not focused on track success, even though he said his girls team could break 9 in the 4 X 8 running just strength. When I heard him talk about 7 years ago, he said his top girls did around 50-55 miles per week, but there were kids slightly above and many below that number.
New York allows them access to the kids all year. The Saratoga coaches practice 365 days a year. When the wife spoke at an Illinois clinic about ten years ago, she said it was hard for them to travel because they were anxious not to leave their kids alone for a couple days. I thought she meant she had toddlers at home, but they have no kids. She meant their runners.
Most states don't allow anywhere near this much contact. But you can use track, cross and summer to make a more coherent, unified path for running progression.
4. Aris expects them to be like him - all in. There are no cuts, but the team is small because that kind of dedication is not for everyone.
A similar philosophy from the other end would be the Stillwater program. That guy runs basically the same miler based workouts even in cross. They can finish a 5k well, but just barely.
5. NXN is the goal. For most teams, it's icing on the cake. National post season meets are not about getting better, but who slides back the least.