November 29, 2006 - Christopher Wunsch of Colombia, Md. can run the 6K in 26 minutes, 44 seconds. Christopher Wuensch of Tucson avoids running at all costs and only does so when being chased by a wild animal or a knife-wielding maniac.

But the latter Wuensch (rhymes with "lunch") has seen his share of cross country races and always wonders why some people cross the finish line looking as if they've barely broken a sweat, while others close out with a look of pure death on their faces?

It's among the many queries that dog the existence of those covering sports. Or at least they dig at me, so this fall sports season I set out to answer a few of those very questions.

Question No. 1: Why run only to collapse at the finish line?

What I do know is, when it comes to cross country, expect the occasional expectorate. The only other place other than the finish line at the state meet where you'll find more under-age people losing their lunch is probably at a fraternity house. It's a firm bet that here you'll find the infirm.

Yet one by one runners come in and collapse.

"I felt like puking but I just pushed it," said Mountain View High School's Marina Peterson, who cruised to the finished line of the state meet in 21 minutes, 34:55 seconds. "I was praying the whole time. I thought of my dad because he gave me a blessing before I went out."

Ironically, it was a cold that kept Peterson from running for the Mountain Lions last year when they won the Class 5A DII state title. So why not run when you're sick only to run yourself sick when you're healthy?

"I sort of feel like I have three speeds. First, it's the race-pace and then sprinting and then it's the afterburners. It's like 'I have to finish now, I'm almost there!' The faster I go the sooner I can finish."

Peterson breezed into the finish and earned herself 18th place.

"It's pure relief. You get so nervous beforehand, afterward you're in a good mood for no reason."

Keeping your cookies is reason enough for me to be happy.

Question two: Can swimmers hear their coaches and teammates yelling at them while in the water?

You see them at every swim meet, the excited teammates throwing a fit on sidelines in the name of encouragement. For this answer, we pose the question to Ellie Doran of Catalina Foothills High School.

"When you take a breath you can hear them, well, usually it's like a blare of sound," said Doran, who is spending her off season deciding between colleges such as the University of Arizona and the University of Texas to continue her swimming career. "You can't really distinguish it but sometimes I can here Roric (Fink, head coach Tucson Ford Aquatic). When you're doing breaststroke you can hear the people but not in the freestyle. You can't hear them."

Perhaps not being able to hear is a good thing. Doran set the Class 4A DI record in the 500-yard freestyle at the state meet on Oct. 28 at Arizona State University with a time of 4 minutes, 48.5 seconds.

Finally, question No. 3: How badly does people talking on your backswing affect your golf shot?

We've seen this one affect everyone from high school golfers to Tiger Woods. But how bad is it? After all, shouldn't a good golfer worth his driver be able to tune out any incessant chatter or noise?

"If you're incredibly focused, then no," said Kate McHugh a former Catalina Foothills golf star at Dell Urich Golf Course to watch this year's Falcons - including her sister Lauren - win the Class 4A state team title.

"But if you're at all vulnerable, it's going to destroy you.

But talking on the backswing isn't McHugh's biggest pet peeve.

"I would say that people, not necessarily talking or moving on your backswing, but while you're putting and they're standing in your line or moving in your peripheral vision while you're on the putting green.

"Also people that stand too close to you, it gets old. You don't want to be bossy but people that talk incessantly to you while you're walking and you just want to think about your game bothered me," said McHugh who led the Falcons to its first state title in 2004.

"Usually it's the girls that are just starting, you can't be rude, but you either walk way far away from them or avoid them."

McHugh has since retired from competitive golf so the only nuisances on the golf course these days are friends and family members.

With the winter sport season upon us, the questions are already beginning to mount. Is limelight green? How badly does the "air ball" chant affect your game?

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