When I was in high school, my coach would preach that it is one thing to dream big about running, but it is another to stay awake and achieve it. Of course I understood the literal meaning of these words, but I never understood how time sensitive they were until I was a senior. The summer before my senior year, time suddenly felt more precious, more fleeting. And as I have gotten older, I realize just how fluid time feels. As a child, the month leading up to Christmas felt like an eternity. Waiting and hoping for Santa's bounty made each day feel like forever. Now, and even more poignantly during 2020, time feels faster. Days and weeks fly by, and suddenly, it's the day before November, and we are at the starting line of Sectionals.
Why do I bring up time? Because this group of seven today simultaneously cared and disregarded time. After tracking PRs all season and taking splits in workouts and worrying about minutes and seconds every day, today, this group simply raced. It was a gorgeous thing to watch. For those of you who did not get a chance to witness it, here's some quick set up. Since individuals AND teams advance from the regional to the sectional, the host had to figure out a safe and fair set up for the flights. As a result, the flights from last week were blown up. The first three runners each had their own flights, and the individual qualifiers (like Grant's Aly Negovetich) were mixed in across these three flights according to their times from the regionals. What did that mean for us? Our top three would toe the line solo for each of their races.
Audrey was in the first flight, and I'd like to offer some context for that decision. Audrey has been running REALLY well in the last few weeks (I'm sure you all know this). I debated about whether Kelsey or Audrey should take on that first flight, and based on their recent performances, I landed on Audrey. What I did not think through--not until I watched the race unfold--was their racing styles. Even though Audrey has been ahead of Kelsey recently, she also has a very aggressive style, especially in the first mile. I love that about her. She looks fearless as she attacks the race, and I don't want to reel in that competitive edge too much because it is--frankly--very hard to teach. The problem is that I also knew that this was the last stop of the season, and the leaders of her heat would not hold back at all; the title of Sectional Champ was an important one for many of the top girls in that flight, and with no State Meet this year (stupid 2020), they, too, would be aggressive from the gun. These two truths collided, and Audrey's second half of her race suffered as a result. I was not at the mile marker, but the LZ coach told me that the front of the pack was around 5:25 for the first mile. Whew! That is incredible! Now let's look at how training works and can affect you in a race. Audrey's current mile PR is 5:34 I believe. She was not right on the leader's shoulder, but she was definitely within 10 seconds of Negovetich. If she starts her 3 mile race at the same pace as her mile PR, that's a problem. Logically, she is not going to be able to hang onto that pace for the remaining two miles. And there my mistake lies. I should have talked with Audrey about backing off for that first mile. She did a great job of that at Grant the week before, and she was able to attack mile 2 & 3 feeling confident. Instead, she went with the pack this week, and then suffered in the second half. Audrey--I'm so sorry I didn't coach you right for that race! Let's focus on the good stuff now, though. First, that courage that Audrey has building all season showed itself in that first mile. She was running with every other team's number one runner, plus all the fastest individuals. She did not let those facts intimidate her (well, at least that I could see). She believed in herself, and went and made a race of it. :) Second, even though she was in trouble pace-wise, I never saw her quit mentally. Every time she went by, Audrey looked locked in and was pushing to use the energy of the racers around her. Finally, she definitely heeded my advice about beginning her kick at the 400, and she pushed hard in the final stretch. This race is going to be a great teaching tool as she gets stronger this spring, and by next fall, I know that she will be ready to hang with those girls at the sectional. Until then, my other thought about Audrey is that I know that she is hard on herself. She did not let herself pout after the race; instead, she went to the corner of the course where it was quieter, and cheered for Kelsey. That says a lot about her character and about the future of our team. I'm proud of you for a great season and for your day from start to finish on Saturday. :)
I try not to get fooled twice, so I was ready to help Kelsey as she prepared for her race. Kelsey much prefers a more conservative start and to "grow" into the race, and we agreed that that strategy would definitely be wise today. As her flight made the first turn to the back stretch, I could see her pink sleeves near the back of the pack. With only 20 people in each flight, she was not far from the leaders, but she was playing it smart, starting in 19th place. In each successive loop, Kelsey reeled in girls with a smile on her face. It was so much fun to watch her just eat. Each time she passed (the course was 4 loops), I counted her place, and watched her move up: 17th, 15th, 10th. This woman has been working so hard for four years; she has learned strategy, overcome injuries, faced a whole pandemic, and has done it all with a growth mindset. This race embodied all of those experiences for sure. By the last 400, I was going out of my mind--could she crack the top 10 of her flight? In past weeks, Kelsey's one weakness was that she just did not have much of a kick after her injury layoff. Not today. At the 400, I saw her dig in and start shifting. By the time she whipped off the final turn, she was gunning for one more girl to finish the race in 9th place. As she cleared the finish corral, she just smiled about what she knew was a great race. I was SO pumped to see the next race!
Maya has been "stuck" racing-wise. She has looked solid for weeks, helping our team place well at Conference as well as at Regionals. But I know she was not satisfied with her recent races; more than anything, I wanted her to feel proud when she crossed the line today. We talked about Kelsey's strategy, and Maya was on board. When the gun sounded, she was looking strong and ready near the back of the pack. I don't want to say that she copied Kelsey's race, but...yeah, she did. Lap after lap, Maya hunted runners down and looked so incredibly strong as she passed each one. This is by far Maya's best race of the season. Not only did she pass a mess of people (I'm going to be honest--I was SO hyped by this point in the meet, that I couldn't count accurately. I'm pretty sure she caught at least 7 girls), but she looked confident and proud as she did it. Whew! You know that THAT is what I want: for each of you to run your race while knowing your POWER. Maya's race summed that up, from start to finish. What a great way to wrap up a 4-year career! So proud of you, Maya!
The next flight no longer featured individuals, so we were able to have some bees race together. Marisa and Riley were up to round out our scoring 5. By the time they arrived at the line, my smile could not be contained by my mask. ;) Between my cheesy self and the positive energy from Kelsey, Maya, and Audrey, these girls had no choice but to rise to the occasion. And like all season, they did. At the gun, our two took off looking strong and wise. On the back of the first loop, they were working in tandem, ready to start making moves. By the next loop, Marisa had made a big move, pushing up to the next pack. Unlike the previous races, this flight really spread out fast, so Marisa had some work to do to catch people. She did a great job of using the wind at her back along the school section to challenge other runners. Riley was doing the same, battling a girl from Libertyville and working to close the gap to Marissa. By the last loop, I could see that both Marisa and Riley were having incredible races like their teammates before them. In the final 400, Marisa looked amazing as she shifted gears. She nearly matched her time from the week before (although different in their challenges, these courses are similar time-wise), underscoring her awesome effort. With about 600 to go, Riley pointed to her abs, and I knew that she was cramping a bit. I reminded her that she was almost to the 400, and that she knew she could go to her kick no matter how she was feeling. In a moment of BA awesomeness, she simply nodded her head and pushed through the pain. Like Marisa, her time was within seconds of her Regional performance. These two have just been rock solid all season. That kind of consistency makes me so optimistic about next season!
Our final race of the day featured Lesly and Jenna. If you were paying attention, you know that Katelin raced for us last week, helping us advance to Sectionals. Unfortunately, her knee/shin kept getting worse all week, despite her efforts to get it to calm down. In a unselfish and mature move, Katelin talked with me Friday morning, telling me that she thought it would be better for Jenna to get the chance to race. This sophomore sacrificed her chance to race in order to put someone else (specifically, a senior) into that spot to give our team the best chance to do well. Whew. Again--that kind of mindset makes me wildly excited about next year's team. ;) Ok, so to Lesly and Jenna's races. These two felt the joy of their teammates and, despite a 10 minute race delay, were ready to compete when the gun sounded. Like their sisters before them, the went out smart, and then got to work competing. This race was the most spread out of the day, so these two had to be mentally tough to catch their competitors, but they did just that. Despite dealing with the windiest conditions of the day, Lesly got out well and battled a tough girl from Rolling Meadows. Jenna, able to see Lesly's sleeves, kept working to move up throughout the race. By the final loop, each bee had caught at least four girls, following the trend of the day of second-half strength. In the final 400, Lesly started gearing up in a final attempt at the Rolling Meadows girl. Her kick was strong, but Jenna's was definitely the stand out of the day. She shifted at each turn, and nearly caught Lesly in the final steps of the race. After they left the corral, I was all smiles. Lesly seemed to doubt what she had just accomplished, but now that I look at the stats, it's important to note that she is the only bee who dropped significant time compared to her performance at Grant's course (nearly 20 seconds). That is saying something on this course. Sure, it's not hilly like Grant's course, but it is really twisty, making momentum a difficult thing to find. Awesome work on this course, Lesly!
Overall, our team was courageous, wise, and strong today. That combination put us in 12th place in the team standings, moving us up two places over last year's 14th place. Nice work, team! More importantly, this group finished the season with grit. Whether any of these women ever run another step after graduation, that grit will serve them well in our difficult world. After we ate, laughed at the park, and then boarded the bus, I had the same feeling I have had ALL SEASON: contentedness. That is a great feeling to have as a coach; it means that the workouts and lessons and all the in between clicked...it means that the team found a way to make lemonade despite some sour ingredients (looking at you, 2020)...and really, that's all I ever want.
A few other notes about the day:
Special thanks to the Luell family for bringing us post-lunch sweets. They were delicious, and they allowed us to properly celebrate the day! Thank you for thinking of us and for your generosity! Special thanks also to the Hamilton family for the great idea to have a picnic at the park post-race. It was a welcome moment to breathe in the greatness of the day and just smile. Thanks for also setting up the hand-washing station and for bringing the beautiful flowers for the seniors and me. It was such a thoughtful and much appreciated gesture. They are brightening my counter right now!
And speaking of brightening--I have to give shout outs to Jenni, Ixa, Keeley, Julien, Illyana, Zac, and Marcos for making the trip down to Hoffman Estates to cheer on their bees. After the race, I was talking with Fray about that crew, and he said, "I was near them a lot during the day, so I really got a chance to talk with them...more than at a regular practice or meet. It was just so refreshing and pure to see how they talk about one another. They genuinely love each other, and it's so pure." (I'm not crying; you're crying). I think that's why I have felt so content this season. All that you have done all season has been grounded in love, and that is a mighty powerful position. A virus cannot stop love. An injury cannot stop love. A bad race cannot stop love. So I'll end with a conversation I had with the Lake Zurich girls' coach at the meet. He was telling me how much he likes our conference (he coached at Deerfield for a long time, and just switched to LZ during track in the spring) and his team, but that he was shocked by the pay drop. I gave him the "Poor me" look and invited him to check out Zion's pay scale. And then I stopped myself. I was participating in a discussion that I didn't believe in at all. This season was all the payment I needed. I cannot tell you how many times I came home this fall and said to my husband, "I cannot believe I get paid to coach these kids." Honestly, this season has been a joy, and I cannot thank you all enough for beelieving. ;)
I am READY for winter goals and spring fun! LET'S GO!
I'm not going to lie; after how well everyone raced at Conference, I was a briefly worried that we would experience a let down this week. But as I watched this group of eight practice all week, I realized that this group does not back down. Aside from this race, there were so man highlights this week: the ladder workout where the eight seemed to simply float with ease through each interval; or the light feeling I experienced as this group played at a new park and laughed as they ran along the beauty of Beulah's leaves. Last year, I was so nervous on the starting line at the Regional at Lake Forest; I knew what that team could do, but I didn't feel 100% confident that we would make it through to the Sectional as a team. Perhaps it was because it had been so long, but this year, the energy was different. Maybe it was because there were flights, but likely, it's because of the confidence this team has built all season.
The race was in three flights, and the first featured our top three. Fitted in black and pink and looking simply fierce, Audrey, Kelsey, and Maya took off with the gun. Taking my advice, Audrey ran a controlled first mile with Kelsey with Maya in sight behind the two of them. Heading into the second mile, Audrey opened up and started chasing the others who went out too fast. She kept growing in confidence in the race, looking fierce with her laser-focused eyes. I could tell that she would break the top five of the race, and she did. With an impressive second half, she pulled into 4th, earning All-Regional honors for the first time in her career. On a day where places mattered much more than times, Audrey set the table for our mission to earn another week of XC. Kelsey had a similar arc in her race. After working well with Audrey in the first half, Kelsey kept working the woods and pulling on Audrey's lead. To be honest, my only real worry of the day was whether or not her leg would handle going up Grant's hill every time. I was stoked to watch her drive up with great form and continue to catch others around the softball fields. This performance was even stronger than her sharpness at Conference. The difference between the courses is between 20-30 seconds, and Kelsey's impressive 9th place with a time of 19:20 illustrates how hard she worked. This one-two punch of Audrey and Kelsey had me feeling really good about our chances as a team. They beat many teams' #1 and #2, putting us in a great position scoring-wise. The final blow was Maya's great performance. Not shockingly, she looked fantastic going up each hill, and she was gritty in the second half of the race. By placing 30th, she beat McHenry's #3 by 5 spots, giving us a really nice cushion point-wise going into the next flight. I know that she was not quite satisfied with her race, but it was instrumental in helping us advance (so give yourself more credit, Maya!).
After that first flight, I knew that Marisa and Riley could shut the door on the competition with their races. When these two took off, I watched them dart up the hill seemingly effortlessly. By the time they emerged from the woods, I felt euphoric! Marisa looked powerful, and Riley was within meters of her. Each successive hill, they looked powerful, and they pressed around the flag, hunting down people ahead of them. In the final 400, Marisa was well ahead of her McHenry's #4, so I knew we were good. Riley, who seems to be made for Grant's course, looked incredible as she hunted down one more runner, and ensuring that McHenry's #4 would stay behind her. That signature kick seemed to signal that we were in, but I didn't want to get ahead of myself. A quick note about Riley owning this course: as I mentioned earlier, this course is obviously not as easy as Warren's flat loops. Most people ran between 20-30 seconds slower at Grant, but not Riley. This kid DROPPED 28 seconds from her previous best to earn a NEW LPR. Amazing work, Riley! Now, that being said, I was feeling a bit superstitious about proclaiming our Sectional berth, as there are no rules as to which flight coaches had to place their runners in. Although it would be a weird choice to stack faster runners in the 6-7 race, I didn't want to rule it out as a possibility that a 6 or 7 could have a breakout day. That being said, the performances of these two bees left me feeling really good about our team chances.
Our final two racers, Katelin and Lesly, felt the energy of their teammates' performances, and had a great start to their respective races. These two looked amazing going up the hill, and they out-performed several other team's scoring runners. Katelin was a great "pusher" in that she pushed up the scores of Highland Park, Stevenson, Mundelein, Round Lake, and Grant. That means that as our sixth runner, she beat at least their 5th runners, and in some cases (I'm looking at you, Stevenson) their third, fourth, and fifth. So while Katelin's place did not affect OUR score, her fantastic race certainly affected the scores of other teams. ;) My small worry about other teams sneaking in ahead of our bees were allayed watching her race; despite being "alone" for much of the second half, her focus helped our team. Lesly managed the same, beating some schools' scoring 5th runner, and definitely out performing many others' 6th and 7th. What stood out most about Lesly's race was her fantastic kick, though. As she emerged from the woods for the last time, she started shifting gears with each flag. I knew that she could get at least one more person, and that she did. In a thrilling last stretch, Lesly put away a girl from Grant and sealed our fate for one more week!
When Coach Washington came running over to me with his phone out and a smile on his face, I knew that we had advanced. To be honest, I knew before...I just wanted to see by how much. We placed fifth, only 20 points behind a very strong Libertyville team. In a year of struggles, the fact that we made it to the Sectional for a second year in a row was outstanding. The added layer of the IHSA making it harder (they added teams to the regional and reduced the number of advancing teams from 6 to 5) speaks volumes about this team's accomplishment. What a great feeling to know that we had another week of XC! Congrats to these tough women who rose to the occasion for each other on this blustery day. Just for some context, keep in mind this:
It's Audrey's second time qualifying on a team.
It's Kelsey's FOURTH (twice as an individual, and twice on a team--only ONE other woman in ZB history has managed this feat--Ana Beck)
It's Maya's third (once as an individual--then robbed her sophomore year--and twice on a team).
It's Katelin's second time qualifying on a team.
And it's Marisa, Riley, and Lesly's first time qualifying...but with all of that experience around them, it's no surprise that they looked so at ease pre-race.
Proud of you all! :)
This is long overdue--please forgive my tardiness!
A few weeks prior to this meet, we thought that we were going to be running individual time trials at Waukegan's course, and call it "Conference."" And while I appreciate the fact that the athletic directors wanted to keep everyone as safe as possible this season, I was ecstatic to find out that they decided to revise the format to be more in line with the regional format. And then when the coaches at Warren agreed to step up to have men and women race there in one day, despite all the heartbreak they had experienced during the season? Well, I was smiling ear to ear. To be honest, I do like Waukegan's course--it's challenging and true XC. I do not like it, however, at the end of the season when we are trying to run our fastest. Finally--after all the ups and downs of the season--we were catching a break! In the week leading up to the meet, we looked sharp and ready. In particular, I felt the positive vibes when we headed out to the bowling alley. On the way back, the beautiful fall colors and the energy of the group gave me life! I knew we were ready for a great day of racing.
And like all season, I am proud of you all maximizing an opportunity. Yes, it was cold. Yes, it was windy. But you saw the chance to actually race head-to-head on a fast course, and you all seized the day. It was simply glorious to watch. From the first race to the last, I had a smile plastered across my face (well, behind my mask). I was cheesing hard because watching you all shine and lift on another up is such a light during such a dark year. The energy of this team has given me life all season.
Our first race of the day featured our top five: Audrey, Kelsey, Maya, Marisa, and Riley. These five set the table for the day. After the first 800, I was pleased about our placement--each bee was within sight of the next, with Audrey leading the way in the top ten. As the race unfolded, I was stoked to see how hard everyone was fighting to move up to help our team score. Audrey finished in an impressive 8th, earning All-Conference honors for the second year in a row while coming within two seconds of her LPR from Lakes the week before. Congrats for your consistently impressive performances, Audrey! Kelsey was our second finisher for the day. After battling back from injury, this was the first race where she looked more like herself, with her fitness finally looking sharper. She placed 11th with a season PR of 19:04. More importantly, she managed to earn All-Conference honors for the fourth year in a row--a feat that has never happened in my tenure at ZB, and I suspect (but cannot yet confirm) has not happened ever in ZB history. This kind of consistency is what we strive for; while it is clearly difficult to do, it speaks volumes about Kelsey's grit and growth mindset. Congrats on an impressive effort, Kelsey! Maya was our third finisher for the flight. Even though she was not satisfied with her performance, I was happy to see her run her second fastest time of the season, only seconds from her SPR. More important than time, her performance helped our team score significantly. Great work, Maya! Our fourth finisher in this flight was Marisa. Not only did she have a fantastic race (in particular, she did a great job working the woods), she also ran a lifetime PR by nearly 10 seconds. Only ten spots behind Maya, her effort also contributed to our strong team performance. Nice job, Marisa! :) Riley was our fifth finisher in this flight. She had a standout race, dropping 14 seconds to earn a new LPR. Fantastic work, Riley!
After the first flight, the positive vibes enveloped each ensuing flight with races looking more and more impressive. Flight two featured our other half of our varsity squad (North Suburban Conference rules now allow us to run 10 people in the varsity race. The purpose? To give more athletes that varsity experience and give coaches a chance to make final line-up choices for Regionals. Our second flight really stepped up to the challenge of the first. Katelin, Lesly, Jenna, Natalie, and Karen had outstanding races. Katelin was our first to finish, running an impressive 33 second LPR, besting her previous standout performance at Lakes. She looked fantastic in the woods, and her kick was outstanding. She managed to beat Riley's time from the previous heat, helping us as the last scoring runner (#5). For once, Katelin was satisfied after her race, which shows that it was a good one! Congrats on the new LPR, Katie! Lesly was our next finisher. She was more conservative with her start, and then she moved up during the race, picking off sleepy racers in the woods. She looked fast and athletic in her kick, conjuring up the same vibe that she had at Lakes. Although I know she wanted a new PR, she was only seconds away, and she rounded out our top 7 for the day. Awesome work, Lesly! Jenna was our 8th bee for the day, only one place behind Lesly. This race marked another LPR and another improvement in an already incredible season of growth. Not only did Jenna smile during the entire race, she kept surging every time someone yelled to her, and she worked her way up to Lesly by the end. While I have been proud of our kicks as a whole all season, Jenna definitely had the kick of the day, shifting throughout the stadium and catching Natalie in the final stretch. Congrats on an outstanding race, Jenna! Natalie was only a second behind Jenna. Despite battling a grumpy knee for a few weeks, Nat had a positive mindset the whole way, running a very similar race to her stand out performance at Lakes. While I know she wanted an LPR, she was only seconds away. Our final bee in the race was Karen, who ran with Jenna for a good part of the race. That was a smart move! Not only was she able to show off her hard-earned fitness, she was also able to earn a huge season PR. She dropped a big 38 seconds to dip into the 22s for the first time this season. What a gritty race from this senior who has been dedicated to our team for four years! What a great way to conclude her career; proud of you, Karen! Overall, varsity took 5th place in a much stronger field than last year. Our conference is improving, which helps us sharpen ourselves throughout the season. Congrats to a great team effort, bees! :)
Our next flight featured six bees: Julien, Illyana, Marleth, Jenni, Mia, Belen, and Delilah. By the time they reached the line, the energy of the team was unavoidable. These six looked ready to rock (with the small exception of Delilah's shoe ;)). From the gun, this group looked fantastic. Emerging from the woods, Julien was our first bee, and she maintained that leadership spot for the entire race. Each time she came into the woods, she did a fantastic job of surging down the little hill and working on other runners. This race was her best by far this season; not only did she attack the whole time, but her kick was picture-perfect! She finished with a huge season PR--dropping nearly a minute and coming only seconds away from her LPR. What a great race, and what a great way to cap off your XC career, Julien! Her gutsy start helped motivate her teammates for sure. After the first 800, Marleth, Illyana, and Mia were working off of Julien's energy as well as each other's, with Jenni, Belen, and Delilah in pursuit. In the next loop, Illyana broke away, showing that the whole purpose of working with your team is to challenge one another. A year ago, Illyana would have stayed in the safety of the pack; this year, she has grown as a runner and has learned to trust her fitness. The move helped both her and the women behind her. Illyana finished with a fantastic kick, recording her strongest effort of the season when it counts--at Conference. Not only did she completely skip the 24s, she set a huge new LPR of 23:44, a drop of 1:32. Whew! What a great performance! Marleth was not far behind, feeding off of Illyana's energy. This race made me wistful that she did not join us before this year, yet thankful that she did this year. Marleth only had a handful of chances to race this season, but she made the most of each race. She improved in every race, saving her most impressive performance for Conference. After battling an irritated hamstring all season, Marleth overcame this distraction to earn a huge LPR of 24:06--a more than one minute drop over our last home meet. What a great way to sum up her grittiness in her last XC race! Congrats on a great effort, Marleth! Jenni was our next finisher, who was constantly pulling on the energy of the women ahead of her. Jenni's career as a ZBXCer is what I hope for from a runner who is on the team multiple years--steady growth. From her start as a sophomore, Jenni has put in the work to get consistently stronger as a runner. Her senior season has been a testament to that steady work, and this race was the crowning jewel. Not only did she drop nearly a minute in this race to earn a new LPR of 24:33, she also beat 7 for the first time this week in our mile time trial. Whew! Congrats on a tremendous race and a big mindset shift this season, Jenni! Mia used Jenni's wisdom and energy throughout the race, and mixed it with her own grit to run a fantastic race as well. Despite being away from the team for a few days due to the loss of a loved family member, Mia refocused and ignored her achy knee to also break into the 24s for the first time all season. Her new LPR--a drop of nearly 30 seconds--was earned through gritty racing. She refused to let her pack go, and she challenged them with the confidence of an upperclasswoman rather than the freshie that she is. I'm so proud of Mia for being such a tough cookie; she embodies our "lemonade" mindset in that she joined XC after the pandemic made her first choice--volleyball--impossible. While literally EVERY OTHER FRESHMAN GIRL sat home this fall, Mia took on the challenge of a new sport, and she embraced it with her whole heart. Talk about courage! I hope that she returns next fall and brings some of her like-minded friends. Congrats on a great race, Mia! Delilah was our next finisher. After rolling her ankle more than a week before this race, Delilah worked to mitigate the effects by reducing her mileage and focusing on her team. Although I know she would probably prefer a different time for this race, her effort is what matters most. Despite nearly losing her foot as Anderson and I helped her get her warm ups off minutes before the race (stupid tight ankle pants!), Delilah focused on her "Cantu" mindset throughout the race. She kept battling to move up in the field, and she ran with courage the whole way! Delilah is the only bee in this flight who has run for all four seasons; like Jenni, she has grown each season, improving her times and becoming a more vocal, positive leader. Congrats on a gutsy race and a great season, Delilah! Our final bee in this race, by contrast, is a "senior-freshie," coming out for XC for the first time this year. Belen's grit has been impressive all season. Much like Marleth, she came to our sport late, but she made a big impact. Despite ongoing hip pain, Belen has pushed through this season, challenging everyone around her, and improving every opportunity. She did that in style at Conference, pulling on her teammates and dropping a ridiculous 2:20 to earn a new LPR in her final race of her career. Man did she look great coming around the final football field loop! Congrats on a great season and a great final race, Belen!
It was only logical that our last flight of women--Blanca, Ashley, Aubrianna, Ixa, and Nataly--would feel the magic of all the women before them, and rise to the occasion...and that they did. This group looked fantastic from start to finish! Blanca was the first finisher from this group. Not only did she drop over a MINUTE from her previous best, she also looked fantastic doing it. We have been working on her running tall all season, and I didn't have to cue her during this race! She looked assertive as she passed sleepy runners in the woods, and she had a great kick. What a journey this runner has been on since she first started during track as a freshie. Our next bee was Ashley. This four-year ZBXCer has come SUCH a long way since her freshman year. She joined with a friend, and the two of them struggled mightily in the beginning. To their credit, they never gave up, but only Ashley returned the next season. She went from running in the 40s that first year, to growing stronger as she piled on the miles and earned the race experience. With that said, I'm not sure I was prepared for the race I saw today. Ashley looked powerful (not unusual) and fearless in the final mile. She did not give into the fatigue; instead, she kicked like mad to a new lifetime PR. Ashley dropped nearly TWO MINUTES from her previous best. Not only did she run a huge PR, she also showed her team what it means to grow over the course of four years. So proud of your final race, Ash! Aubrianna was close behind, pulling on Ashley's energy. She had a big race today, dropping a crazy 4 minutes to earn a big new SPR of 27:08. This race was a nice breakthrough--she had been stuck racing-wise, despite some great workouts that indicated that she was ready to drop time. I'm so proud that she let herself shine today--great job, Aubrianna! Ixa was not far behind Aubri. Despite having angry arches for much of the season, Ixa persevered. This three-year ZBXCer understands how to overcome the aches and pains that accompany running sometimes. She had a fantastic race, pulling on her teammates and her experience to work the words like a pro. Her kick was fantastic, and she dropped 1:20 to earn a sweet SPR. Congrats to this backbone to our team on a great last race! Proud of you, Ixa! Our final racer of the day was Nataly. She had an outstanding race, looking the strongest she has all season. Her stride was open and strong, and her kick was fantastic, too! She dropped 5:05 to earn a new SPR, only two seconds away from her lifetime. What a great way to end her junior year!
Overall, this day of racing was FIERCE. It made me think back to that first real race at Deerfield at the start of the season. We talked about knowing your worth and power AND actually living it. Great racing comes with that kind of knowledge. To watch you all let your races do the talking is every coach's dream. To watch it happen for the whole team on the same day is like winning the lottery. But the way you did it...the way you hyped each other up, celebrated each other after, and carried yourselves with class the whole time? That kind of energy is beyond amazing. To say that I am proud to be your coach is such an understatement. I will never forget how in the face of adversity, you grew together, chose love of athleticism and each other, and let yourselves shine. What. A. Day!
One last shout out--congratulations to Jenni for earning the 2020 Sportsmanship Award for our team. Unlike MVP and Leadership, which are voted on by the team, this award is decided by the coaches. When I asked our group chat for their initial ideas, the coaches all said that it was hard to pick because of the amazing character of this whole team. (They are not wrong). But then I asked them to refocus--to think about who cheers for everyone the loudest...who cheers for runners on other teams...who represents the qualities of excellent sportsmanship. My phone lit up: Jenni. Jenni. Jenni. This award is meant to honor what is right about our sport--a person who believes that a rising tide lifts ALL boats. For three years, Jenni has yelled for her teammates until she was hoarse (or her man voice came out). She believes in her teammates, but she will not back down to let them feel good. Congratulations on a well-deserved award, Jenni!
After spending SO much time at Shiloh this year, whether it was at workouts or meets, it was only fitting that our last dual meet of the season would be at home. Our Varsity 9 looked so sharp at Lakes, and our remaining bees looked fresh and peppy on Monday, so I anticipated a great meet. I felt that linked spirit on Monday,too, as the underclass peeps brought poster after poster to honor our seniors.
So it was no surprise to me when I felt that positive vibe on Tuesday, too. It started with our guys swarming the course with senior posters and hammers, discussing how well the girls were going to do. And it continued when we talked about 62 before the warm up. And when we circled up after strides? Welp, I could just feel that you were ready!
So when I saw you all working hard around the first loop by the parking lot, already catching people and working together, I was ecstatic! When I caught you again by the duck pond, the boys were going nuts, and you were all feeding off their energy. They swarmed the woods, pushing you on and watching you shine. It was so fun to see you work with one another and overcome the warmer temps--together.
There were so many impressive races tonight:
Audrey's intensity as she worked to beat her previous best on the course, despite the warmer conditions. Kelsey's grit as she worked through some true discomfort in the last mile due to her calf and hip. Marisa's continued growth as a varsity runner--allowing her to earn a new PR over her previous best from only days before. Natalie working through her knee pain to step up and lead her pack, complete with an impressive kick! Riley's continued grit and fantastic kick! Lesly's hard work in the last mile. Jenna's consistently positive mindset. Katelin's gutsy first mile. Karen's breakthrough for an impressive season PR. Julien's huge breakthrough for a sweet season PR. Delilah's gutsy performance on an angry ankle. The impressive pack work of Marleth, Illyana, Mia, and Jenni that led to FOUR LIFETIME PRS. These women worked so well with each other--holding each other accountable and feeding of one another's energy. Marleth dropped nearly two minutes; Illyana dropped almost a minute; Mia dropped 45 seconds; and Jenni dropped 30 seconds. This group continues to amaze! Blanca's return to her incredible mindset from Deerfield that helped her earn a new LPR. Belen's fighting spirit as she matched her LPR despite the heat. Ashley's gritty race that returned her to the 28s. Bianca's huge race--despite her achilles irritation--where she dropped a minute to earn a new SPR. Ixa's fantastic breakthrough that earned her a huge new SPR. Aubrianna's second-half focus and fantastic kick that led to a big SPR. And Nataly's strong race, including a sweet kick, that got her within seconds of her SPR.
What I enjoyed most was that on Wednesday, you brought the same energy to the boys. You willed them to run fast, and you covered the course with your encouragement. In a time of uncertainty, you controlled what you could: your positivity and generosity.
I was happy, of course, to learn that we pulled off a win over Mundelein by one point, despite Maya's absence (it will be nice to get her back from spy school in New Zealand). I was more happy to see as the week went on that you are ready to run even faster. The tempo on Thursday and the incredible work on Saturday's pyramid sboth show that you are ready to race faaaaaaaaaassssst at Conference. I simply cannot wait to see you shine at Warren. Our mission this week is this: taper a bit, and sharpen our minds. If you remember back to our post-race talk at Deerfield...I need you to embrace your greatness and know your strength. This week, I want you to walk around KNOWING how hard you have worked and embracing your power. And then on race day, simply run it into existence. Let's go! :)
After a week of quarantine, it felt so good to be back to practice! And what an effort at that practice on Wednesday. Whew! Paavo 400s are no joke, and you all rose to the occasion. Not only was I impressed by the consistency (which was the goal), but also the mindset of each of you. The only conclusion that you can draw from that workout is that you are all FIT and ready to race! I wish I could have brought more people to the meet on Friday, and I'm bummed we missed the chance to race at Highland Park. But I also know that the concept of being linked is not limited to our team. We are connected to the community, too. That connection requires responsibility, and our team showed that responsibility in the last week. If you learn nothing else from cross-country (of course I hope that you will learn ALL of running's lessons), I hope that you remember how connected we all are. :)
On Friday night, we headed over to Lakes to check out their flighted race. What a great evening! The course was cool (despite Audrey's hatred of repeat loops), filled with lots of different view and moguls to help runners stay focused and gain momentum. The format was fun, too: there were three co-ed flights with three men and women from each team. All nine bees contributed to the team score, rather than the traditional five plus two pushers.
The first heat featured the 7-8-9 runners--Katelin, Jenna, and Karen. At the gun, they all got out hard, taking advantage of the gradual downhill in the first 800. When they emerged from the back fields loop, I was impressed by how assertive our women looked. Katelin was our leader, looking fantastic coming off the first "mogul." She was positioned near the front, and she looked like she was having fun! Jenna, forever with a smile on her face, looked awesome not far behind Kate. Karen was only a few seconds back, looking much more like her real racing self. All three had great first miles: Katelin broke 7 in 6:54; Jenna played no games with her 7:13; and Karen was not far behind in 7:22. Thinking back to the Paavo 400s--these opening miles are spot on for these women. In the second loop, the whole field slowed up a bit, including our bees. Despite the pace change, Katelin was able to move up in the race place-wise; she had a 7:30 for her second mile. She was able to bring down her last mile a smidge to 7:26, and she finished in 4th for us in the heat. This race was a huge SPR for Katelin, and nearly a LPR (she missed by one second); she has been running in the 23s and 24s, but today she pushed herself to where she really belongs (for now--I honestly think she will be in the 20s very soon): the 21s. More importantly, this is the first race this season where she looked like her real competitive self the whole three miles. She has been looking fantastic in workouts lately, and I knew she was ready to pop a great race. I'm proud of her for working through some sore shins and some mindset blocks to get to this race. It is so much fun to watch her grit and challenge other teams. THIS is who she really is, and THIS is what made her so clutch at Sterling, Conference, and Regional last year. Honestly, I think the format benefitted Katelin a lot. She is a gamer who likes to compete, and she also did not have any of our bees in front of her to compare herself to. Now that she KNOWS that she can do it, and she can take that confidence back to our course on Tuesday.
Jenna also had a big breakthrough today, and if you have been paying attention AT ALL in practice, you knew this one was coming, too. Her second mile was solid in 7:41, and she was definitely engaged in the race at this point, too. She finished by bringing her last lap down to 7:38 to earn herself a new LPF of 22:32 (shaving off 39 seconds from her previous best). She has definitely been working on her kick, and today's was fabulous too. She pulled away from a girl from Carmel, and she looked strong through the line. Jenna's constant and dramatic improvement this season can be summed up by two principles: consistent hard work and a big mindset shift. I am so proud of her for seizing her senior season despite all the unknowns of the year. She has definitely been embracing our motto of "bee the difference."
Karen was our final racer in this flight, and she, too, had a great breakthrough today. She joined us later than she usually would this summer, not joining us until August. While it took her a few weeks to wake up her fitness, she--like Jenna--has been consistently working to improve. I first saw her looking more like her real self when we ran the 1000s at Shiloh a few Saturdays back. She looked aggressive and consistent in that workout, and I knew it would start paying off in meets soon. Today was definitely her day. Although her splits are not quite where she wants them to be for the second and third miles (8:05, 8:03), I know she will be able to bring those down to the 7s on Tuesday. More importantly, she raced hard today, putting in work to catch the girl ahead of her. She finished in 23:30, dropping a whole minute from her previous season best. I think that Tuesday will prove to be even better for her, as she was in no-man's land for the last mile of her race today. Tuesday will provide her with more girls to catch, and I look forward to seeing it happen! In the meantime, she should definitely bask in her big improvement; it was great to see her racing more like we both know she is capable of!
After such an exciting first heat, I was pumped to see what our next flight would do. Riley, Lesly, and Natalie took off at the gun, and they stuck with each other for some great pack work throughout. When looking back at the pictures, there were moments where the pack nearly dissolved: in the first loop, Lesly fell off a bit, then scraped her way back to her girls; and later, Nat lost her pack, and then worked her way back to them. This energy, led by Riley's gutsiness, was fantastic. These three women worked to go after other teams, and I was so happy to watch them truly compete. Their splits reflect how tightly packed they were. Mile one: 6:59 (first time sub 7 in a race for Riley), 7:00, 7:01. Mile two: 7:27, 7:28, 7:29. I love pack work, so long as no one is being complacent. Today, these three were anything but that. Every time they ran by, I yelled that they had to take a risk, and every time, Riley would surge, pulling her teammates with her. They finished incredibly strong with some impressive PRs.
I was not sure what Riley would be able to do today after a weird week of travel and sleeplessness on Tuesday night. She looked a bit off in her first 400 on Wednesday, and I was going to pull her out of the workout and have her just get some miles in. I'm glad I waited; she simply needed to warm up! She put together an impressive set of 400s, looking stronger at the end than at the beginning. Her race reflected her hard work this season--she looked confident and aggressive throughout. Riley is definitely a gamer, rising to the occasion of race day. Her competitiveness rewarded her with a huge LPR: 21:47. She dropped a huge 32 seconds from our last head-to-head competition at Grant. She also dipped into the 21s--a good sign of things to come for this rookie!
Lesly was not far behind with a huge PR, too. She has started to see what she is really capable of this season. She looked competitive from start to finish, pulling on the power of her pack and passing other teams with grit. Her finish was the highlight of the race, though. Coming down the final stretch, she battled a girl from Lake Forest. They ran step for step for 20 meters, and Lesly appeared to edge her, but the Lake Forest runner put in one last surge, and Lesly countered, finding one last ounce in the last step to edge the competitor by tenths of a second. This gritty finish was by far the best of the day. Not only was it thrilling to watch, it also showed Lesly's mindset right now. She was not going to give up on herself or her team. I am here for this energy! Lesly dropped 53 huge seconds from her previous LPR to join 21 club: 21:57. Congrats on an incredibly race and a fun to watch finish, Lesly!
Finally, Natalie made a big breakthrough for herself today, too. To understand it, it's important to have Wednesday as context. Natalie came to me after the 4th or 5th 400 because she was having trouble breathing. Her time was not quite where it should have been, and she had a panicked look on her face as she struggled to regain her composure. I got her to start breathing into her belly, pulling her out of that bad pattern. She did a great job of acknowledging that she was struggling and dealing with that discomfort. As a freshman, she would have just dissolved into a puddle of tears and doubt. Last year, she would have leaned on Kaila to pull her through. This time, she found the strength in herself to work through it. When talking with her on Sunday about the workout, she acknowledged that she was struggling to balance dealing with breathing cold air with the mental game of trying to get the right time for each split. That combo can lead to that panicked breathing pattern where you are not getting enough CO2 out and not enough O2 in. We have had other girls on the team get into this hyperventilating pattern in the past--Maya as a freshie at Sterling and Kaila at Sectionals last year--and if left uninterrupted, the consequences are tricky for trying to race fast. Natalie proved that with minimal cueing, she could pull herself out of that pattern. I got her to breathe right for 20 seconds or so, and then I had her walk across the infield to rejoin her group. I didn't know if it would work at the time, and I worried she would struggle to finish the workout. Instead, she bounced back and finished strong. The same is true of her race on Friday: she struggled to stay with the pack, but she reset and pulled herself back to her girls. This kind of mental toughness is a journey, and I was proud of her for working on it in the race. She was rewarded with a SPR of 22:00, a 20 second drop from Deerfield. I know that much like Wednesday's workout, she will be able to use this reset moment to finish the season strong! Like I told her on Saturday, I never expect her or any of you to be perfect; I simply want you to work on being consistently growing. Natalie showed that on Wednesday and Friday!
After watching the awesome packwork of flight two, I could NOT wait to see what flight three would do! Our pack of Audrey, Kelsey, and Marisa got out hard and looked awesome in the first loop. Audrey ran sub-6 for the first mile, and I knew she was in for a great race. Wednesday was a great hint at that because she showed off her fitness for sure that day, running most of her Paavos in the upper 70s, only touching the 80s two times if my memory serves right. She used that confidence to fuel her race today. Coming into the second loop, she had passed all the girls in the field with the exception of the flight winner--Brooke Stromsland from Lakes (the 2A State Champion from last year). I loved several things about Audrey's race. Not only did she get out aggressively, but she also held on to her pace well (5:59, 6:16, 6:23). More importantly, she had THAT look in her eye. It's the same one she had at our home meet when she ran 19:06 and took the second spot on the Top Ten Board. What does THAT look look like? Her eyes have a confident intensity. Her posture is assertive. And as she runs past, she looks like a woman on a mission. It is so fun to watch! On the second loop, I knew that she was going to do something special today, and I was not wrong. She didn't earn any cake, but man did she give everything trying! When she finished, I know she was finally happy with a race because she did not get into that self-deprecating talk of how the race was "just a tempo run." Instead, she looked satisfied, which is what I want her to feel more often! She earned a new LPR--beating her best from last year's Lake Forest Regional (which we know was a bit short) by 5 seconds. She is way ahead of last year's fitness, and I am really proud of her for her new PR of 18:37. As she gains confidence, I know she will keep chipping away at that time. Proud of you, Audrey! Great effort and mindset!
Kelsey was our second runner for the day, and I cannot explain how happy I am with her performance. (I'll give it my best shot here. ;)). As you all know, Kelsey has been working through a lower leg injury. What you probably do not realize, due to her grit and selflessness, is that this injury could have ended her season. She was diagnosed with a stress reaction--the last step before a stress fracture. Luckily, she spoke up before it was too late. The comeback for an injury like this is tricky; it requires patience, persistence, and positivity. While you have all been enjoying long runs and recovery runs and intervals, she has been patiently replicating workouts on the bike. That Saturday at Shiloh when you all ran 1000s on the Twilight Loop, she was biking the same around the CCC circle, pushing herself to get that cardio stimulus she needed to stay fit. She has been getting treatments to stimulate healing, and she has been working on staying focused while she watched you all get faster. She planned outings for the team, took pictures and cheered, and asked questions about your training and splits while also planning her comeback. When you are injured, it is hard to feel connected to the team, but she has stayed linked, focusing on you all rather than regressing into a pity party. (Side note, but not of less importance, Keeley has been doing the same. Sidelined by her doctor, she has kept coming to practice, despite the fact that she is not even allowed to bike until she gets her MRI on Wednesday. That kind of mindset does not come along every day, and it is important to recognize it when it happens. I see you, Keeley!). So when Anderson announced who would be racing, I was just as joyous as Kelsey when she heard her name. She smiled ear to ear and exclaimed, "Yay! I'm racing!" Kelsey has steadily improved as a runner over the last three plus years. So I knew that this race would be a big challenge for her. She is used to being fit and being able to go when she wants to. This race would be a rust-buster: a chance to give her body a good stimulus while running rather than biking the workout. I knew that her mind was ready based on her performance in the Paavo workout on Wednesday. I also knew that her mind matching her body would be a battle. She has done a phenomenal job staying fit, but doing a bike workout is not the same as having feet on the ground. Kelsey got out well, pulling from her experience and grit to start in 6:10. That zesty start will help her in future races because it is now in her. She struggled to keep that aggressive pace in her second and third miles (6:42 and 6:49). That's ok right now, thought. What is most important is that she raced hard, she got a chance to test her leg (which felt good!). The other important part is that she got great mental stimulus--she had to work through discomfort and fatigue in the second half. She did so very well, finishing in an impressive 19:41. I know that this race will help her get faster on Tuesday and for the championship part of our season. Proud of your grit today, Kels!
The final runner in this pack was Marisa. I was so excited that she had the chance to run with this top group because I know she is ready to make a big jump. Not only has she had a different mindset this year, she has also been putting in the work. She looked PHENOMENAL on Wednesday in the Paavo workout, so I was anxious to watch her run. Marisa stepped up to the challenge, getting out hard in 6:40, her best first mile by far! She held on to run 6:56 and close in 7:00. That aggressive start allowed her to be in the mix with people who would pull her along. She did a fantastic job of racing the people around her, pulling away from the runners from Antioch and Lake Forest in the final half mile. She earned a speedy new LPR of 20:36. She has been one of the most consistent racers for us this season, not prone to the big swings in time that some others have experienced as they dealt with time trials vs. real racing. Marisa's consistency has helped her steadily gain confidence to create today's performance. She dropped nearly a half minute--much of that thanks to her early risk in the first mile. Now that she knows she can go out that fast, I encourage her to focus on hammering mile two on Tuesday. Like all of you, Marisa should have the confidence to really push during the Twilight section; we have done a ton of work in those woods, so embrace that knowledge! Congrats on an exceptional race, Marisa!
Overall, this group SEIZED THE DAY. The course was quick, the cool temps were fantastic, and the sunset was beautiful. Not one of you squandered the opportunity, and I could not be more proud of your efforts. We ended up 2nd behind a very strong Lakes team, and I am smiling ear-to-ear typing that. The placing is great, but the vibe from this pack was what was really everything. Seeing you so happy for one another is what really makes me proud.
It felt great to be at Van Patten on Saturday. EVERYONE looked sharp on the hills, and I'm looking forward to seeing everyone race at home on Tuesday! Let's have a great week, bees! :)
PS--If you have not watched Sara Hall's finish in the London Marathon, CHECK IT OUT HERE. This highlight clip doesn't do it justice, but the important lesson to learn is that the race is not over until the finish line! :)
It was refreshing to head over to a different course after three weeks at home. I love how scenic Libertyville's course is, but I also know what a challenge it poses both physically and mentally. Mother nature added a dash of heat to the mix, too; the lovely breeze we enjoyed as we got on the busses in Zion was notably absent as we warmed up at Adler. Nonetheless, I felt a good vibe as we headed to the line, and I was excited to see how our "reverse" order would go.
After the last of our bees left the line, I enjoyed watching packs forming as we caught up on the staggered start. The first mile splits look great, and I have to wonder if the marker was slightly off because the two mile splits were SLOW across the board. Some of you slowed down over two minutes (which would not be a marker issue...that would be a mindset issue). I was happy to see that mile three splits looked better, and I was proud to watch the finishes. Most notably, the duel between Ashley and Jenni in the final stretch was fantastic, especially because they ran stride for stride for quite a distance!
There were several bees who stepped up today. A question mark until the starting line due to some angry calf muscles, Marleth took on the challenge of the course with grit. She earned herself a new LPR, dropping a ridiculous 29 seconds over her race at home last week. Congrats on a fantastic performance, Marleth! Mel earned herself a new SPR by nearly a minute. She did a fantastic job pulling on her teammates and keeping a positive mindset the whole way. Mia looked fantastic, too, nearly matching her LPR despite the challenging course. This freshie keeps getting better every week, and it is fun to watch! Julien was also within a few seconds of her SPR; she has been consistent the last few weeks and is definitely ready for a breakthrough.
Overall, we had a solid day of racing. I was happy to hear Kelsey and Coach Franklin report that everyone looked focused as they passed those points in the race. The key takeaway from the splits is that we need to work on running hard when we are tired. Our Thursday workout was designed to address this problem.
Speaking of that workout...can I talk about how fun that was to watch? To see you all embrace the "surprise" time trial was a delight. Then watching you just handle the tempo work so fantastically was a bonus. The fact that SO many of you walked away from the tempo feeling fresh, proud, and ready for a racing breakthrough made me smile ear to ear. This kind of faith in your fitness is what we need for this next section of the season. Please check out your splits in the pic below. I am really proud of you all! :)
Finally, I need to take a moment to discuss our current quarantine situation. I know that our message Friday afternoon was a shock, especially after our meeting before practice. It was a shock to me, too. Of course, this is not what I wanted, especially on the heels of such a great practice on Thursday. But now that I have had a day to reflect, I need to give you all kudos. Since March, you have continued to impress me with your grit. You trained hard throughout "track" with the hopes of a season. When that did not come to fruition, you reset with purpose and hope. When we were sidelined for the first part of the summer, you put in the miles by yourselves with consistency and focus. And when we finally reunited in July, you adapted to our (forgive me for this phrase) "new normal." You didn't balk at masks or cries of "six feet!" You spread out on the trails and the paths and the sidewalks. You answered health questions dutifully each day. You adapted when we shut down because of weather. You reported possible exposures with honesty and integrity. You cared about each other and the safety of the team. You acted with more maturity than many adults in our country. Simply put: You rose to the occasion.
So while I would much rather have practice and meets as normal, I know that you will rise to this occasion, too. You know how to train with intensity on your own. You know how to overcome obstacles. You know how to persevere. We will get through this like everything else: together. So let's keep leaning on one another. Let's keep the momentum from this week. And let's bee the difference to each other! Keep checking for the workouts on Strava each day, and keep posting your results there, too. There are hive points to be had and prizes when we reunite.
Mother Nature allowed us to race on Tuesday after two weeks of weather weirdness. That is not to say that the weather was perfect. While it was better than the last two Tuesdays, it was also hot, and a tad moreso than when Stevenson hit the line after us. To be close to your Lake Zurich time (a day with near perfect racing temps) shows consistency and focus.
I felt better about our energy at the start of the race. We looked focused and determined. When I darted across the street to see our progress by the duck pond, I have to admit that I was disappointed with the body language I saw. When we raced Lake Zurich, I saw a spark in everyone's eyes, not to mention tall posture and aggressive turns. To be fair, you guys didn't look bad...you just did not have the same zestiness that I was hoping for. Thankfully, by the last 800, we bounced back a bit, and the final 400 looked solid.
There were definitely some stand outs today. First of all, shout out to Marleth for running her first race. She ran a solid time for her first race ever, and I was proud of her for keeping a positive mindset and for challenging herself. :) We also had two lifetime PRs in this race: Belen and Mia. After the race, Belen and I had a great talk, where she explained that she wanted to redeem herself after feeling disappointed about her performance at Grant. She did that for sure, looking assertive for the whole race, and closing with a fantastic kick. Congrats on dropping 13 seconds for a new LPR! Mia keeps destroying her previous bests, seemingly every meet! She did a great job of working with her teammates today and attacking late in the race. I loved watching her work in the final mile. She dropped a whopping 29 seconds for a new LPR. I am confident that she will hit the 25s in the next race and not look back! Awesome work, freshie! :) We also had three SPRs: Bianca, Melanie, and Karen. Bianca looked stronger in this race, her second of the season. She dropped nearly a minute from Grant, relying on her experience and starting to feel her fitness return. Proud of her grit in this race--she looked great! Mel also looked much improved over Grant, dropping 19 seconds over Saturday. Like Bianca, she was more focused today, putting into action what she promised to the team post-race on Saturday. Nice work, Mel! Finally, Karen told me she didn't know what to think about her race, but she dropped 15 seconds from a week ago, despite the warmer conditions. I think Karen is ready for a big drop--each race she looks more and more fit, and her confidence is growing, too! Nice work, Karen!
There were several of you who looked consistent compared to LZ: Delilah, Riley, Maya, Marisa, Audrey, Jenna, Julien, and Illyana were all within 20 seconds of their performances against LZ. "Sticking" like that is important--it shows that your mindset is staying strong, and it proves that you are ready for a big performance given improved conditions. Nice work, peeps!
As far as kicks go, Jenna had the kick of the day. Not only did she gear up at the 400, but her final straightaway was as Coach Franklin put it, "The fastest I've ever seen her move!" It was fun to watch, and I want to see that from all of you. When it comes to that last stretch, please remember that you do NOT need to save anything for that moment. Your training and pride will allow you to take care of business in that final drive. Let's make that our hallmark this year--aggressiveness!
One final thought about this race, which I already mentioned in person: despite having a smaller team this year, we are stronger than ever. I want that reflected in our performances in the team points, too. So I am issuing a challenge to you all--who will be the one to step up to fix the gap after Marisa? Who will step up to drive our JV scorers? Those improvements will require second-half strength, and our Saturday workout will push you to believe what I already know--that you are READY for a breakthrough. I cannot wait to see it happen!
On Saturday morning, all of you were checked in and huddled under the overhangs in an attempt to stay dry before climbing on the busses. I was doing the same under the hatch of my car while asking Coach Franklin if we had everyone here. When I felt my phone buzz in my pocket, I assumed it was one of you pleading for mercy over a failed alarm or a pokey ride. Instead, I saw a message pop up from the girls' coach at Warren. I didn't have to read the message to know its content, but I opened it anyway: Coach Dawson--the boys' coach from Warren--died on Friday. He was only 64.
I first met Coach Dawson back in 1998 when I started coaching track at ZB. At the time, I was coaching both the boys and girls distance crew. And at that time, I was the only female coach of boys in our conference, and only one of three on the girls' side. Most of the other coaches assumed I was a manager, if they even acknowledged me at all. They certainly did not think I could be the coach of Steve Cross, a kid who had a killer racing instinct and a will of steel. In every dual meet of the season, he anchored the 4X800 and 4X400, and he ran the open 800 and 400. In EVERY dual meet that season, he won the open events, and in almost every case, he helped our relay win. It was a beautiful thing to witness. The only coach who actually spoke to me (other than our awesome coaching staff) that season was Dawson. He genuinely loved track and cross country, and he wanted every kid to find success. At meets, he would always check in with me to see what kind of workouts I was having our crew do and to share ideas that might help Steve make it to State and the others improve. In what was definitely an old boys' club, Dawson made me feel welcome. At State that May, he helped me feel worthy of being there. And when Steve did not perform well in the finals, he and Coach Meyers (also one of the great mentors of my life) were the ones who made it so simple to accept when they proclaimed, "State is a tricky place. You got him here, and he had an amazing experience. That's all that matters."
When I became a ZB cross country coach the following fall, he was the first to come congratulate me; he told me that I was the energy needed to help reinvigorate the ZB team (at the time, we only had 7 girls--two of whom walked during races). He had this gentle way of making me feel seen and valued; I soon realized that he made everyone feel that way. Over the years, I would witness his love of the sport and his sense of justice. In our end-of-season meetings for the conference, he would always stand up to the other coaches who tried to make changes that only benefited the big and rich schools, despite the fact that he would have benefited from the change, too. We talked about why he loved the Blue Devil Invite (which as of two years ago, was named after him): the course and competition gave kids a chance to run super-fast times, and that is just fun. During track season, we would always spend at least an hour talking at the Carthage Invite, comparing notes from indoor training and marvelling at the performances. And his athletes? He was always in awe of them and treated them like his own children. He bragged about what great humans they were, how well they scored on the ACT, and which colleges were calling for them. He taught me so much about keeping perspective, too. At one point, he had over 100 boys out for the team. He had the option of implementing cuts so that the team would be easier to manage, but he didn't. He wanted as many boys as possible to have the chance to fall in love with running and our sport. So instead, he started riding his bike to be able to better supervise the giant team.
When Dawson told me he was sick in the summer of 2019, I was not too worried. Like every difficulty in his life, he met his cancer diagnosis with optimism, so I assumed that everything would be ok. In the fall, I could see that he had lost weight, but I chalked it up to the treatment. He joked that he had some weight to give, and he focused on his team instead of the fact that the treatments were not working. All fall, I watched his boys run incredibly well. Not only were they fast, but in his words, "they are incredible kids." Dawson revelled in their performances. He was giddy that THIS might be the team that finally made it to State. At the Lake Forest Regional, his 1-5 had a 56 second split, and they won the team title. He was over the moon when his boys walked up to get the plaque. When they started taking pictures, the boys called him over to be included, and he had to practically be dragged into the frame; he wanted them to have the spotlight--it was never about him. So of course when we went to the Sectional the following week, I tried to pour all of me energy into Eric and all of the Warren boys. It just seemed right that this team should make it to State--not only for those boys, but also for a coach who helped runners improve for 40 years. His boys ran well--with only a 48 second split, and impressive feat at the speedy and crowded Busse Woods course, but they just missed their team goal by one place. Sixth place was a gut punch...only 14 points away from one more week of cross country. When finishers' times are separated by less than a second, 14 points is really nothing. But Coach Dawson took it in stride like he always did. When I found him after the results were posted, he simply said, "It would have been nice to make it, especially for all the seniors-they wanted this so bad."
So when we arrived at Deerfield this fall, I was hoping to see another strong Warren team. I knew that Dawson was not doing well, and I wanted him to have a great season to buoy his spirits. He had warned me that he was struggling physically, but when I saw his gaunt frame sitting in a chair near the starting line, I almost did a double-take: he did not look like himself anymore. We talked for a while like we always do, and he revealed that this race would be his last; he was stepping down for the season in order to get his affairs in order. Hearing that phrase put chills through me, but I hoped against hope that some miracle would happen. His boys ran really well, with his top runner nearly breaking 15. After the girls race, I headed back over to talk about the race with Dawson, but he had already left to go home and rest. When my text to him the next day went unanswered, I knew on some level that I would not see him again.
So when we finished up our team talk at the conclusion of the meet on Saturday, and I said that I needed this day, I really meant it. I needed to see teammates care about one another. I needed to see aggressive starts. I needed to see impressive kicks. Each of your races was a balm to the bad news. Thank you.
Varsity Women's Race:
These women enjoyed the best course conditions of the day, yet the rainiest weather. In the pre-race huddle, I was a little worried about the energy level, but I brushed it off as nerves. When the gun sounded, I was pleased to see our crew get out so strong. When I saw them emerge from the first loop, I was elated at our placement: all six got out strong and were close to one another. I figured that with the visual contact, they would be able to run strong in the middle mile. When they headed into the woods for the second time, we were still in solid shape, but I was concerned about the looks on most of their faces. Bee after bee was looking down and looked, for lack of a better word, flat. The two exceptions were Riley and Jenna. Riley was moving up in the pack, and Jenna had her signature smile. ;) When our bees emerged again to start the final loop, we had lost some ground to Vernon Hills. In the final 400, most of our crew either lost a spot or stuck, with the exception of Riley. When she popped out of the woods, she had a focused look in her eyes, and she willingly took my advice to gear up on the two runners ahead of her. She ran an exceptional last 400, reeling in a girl from Mundelein. With each turn, she pulled closer, and in the final stretch, she finally caught the girl just a step before the line. That kick represented her whole race: she was tuned in and challenging herself the entire way. That mindset earned her a new LPR of 22:19, a drop of 42 seconds over her great race at Deerfield. This stat is significant: Riley's best performances have been in true head-to-head races. Obviously, our season is primarily comprised of time trials, but I want you all to take a lesson from Riley--that competition can help you show your true potential! Congrats on an inspiring race, Riley!
Even though the second half of the race did not go how we had hoped, there are some other bright spots. First, Audrey got out hard like she usually does. To paraphrase her own reflection, she was close to Grant's #1 Aly. That kind of mindset--to not be intimidated by the Sectional champ of 2019, is the kind of swagger I want to hear about! And Maya responded to Audrey's aggressive start; she was proud of the fact that she was close to Audrey after the first loop. I am proud of her goal to stick to Audrey! And it continued down the line--Marisa had Maya in her sight lines; Riley could see Marisa; Katelin was ahead of her goal to stick with Jenna; and Jenna was pulling on Katelin. The sum of this is a group that is willing to pull on the energy of their teammates. This mindset is what we need to keep building upon as the season continues! The other highlight is that post-race, I could see that each of the girls immediately knew what they should work on for Tuesday. After a thoughtful conversation, I felt like we were on the right track. In looking at the results, I was pleased that we were so close to a very talented Vernon Hills team in the point total. If you put Kelsey back in the mix, we win easily. And if you add Natalie, we dominate. We have a chance to do some great things as a team this season, and I am proud of the honesty and gutsiness of this group. I look forward to seeing them race on Tuesday!
In an attempt to make the races more competitive, the Grant coach collapsed the two JV races, and I was excited to see that opportunity for our bees! The rain let up for this race, but the course was more torn up. This crew did not care about the course. In the pre-meet breakdown, the energy felt different. The group was inspired by Riley's awesome kick, and they were ready to race. Our group got out really well, and I was stoked to see Julien and Karen so near the front of the race. Our next pack of Delilah, Illyana, and Mia were way up too, which was awesome to see! Our remaining bees were working well together in packs and looking focused and strong. Heading into the woods for the second loop, I was OVER THE MOON to watch so many of you charge around the flag and use the rolling downhill as a way to catch someone. I was about to list people who stood out here, but I realized that it was the whole crew. You women really used the features of the course to counteract your mid-race fatigue, and it made me smile! The part of the race I'd really like to focus on is the last hill. At this point, the hill can be a game changer. You are about to hit the two-mile marker, you are fatigued from the slippery, wet ground, and you have to face what feels like a monster. I was stationed at the hill, and I was so happy with how many of you responded. In particular, Delilah attacked the hill with power. She shortened her stride and looked at the top of the hill as she drove her arms with pride. Delilah has always been a strong hill runner, and she leaned into that title. Julien also had her sprinter-perfect form as she drove up the hill--outstanding! Ashley was also impressive by gaining momentum on the flat in order to help her attack. Belen attacked aggressively and briefly slipped; rather than giving up or looking defeated, she redoubled her efforts and looked fantastic overcoming the hill. And Mia did a great job of keeping her momentum after she turned the corner; rather than backing off, she kept driving past the baseball diamonds. Heading into the woods the last time, Nataly, Aubrianna and Blanca did a fantastic job using that little downhill. They seemed to come alive at this point in the race, and I was literally jumping with joy watching it happen!
The finishes from this group were impressive. Illyana pushed through the entire 400, looking sharper with each turn and outkicking a girl in the last stretch. Ashley and Jenny both reacted so well on that long stretch before the tricky turn, looking assertive and picking up their turn over. Karen took a risk and tried to catch a runner from Vernon Hills. Although she came up a second short, her grit in the pursuit is what we need every single race! Every single one of you looked strong and tuned-in during the last 400, and I'm proud of you! Shout out to Mel, Joceline, and Bianca for getting their first races of the season under their belts. They each admitted some nerves pre-race, but once the gun sounded, they relied on their experience to guide them throughout. Proud of you all! :)
Post-race, Keeley and I had a short talk about her disappointment in her race. It was then that I first pointed out how special you all are, and I later echoed this point to the whole group. You women have created an elite crew of rebels. 26 strong, caring women. 26 out of some 1,300 possibilities. You are the only 26 who were brave enough to battle the heat and the cold and the wind and the rain. You are the only 26 who sought out an opportunity to grow both mentally and physically. You are the only 26 who agreed to run mile after mile, deal with blister after blister, stretch tight muscle after tight muscle. That decision alone makes you one tough cookie. And if you keep leaning into the lessons this sport provides...if you keep treating each practice and each race as the gift that they are...if you keep learning from one another's strengths...if you keep working on your internal dialogue...we will bee the difference.
So when I said that I needed today, I needed it because running has always been a refuge for me when life was and is difficult. And watching you support one another brought me strength on a day of sadness. Thank you for that.
As we head into this next week, let's refocus our minds on the gift of each day. Let's do it in Coach Dawson's memory. And please keep his family, athletes, and friends in your thoughts. Rest in power, Coach!
This week provided a dose of deja vu: just like last week, our race was postponed due to weather, and just like last week, we combined with the men for a Wednesday race. I was so optimistic about this race due to the breakthrough workout on Saturday and the magic of the Darwin Run on Tuesday (thanks for that brilliant idea, Anderson), yet the deep puddles I found on the course curtailed my enthusiasm about particularly fast times. Like last Wednesday, the hecticness of managing multiple races and teams left me unable to view as much of this race as I hoped. Thankfully, you guys really don't need me. The conditions of this season have made you all laser focused during races, and your efforts today proved it. Here's what I loved:
You embraced the conditions. While I watched MANY athletes from LZ run around the water challenges on our course, especially in the last 400, I was elated to witness you all run the tangents and charge through the puddles. That mindset will serve us well at Grant, which will definitely be a wet and muddy challenge. You also leaned into the absolutely fantastic racing weather. The cool temperatures and light mist felt refreshing, and you all took advantage of the difference in the thermometer this week! Finally, I saw you exploit your deep knowledge of the course. While our course is relatively flat, the turns can be a disadvantage if you do not use them wisely. I was thrilled to watch you all lean into the last 800 turn going into the little loop by the football field. Every one of you whipped around that corner and attacked the little hill. More impressively, as you came down the other side, I was so happy to watch you open up, using the slight downhill to help you gear up for the last 400. I'm proud of you all for owning our home course. Remember that feeling when we host Stevenson next week!
You used the order to your advantage. I made a few small adjustments to the line up, and you all adapted well, feeding off the energy of your teammates. In particular, Audrey, Katelin, Illyana, and Julien stood out in this respect. I enjoyed watching these four pull on teammates and challenge themselves to move up in the race. It seems like this order was a winner, but I don't know how each of you felt individually. If there is a placement that might help you more, please let me know, and I will try to accommodate your preference. :)
You looked CONFIDENT. Last season, I smiled non-stop. We made huge gains as a group, and watching you race was just plain fun. At this race, we built upon that progress because so many of you are owning your fitness and greatness. I noticed on the starting line just how loose and yet focused you all looked. As you stepped to the line and waited for your individual "go," I listened to you encourage one another, and I watched your eyes as you toed the line. Your faces said, "I've got this," and then you let your race illustrate that belief. As I said at Deerfield, there is nothing more satisfying to watch than a group of athletes that know their worth. From Keeley and Belen who faced their first races ever with faith in their eyes, to 4-year veterans like Karen and Ashley who showed off their wisdom, you all just looked READY. On the course, I was particularly impressed by a few of you in this respect. Audrey. At Deerfield, you looked confident when you took the lead, but I could see the concern on your face as the race came down to the last 800 (let's be real--I was concerned, too). Not Wednesday. Wednesday, you owned every inch of the course, leaning into turns, pushing the straights, and kicking like crazy to the finish. Your mindset was all in, and it was so fun to watch. It was even more fun to move your name to the #2 spot. Marisa. When I saw you in the last 800, and you were still in contact with Maya, I was elated. You looked like you knew you belonged there: that you weren't intimidated by Maya's stoic attack or her killer kick. Your mind is in a new place this season, and I'm here for every second of it. Lesly. Early in the summer, you were putting together some strong efforts during the solo part of e-camp. When we started in person, I was so disappointed that you were not able to join us to capitalize upon the gains you had made. I knew that when you were finally able in August, it would take a bit for you to adjust to racing. To see you make such a breakthrough so quickly was just a joy to witness. Your focus was evident: not only were you locked in mentally, but you also looked smooth. That combination of intensity and flow created such a great race! I'm so proud of your progress, and I know that you will be able to help us fix the gap between our top three and our second half of our varsity. :) Illyana. Man is it cool to see you shine. From the moment you joined track, you were all-in in terms of attendance, dedication, and team mindset. But to see you connect all that base and hard work with such an awareness of your strength is just plain fun. Keep leaning into this power, and you will be in the 24s in no time. ;)
You let yourselves have breakthroughs. Real talk, you guys are FIT, as exemplified by Saturday's workout. But during the race, ALL OF YOU got out of your own way and allowed yourself to have a breakthrough performance. Audrey broke 19 for the first time this season and only second time in her career, earning herself the #2 spot on The Board. Maya, although I can tell she was not satisfied with her performance, did not overthink the race like she has in the past. She looked smooth as she finished sub-20, something she has never done on our course, and something that bumped her up to #5 on The Board. Her performance also helped us get one step closer to one of my team goals: to eliminate all the 20s on The Board. ;) In adverse conditions, Marisa ran a 15 second LPR, and looked fantastic doing so. Lesly also ran an LPR by nearly 30 seconds; unlike last year, she let herself simply race today. Natalie, after struggling the previous week to manage the time trial format, looked infinitely better today, working with her teammates and competing in a way that would make Kaila proud. Jenna, smiling the whole way, continues to have a breakthrough season. She peeled another 7 seconds off her time, earning a new LPR and helping our Varsity pack. Katelin looked fantastic today! Gone is the negativity and self-doubt; they have been replaced with her killer competitive spirit and a quiet confidence that earned her an SPR and a truly impressive race where she caught SO many people. Only a second behind her, Riley showed that not all sprinters have soft mindsets. Despite dealing with a stomach issue, she battled through the race, finishing with her iconic kick! Karen looked fantastic, earning a SPR and looking much more fit. The interesting twist here is that last year, her fitness was much further along, but her mindset wasn't quite complete; now her mind is ready, and she will be an x-factor for Varsity once the physical effects of her gritty Saturday workout set in. Delilah's confidence is through the roof this year, and it showed in this race. I could see she was ready for it on Saturday, and she did not disappoint, earning a new SPR. Julien and I had a short, frank, and productive conversation on Tuesday after the Darwin Run. Wednesday, she showed that she gets it. Not only did she earn an SPR, but she also had a fantastic kick that capped a great race. It's nice to see you back, Julien! Last year at this time, Illyana ran 31:04 at home. Today, she ran a huge LPR, dropping 24 seconds from last week. She "gets" it now, and I cannot wait to watch her continue to peel away time. ;) Last year at this time, Jenni ran 31:15 at home. Although she worked hard last year, she stayed comfortable in the 28s most of the season. Today (Friday), as we pulled out of the parking lot and onto 21st, I watched her form. Gone is the wasted sideways movement. Gone is the short stride. She looked smooth, strong, and confident as she made the turn. She is the real deal now, and she earned a huge LPR by nearly a minute over an impressive performance at Deerfield. She. Has. Arrived. And I love to see it! Her energy is contagious, and Mia is definitely infected. Mia keeps pulling on Jenni, Blanca, and Illyana and improving each week. I am so glad that she took the risk to try something new this season because watching her improve is a treat! She earned a new LPR by 50 seconds! Congrats, freshie! :) Belen looked amazing in her debut today. Not only did she embrace this new experience, but her time was fantastic. I know that she will continue to improve! Ashley also looked amazing today, earning a new SPR and coming closer to her LPR. Her last 800 was fantastic, and her confidence at practice has been growing each day. I know that the 27s will happen soon, and I cannot wait to watch her smash her LPR. Ixa's energy is everything right now. Despite EVERYTHING being sore, she battled through Saturday's workout, and it showed in this race. She looked so confident on the starting line, and she earned a new SPR today. When that Saturday workout sets in, she is going to drop some serious time--I just know it! Speaking of Saturday, Aubrianna had such a great day. In particular, her 400s were fire, and I could see her gaining confidence with each interval. It showed in the race on Wednesday; not only did she do a fantastic job of racing, she also looked like her real self--confident and fit! Nice work earning an SPR, Aubri! Nataly also earned an SPR today, looking so much stronger than last week. Nat is learning to work through hot weather, so she was wise to make the most of the cool conditions on Wednesday. She dropped nearly 3 minutes from Warren, and she did it by opening her stride and believing in her strength! Finally, Keeley ran her first race ever on Wednesday. Compared to four weeks ago, Keeley is a different runner. On her first day, she could barely make it 800 before she needed a break. Today, she raced 3 miles, and she looked fantastic. I cannot wait to watch her start peeling off time as her confidence and fitness grow. Finally, I need to talk about Blanca. She texted me mid-day with a concern over a family member possibly being in contact with someone with Covid. She could have just said, "It's race day--I'm not going to say anything." Instead, she was honest with me and accommodating when I asked her to quarantine until her family member got her test results. Thankfully, her family member is clear and healthy. More impressively, Blanca went to the course before our race and ran an individual time trial without the energy of the team. She ran an impressive 28:50--a nice bounce back after a tough race last week in the heat. The most important part of this story is her selflessness. It is that mindset that has kept our team safe all summer and season, and it is that character that makes me proud to be her coach! Honestly, so many of you have handled these surreal conditions with grace and integrity--far better than many adults! I honestly feel blessed and proud to work with you all.
Overall, I was so stoked about our energy and purpose. I cannot wait to see us race at Grant. Let's seize the opportunity to race head-to-head by taking the lessons from Wednesday to heart: Embrace the conditions; Bee confident; Get out of your own way. :)
Shout outs to Joceline, Melanie, and Marleth for timing at the meet. Thanks to Kelsey, Durran, Zac, Chase, and Collin for helping direct LZ runners on the course. It takes a village to make a meet happen, and I'm thankful for everyone's willingness to pitch in!
One last point to ponder: LZ beat us on both the Varsity and JV levels. They did it by being tightly packed time-wise. We need to take a close look at our gap after Maya and the rest of varsity. We also need to tighten the gap between our Varsity and JV. I know that we are moving in that direction, but I want you to be mindful of that point in order to provide a bit more "why" to your racing. I've included a pic of the top of the results and the scoring to help you see what I mean. You can see the full results at athletic.net. If you make a free account, you can see results without annoying ads. This website is a great resource to be able to see your progress as well as that of your teammates and other runners in the state. Bee a student of your sport!
What a weird period of weather. From heat-induced ROYOs the week before, to the threat of storms this week, we have been tested to stay on course. After being cancelled on Tuesday (which, I still argue was for the best...it would have been difficult to make it to the course due to the traffic and street closures created by the president flying in and out of Waukegan).
Our race against Lake Forest was tricky. The weather was significantly warmer than the day before (Blanca summed up the loss of those great conditions with "... the weather really played us..."), and we raced during the warmest part of the evening. That being said, many of you stepped up to the challenge. Unfortunately, I was not able to watch as much of the race as normally would; that should be fixed for our next meet vs. Lake Zurich. Here's what I did see:
1. GREAT first miles: Katelin, Karen, Illyana, Lesly, and Mia. You guys got out hard, and the splits show it. These bees definitely took risks in the first mile; that mindset is going to pay off. By going out hard, that stimulus is now in their systems. Their bodies are adapting to that work as we speak. Now the next time they get out at that pace, they will be able to "stick" for longer. Many of you had solid first miles, but I need you to reflect on your workout on Saturday. Your first mile in your race should be faster than the dessert mile; you can handle it, so trust your fitness!
2. Mile two grit: Kelsey, Audrey, Maya, Marisa, and Jenna either "stuck" or got faster in the second mile. This stat is particularly important--it means that when the adrenaline wore off and the fatigue set in, they pushed through the discomfort despite the heat. That kind of grit is what we need in order to make our goals come to fruition. If your second mile split was not what you hoped for, then that needs to be your focus on Tuesday. We specifically did work in the Twilight Loop on Saturday for this reason. You all SLAYED that workout! You OWN the second mile of the course. Remember that when you pass that corner on Tuesday. And as for Kelsey, Maya, Marisa, and Jenna? You four need to lean in even more--make that second mile the centerpiece of your races. :)
3. Fantastic kicks: Riley, Ashley, Jenni, Illyana, Karen. I'm know that there were more, but these are the five that stood out to me. Each of these women used the course to their advantage; they surged at the 400, and used the final turn and downhill to kick hard to the finish. I know that the last stretch is tough--the sun is in your eyes, and the finish line does not come fast enough. But these women? They looked fantastic coming into the finish. If the 400s from Saturday's workout taught you anything, they should have taught you that YOU HAVE SPEED, even when you are tired. Let's make the list of great kicks include every single one of you on Tuesday!
Overall, Lake Forest beat our varsity and JV squads. I need you to study the results for me--check out the pics below. You can see that LF beat varsity by 10 points. In our new format, time is everything. Since we cannot race for place head-to-head, finish times dictate the place order. Remember, I said that our first five people and LF's first five count for the score. You can see that LF's depth after their third runner is what did us in. Do you see all those LF runners who ran between 21:43 and 22:39? That strength is what made it impossible for us to win. Their depth in the 22s and 23s allowed them to sweep us in JV (their score of 15 is perfect, and the fact that we had a 50 shows that they went 1-7 before one of us finished). This kind of depth is what we should be moving towards. I know that we have a team that is capable, but we need to step up in the time trial format. You all looked sharp and competitive at Deerfield when we were racing head-to-head. I need that same intensity at Tuesday meets. If there is something I can do to help--whether it is a certain workout or race order--please let me know. In the meantime, study the results from Tuesday, and be ready to run in cooler weather this week. Let's seize the opportunity!
Lastly, I need you to know just how impressed I am by the work you ALL put in on Saturday. The sprints were fantastic. I was thankful to see you rise to the competitive challenge. Even though there were only two, they gave you the chance to do two things: tap into your max speed and develop that competitive drive. Both of these skills are needed to make you a well-rounded racer. The fact that there were so many races that Franklin had to call ties shows that you were fighting through the finish line. That mindset will help shave seconds off your times. When we moved to the 800s, most did not hit the target times. I honestly have not figured out what happened at that point in the workout. Were you still a bit gassed from the sprints? Were you not attacking as aggressively as needed? Was the loop a tad long? The second 800 was better, and most of you got faster or stayed consistent, which is good. That part of the workout demanded focus and consistency--both of which I saw. The 400s were definitely impressive. The fact that you were able to hit the last one faster than the second, while going uphill, shows that you were mentally strong despite being tired. And then the dessert? Honestly, I did not know what to think at first because you all looked shocked and a little deflated as we walked to the starting line. By the time you lined up, though, you all looked ready. Coming off the volleyball courts, you took the turn aggressively and pushed to the finish. The times were impressive. They show that you are stronger than you have been giving yourselves credit for so far. When you hit the 2-mile mark, remember how hard you worked on Saturday. Remember how tired you were when we lined up for the mile. Remember how you pushed through that fatigue...how you demanded more of yourself...how you finished with pride. Make that last mile a message. :) I cannot wait to see you race!