by Sally Pont; Harcourt Brace, 1999

(reprinted from Nittany Valley Track Club Newsletter, May/June 1999)

      There has been plenty of elegant and interesting writing about boxing, baseball, and even golf.  But if you're a runner who reads, or a reader who runs, you've certainly noticed that running hasn't inspired much good literature.
       Well, help has arrived in the form of Sally Pont, who teaches English and coaches boys and girls cross-country at Moravian Academy -- a private school in Bethlehem. Ms. Pont, as the kids call her, has written a lovely and loving book about one season with her teams.
      Kirkus Reviews called the book "lyrical" and "touching."  I agree.  Like the Madeline Blais story of high school girls basketball (In These Girls, Hope is a Muscle), Finding Their Stride is, happily, NOT another typical, clunkily written sports book.  Instead, it is a thoughtful and caring story about a quirky group of interesting, bright kids, from the perspective of someone who happens to be their cross-country coach.
      By the way, there are a couple of Nittany Valley connections.  Sally Pont has an MFA in creative writing from Penn State, and her teams' ambition is to qualify for the state championships on the Penn State course.
     This is a wonderfully promising debut book, by a skilled young writer.  It's also a fine reminder of why high school cross-country is a terrific sport.

-- Mike Dooris