Kids in middle school have a hard time dealing with absolute time differences as opposed to relative time difference. So they feel better losing by 5-8 secs than they do by 2+ minutes. I struggled with this last year, but the big problem is this girl sprints the last 50m of the race pretty well. She needed to do more distance running in practice. On my XC team for middle school a girl with a 12:15 1 1/4 mile TT improved from 19:45 minutes in her first meet to 15:30 for 2 miles which is respectable for a 7th grader, because I worked her up to 20 miles a week before I started cutting back.
Trust me on this one, my niece was not coached at all this season and it showed that she did not train either. In fact the coach’s reply to one of my niece’s friend about “How do I use starting blocks?” was “You figure it out.” I know the coach, and many parents keep asking about what they should do. My only reply to them is find a track club, preferably the one I work at :). There are 3 within 30 minutes of my hometown.