Week two of racing, and week two of this coach smiling ear to ear!
Our day started EARLY with a 5:30 bus. Thankfully the drive was quicker than expected, and the new facilities at Rockford Auburn were outstanding. Their 200 meter, 6-lane around, 8-lane straight, Mondo track stood in stark contrast to Wheeling's tiny 150 meter version the week before. Thankfully, all of our runners came away with something good from the day, whether it was a gritty lesson or a PR or both.
Our 4X800 got things started on the track, and they did it as a team. I adjusted our seed time slightly to account for Marisa's open time the week before, so we were ranked 3rd before the race. I knew it it would be a fast one, though, and I was not wrong. Kelsey started us out right with a smart first leg. I really enjoy watching her smart decision making as the race unfolds. She let the leaders go out hard for the first 200, keeping them in view. On her second lap, she started reeling them in with confidence. By the hand off, Kelsey had brought us near first; unfortunately, the official did not put Audrey in the right spot, and our exchange was a bit rough as a result. Thankfully, Kelsey and Audrey did not let it deter them. Kelsey ran a pretty even race: 37, 38, 39, 40 for an SPR of 2:34. Even though her splits get slightly slower, she was slowing down much less significantly than the competition around her. Nice work, Kels! Audrey got out HARD for her first lap, dropping a speedy 35 for the first lap. She stayed pretty even after that first one--38, 39, 39 to end with an LPR of 2:31 and our fastest split of the relay. Her aggressive moves put us in first at the hand off--impressive work, Aud! She looked fresh moments after the handoff, so I know that she will drop out of the 30s very soon in this event, which is exciting to see! Marisa was our third leg, earning the spot after an impressive open 800 the week before at Wheeling. :) She got out well and battled some impressive competition, tucking in to draft off of some other runners. A few girls got the best of her, but they are from schools who are on their 5th or 6th meet by now. I was impressed by Marisa's grit--she never let anyone go easily, and she ran a new LPR with that grit. Her splits show that she paid for a speedy start: 36, 40, 43, 44. Let me be clear--that speedy start is perfect. Although it was difficult to deal with during the race, that "race shock" is now in her system. The next time she goes out that fast, her body will be better able to deal with the lactate, and her splits will show it. It is tough to get that same effect in training, but race conditions provide that adrenaline and boost to improve performance. That effect, coupled with Marisa's stronger, sophomore mindset will help her to keep peeling off time! She earned a 2:43 today, a 4 second improvement over her previous LPR. Nice work! :) Marisa handed off to Maya, who ran a nice SPR of 2:34. Maya was in a tricky position: despite Marisa's great effort, there was a gap between Maya and the lead group. Although she was able to close the gap a bit, she did not have anyone to work with to move up our position. Post-race, she said she did not feel as good as last week, despite the faster time. We talked about the strategy of going out slightly faster to get a visual on the next racer, then using the next laps to reel in that person. That's a tough move to make in our second meet, but I know that Maya's confidence will continue to grow, as will her fitness. In the meantime, she ran a strong race: 37, 39, 38, 40. She also was the only other relay member to compete in 3 events, so her SPR is even more impressive! Overall, this unit looked SMOOTH and competitive, and I was tickled pink to see their new relay PR of 10:22. Whew! That's a nice time to have this early in March! In 2018, we ran 10:25 at Carthage (2 weeks later in the season); prior to that, I can't remember a relay in the 10s indoors. I'm excited to see where this relay goes this season!
While the relay was going, Jenna took her jumps at 4' and learned that she needs some practice this week to work on being patient about the phases of her jump. The good news is that she identified the problem immediately, and we can hopefully work on it this week outdoors. Audrey, in her own words, did not have a good high jump day. She was not happy with her jumps, even after I pointed out that she had to do them post-4X800. These two, perhaps with the addition of Kelly, will work on technique this week with Coach White. I am proud of Audrey and Jenna for working on the event at meets since our facilities do not allow for indoor practice. I'm impressed that Kelly wants to give it a try, too--this mindset is what helps our overall team get stronger! Shout out to Raven for sharing the same mentality about the long jump. She gave it a shot today to help our team! Now we just need some other women to step forward for hurdles and triple jump. Who is game?
the 3200 was our next event. In addition to racing in a great facility, I also had the opportunity to put THREE racers in each open event! Aubrianna was in the first heat. The day before the race, I asked her about her thoughts on racing the 32, and she said she was excited to get the chance to race. Talk about the right mindset! Pre-race, she looked cool as a cucumber, and she looked equally relaxed during the race. She worked hard to stay open and race the people around her. I was impressed by her first mile split of 7:23--almost a minute faster than her last time trial--and her focus in the second half of the race. There was a girl who sat on her for sever laps, and Aubrianna listened and surged every time I asked her to. Unfortunately, she kicked a lap early (that's my bad--I didn't make it clear to her where she was in the race), and she thought she was done. To her credit, she got back on the track and finished her last lap once Crizaber alerted her to the mistake. Her overall time suffered a bit due to the mix-up, but I'm not worried about that mark. The important takeaway is that Aubrianna took a chance to race and she rose to the occasion! Proud of you, Aubri! :) Karen and Nat were in the second heat, and I was excited to see them work! They both got out well, with Nat taking the lead after the first 400. She ran a smart race, using the people around her to push herself throughout. She did a great job of responding to instructions to surge, and her form looked smooth throughout. Her first mile split of 6:41 beats her time trial by almost 30 seconds, showing her race-grit! Her second mile fell off a bit (7:16), but our mission was accomplished. I wanted her to get some strength work in during this race, and she stepped up to that challenge! My one tip for her is in her second mile. Check out her lap splits: 53, 56, 55, 56, 56, 55, 55, 50. Clearly she was stuck in a comfort zone. Indoor tracks trick us into feeling that the race is longer than it is, especially when it comes to a kick. You can see that she did not drop down until that last 200 rather than going earlier. That's one way she could shave down some time. Otherwise, I was impressed with her 3200 debut--nice work, Nat! Karen had a strong first half, too, coming through the first mile in 7:08, nearly 20 seconds faster than her time trial. :) She got into a weird pattern in the second half: 58, 59, 57, 60, 55, 57, 61, 55. Unlike Nat who got into a comfortable stop and stuck, Karen's fluctuations point to a different issue. Clearly she is fit enough to run 55-56 per lap, but her head was not in that space. She admitted post-race that her mindset kept spinning between panic and confidence. What I loved was that she kept trying to refocus, pulling on girls who were coming up on her, and refusing to give up. Although I know the final time is not what she wanted, I see some tremendous growth in this race. Last year, when things did not go as expected, she would check out. In this race, she kept trying to fix her race, and the times show it. This kind of early season growth is important to putting together a full race of confidence. I know that Karen will put it together when she races 3200 at Carthage in a few weeks! Overall, this group showed grit in what I would argue is the toughest indoor race.
Our 800 crew of Kelly, Angie, and Naiomi were all in the same heat. In the bullpen, they seemed pretty relaxed and ready to go. For Angie and Naiomi, it was the first race of the season, so I was excited to see what the could do. When the gun sounded, Kelly and Angie went out together with Naiomi only a step behind. In the second lap, Kelly opened up and started to pull away with the lead group. She came through the 400 in 88 and moved up to second in the third lap. She had a great kick, running her fastest lap last: 43, 45, 49, 40. This shows me that she can spread out that energy more efficiently throughout the race in order to keep dropping time. That being said, she ran a great race, driving home and challenging for first place. She is officially in the 2-club, dropping 6 seconds from last week to end in a new LPR of 2:57. Kelly is just going to keep getting smarter and faster this season; I'm proud of her grit and willingness to take racing risks! Angie was close to Kelly at the 40, coming through in 92. She struggled a bit in the 3rd lap (it IS the toughest section of the race), but her veteran experience helped her to shift gears for that last lap to finish strong (53, 49). Although I know Angie would like a faster overall time (3:14), I am happy with her effort based on her training so far. I know her knee has not been cooperative, but she has been pushing through it every day. Based on her time trial data, a 3:14 is impressive for this part of the season. I know that she will get that 3rd 200 down and feel more comfortable making mid-race moves. I am also really happy with how her form looked (my pictures are all blurry, or I'd show you all). Her arms looked great, and her turnover was good. NIce work, Angie! Finally, Naiomi made her track debut in this race. Based on her work in the fall in winter, I believe that the 800 will be her race. Today was a chance to learn about this distance in a race, and to challenge herself. When I first told her about the opportunity, she was scared. After we talked, she worked on her mindset and was ready at race time. Like Angie, she struggled in the 3rd lap. That is not a surprise after her speedy first 400: 93. She did bounce back in the last lap to kick more (55, 51). Post-race, she talked about having more faith in herself to go fast...that she can always do more. I love that kind of talk, and I know she will work to do so in the next racing opportunity! Proud of all of the grit from this group!
Our last distance race was the mile. At this point, the meet was behind schedule, but our milers were ready. This was Julien's second race at this distance, and Delilah and Ashley's first races of the season. In the bullpen, the trio looked ready to rock. At the gun, all three bees got out well, with Julien leading the charge. Her first 400 was peppy--87--and she was sitting in with the leaders at this point. I liked that gutsy move! Her second 400 was still solid in 1:45, but this is definitely a section she can work on; with a smaller drop between 1 & 2, she can keep shaving time off her finish. Her third was close in 1:45. Her last 400 was only 1:44, and this is another place where she can shave time. As she gets stronger with tougher workouts, Julien will be able to have more faith in her kick. All that being said, Julien ran a great race, shaving another 3 seconds off of her LPR! What I loved about Julien's race is her grit. She has been working through a sore Achilles this week, and she has been proactive (learning to KT tape herself from YouTube as well as icing) and smart all week. She looked great racing, and I am proud of her new LPR! Delilah was our second finisher (96, 1:50, 1:51, 1:45) with a SPR of 7:02, only two ticks away from her lifetime! This race was a whopping 45 seconds faster than her time trial, which is an awesome improvement. If you look at her splits, you can see that she got out well, and can work on those middle 400s to break 7. Her last 400 looked strong as she worked to kick hard in the last 200 specifically. More importantly, I think Delilah learned an important lesson post-race. She saw her time smiled big, and then explained that she did not feel like she was going that fast. This is a great example of not trusting one's fitness. Delilah--you have a strong XC season under your belt, as well as several seasons of training. In your first meet of the season, you nearly broke your PR. You. Are. Strong. Y punto! ;) Keep reminding yourself that you are an upperclasswoman now, and you are ready to shine! :) Ashley's race holds a similar story: 99, 1:52, 1:59, 2:02. Clearly, she got out well, but those last two 400s are where she should focus in future races. Her form looked great throughout the race, but she definitely needs to think about her kick, especially in the second half of workouts and post-run strides. That all being said, she ran an LPR like Julien, earning a new time to beat of 7:32. She shaved off 23 seconds from our time trial, even though she did not feel good during the race. Like Delilah, she was shocked by her finish time. Her race also holds an important lesson: never write off a race if you are not feeling great. As a matter of fact, if you check out Aliphine Tuliamuk's Twitter thread (@aliphinetuliamu) about winning the US Marathon trials, she talks about that same concept. She woke up on race day feeling tired with a sore quad/hip. She was worried she would not race well, and continued to think that through several miles. She kept reminding herself that she was fit and that she just needed to give herself a chance. Ashley did the same in her race--I saw her take my advice every lap, and she earned that LPR while not feeling her best. What a great lesson and great race!
I cannot finish this blog without talking about the poppin' 4X400. What a difference a year makes! Kaylah was our lead leg, and she looked HUNGRY. She got out hard and hunted people down. Her split of 64 was impressive (31,33) because she finished strong while her competitors started to flag. She handed off to Riley, who is still recovering from bronchitis. Riley was simply clutch, fighting off a tough competitor who tried to pass her on the inside repeatedly. (Quick note--NEVER let anyone pass you on the inside. Make sure you protect that inside line!). She handed off the baton to Maya, who is just a joy to watch in the 400. She looked so strong, running even splits (32, 32) to finish with a sweet time of 64. This relay can sneak out another second by working on handoffs--Aja did not move enough when Maya came in. A fluid and fast handoff allows the relay to shave time, and this handoff is definitely a good spot to do so. That being said, Aja looked amazing in her leg, expanding the lead that Maya had already grown. At this point, Aja was fighting the clock, trying to beat the upcoming heat. The relay finished in 4:17.2, missing a medal by one second. They beat two teams from the hot heat, and this new mark will likely get them into a faster heat when we head to Carthage in two weeks. It was fun to watch these four fight for each other. If we can bottle that energy and let it fuel every member of the team, this will continue to be a really fun season!
Overall, the day was long due to the number of schools (and the pokiness of the shot put officials), but it didn't feel that way watching these awesome performances. We will definitely be back to this meet next year. In the meantime, congrats to everyone on an impressive and fun to watch day! :)
For this week, we need to work on a few things:
1. Grades. The report that gets pulled on Wednesday is OFFICIAL. If you have an F this week, you will have to do study sessions. If your GPA is below 2.0 for the week, you will have to do study sessions. You are a student-athlete, so learning must come first! You are blessed with a team of great learners, so please ask me or a teammate if you need help with studying or an assignment. Let's make it so that the Distance Crew's names are NOT on the eligibility list. Bueno?
2. Health. You cannot escape stories about Coronavirus. The best way to avoid getting sick from this bug (or any of the others that have already shown their nasty faces in our school) is to have a 4-pronged attack: stay on your sleep schedule of at least 8 hours a night; wash your hands, especially before eating or touching your face; work on getting a balanced diet (which we will discuss more this week); and keep getting that sun exposure and fresh air! These little habits add up to a stronger body.
3. Mindset. We have had a bunch of Thought of the Day presenters who have eloquently discussed this concept, but we need to work on it in practice so that it comes naturally in stressful situations like races, tests, and life itself. Let's go!
Before I sign out, today is International Women's Day. This day exists to promote equality and to celebrate the efforts of our foremothers in all areas that have made our lives easier today. On this day, I cannot help but think about your generation, and how powerful you all are. Of course you are strong physically--you prove that in workouts and in meets each week. But your true power comes from your support of one another. I see your genuine joy as you watch each other shine. I see you elevate one another with a smile or a pat on the back or a "I see you" during Thought of the Day. Keep that collective mindset. Keep that joy for others. Keep that giving because we are stronger together: empowered women empower women! Thank you for making my job so easy! :)