Saturday, October 29th:
My goal was to help Julia feel sharp this week. After two weeks of racing on Libertyville's course, I knew that her legs might be feeling a bit flat. While I love that course, it is certainly a challenge, and I did not want its cumulative effect to leave her leg-dead. We drastically cut back the mileage and just focused on feeling fast and loose.
During the warm up, I could tell that Julia was nervous, but I figured that would fade once the gun sounded. After all, she had gone to the line of the 4X800 by herself all spring, and she was used to the pressure of being the first leg of that race. Doing dynamic, I could tell that the nerves were still there, but you girls did a great job of keeping her focused on the race and surrounded by love. As the gun sounded, I was ecstatic as I watched her navigate the crowded and narrow starting line; not only was she following our plan perfectly, but some of the other runners from her box inexplicably moved out of her way to give her a clearer path! Unfortunately, just as we were all about to turn to find our spots on the back part of the course, I heard the starter's pistol sound repeatedly: someone had fallen, and the field was being called back. My heart sank. It would be difficult to produce the same start a second time. I could tell that Julia was not pleased either, but she shook off the setback and took a deep breath. Thankfully, her second start was nearly as good as her first--she cleared the crunch of runners and was on the perfect line to avoid course hazards!
As we all raced to the other part of the course, I kept thinking how proud I was of her for handling the recall with such grace. Issues like that can really rattle a runner, but I was excited to see her exhibit the grit necessary to deal with the situation. When I saw her again, she was in a solid position within the race. Compared to the Warren girls and a few others from our Conference, I was really pleased with her efforts in the first mile. Her mile split was outstanding, and I was looking forward to watching her shine on the downhill portion, where the plan was to catch five on each "zig" in order to really stay focused and attempt to go negative on the latter half of the course. As I watched her round the corner of each section, I could see that she was struggling. Her aggressiveness was gone from her stride and eyes, despite her girls getting in her face at every possible turn.
After the race, Julia shared that she felt out of shape during the race--like she had taken two weeks off of running. I knew immediately that her second and third miles were on me. Finding the proper taper for each runner is a tricky formula. In my efforts to mitigate the stress of Libertyville's course, I had pulled back the mileage too much. Thankfully, I can use this knowledge to make sure she feels sharp for end-of-the-season goal races for track and all of next year, too. For this race, though, I am sending a big apology to Julia, though. She did say once or twice during the week that the taper felt too easy, and I should have adjusted things then to help her feel the best she could for race day. Clearly what does not work for one runner, does work for another, though. Collin ran the race of his life on the same workouts and earned his ticket to State--the first ZB qualifier in 40 years!
Overall, I am so proud of Julia's efforts; she showed grit at the start, ran an outstanding first split, and still battled in the latter stages of the race, despite how she was feeling. She also continued our streak of sending women to the Sectional. I know that she will use this experience to become stronger as a runner and leader for upcoming season. I am also proud of our team support--we had bees on every corner of the course; no doubt that the boys and Julia felt the linked love during their entire races. I am really proud of the spirit of this team, and I know that returning runners will take what they learned from the day to make the team that much stronger next year.
Saturday, October 22nd--IHSA Regional @ Adler Park (Libertyville):
To be a great runner, it is imperative to invest time and energy and faith. It requires physical and mental and emotional growth. And the difficult part is that it doesn't always pay off the way we want.
Back in June, we started a journey together. We had a small but dedicated group of summer runners. And as the group's fitness started to show, we started to get excited. The size of our group didn't matter...the fight and the focus did. In PPM workouts, the power of the pack was evident. Together, we were achieving far more in the summer than we did all season last fall. By the time Oshkosh rolled around, we were breaking more boundaries: the previous records for Garbage Hill and the DMR weren't just broken--they were decimated by multiple teams. The previous long run was now replaced with a 13.1. The positive energy between the men's and women's teams was evident in our work. And we started to dream big.
At the first race at Deerfield, I simply could not contain my joy as I watched the pack work. We looked like real racers because we looked confident and strong. And as the season progressed, we kept tearing up negative workouts and growing as a team in races. At home, we looked like a team on a mission. Elsewhere, we dropped time and kept looking for ways to improve.
And at the Regional, I was proud to see the way you all raced. Even though it was clear that the outcome was not the one we wanted, not a single one of you gave up. Julia clearly had the race of the day; not only did she work well with Jo in the first mile, but she also kept her aggression throughout, which resulted in an impressive 40 second drop over her time from just the week before. Jo had a great start and a great finish. Jacqueline, Mary, and Lainey worked well together in the first part of the race, and Jack and Mar kept that energy for most of the race. And although Lainey lost those two, I watched her keep trying to pick off runners in the latter stages of the race. Shayla and Taylor started strong together, and Shayla moved up to help as our 5th runner. While it hurts to have the team effort cut short, we were simply beaten by faster teams. And while these next few days will continue to sting, we can rejoice in the progress of the season; we can celebrate the fact that Julia will represent our team at the Sectional; and we can take pride in the fact that we were willing to dream big dreams.
The sting is the risk. If in June and July, we were satisfied with people showing up when they could...if in August we said we didn't care how the race at Deerfield went...if all season we were satisfied with good enough...then this Regional would have been more of the same. But this season we were different: we set high expectations for the season, and we chased the dream with all of our energy.
So what do we do with this hurt and frustration? Alfred Tennyson wrote "In Memoriam A.H.H." to sort out his pain from the sudden death of his dear friend, Arthur Henry Hallam. And while we have not lost each other, the dedication of a season creates an important relationship. The line that helps me most is, "Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all," or as I said on Saturday..."I'd rather go out swinging." I take solace in the fact that you were all willing to give it a shot. That your character is such that you believe in beeing linked. That your work ethic is such that you kept each other accountable to a higher standard than last year. That your pride is such that this ending does sting...but that you will use it to fuel you in track and future endeavors.
Let's take our energy and put it into Julia this week. Let's show her that our dedication to our goals is still real, and that we want her to have a great sectional race. We will do it by pushing her on the sharpening workout this week. We will do it by surrounding her in the power of the pack during CT days. We will do it by being in every corner of the course on Saturday. We will do it by being what we have been all season long.
I'd like to give a shout out to Kaila and Alexia for getting splits and supporting our runners. I'd also like to thank Victoria, Ashley, Karyn, Janelle, Steff, Naya, Meghan, and Tianna for making the course feel like home with their positivity and enthusiasm for our runners. All of you could have stayed in bed, but your willingness to be there for your teammates speaks volumes about your dedication and your true linkedness. (Yes, that's a word). :) I really appreciate all of you!
I'll just close by saying what is so true this season: I am proud to be your coach. Thank you for restoring the tradition of greatness of this team, and thanks for all the fun in between. It has been a great season!
Saturday @ Conference--Libertyville's Adler Park:
The last time we raced at this course, the weather was ridiculously hot, and the course intimidated us a bit. Since then, we have run hills at Beulah, Wadsworth, Sunset and more. We have race courses with more hills. We have strengthened that weakness. This week, I was pleased with our work on the track, too; you looked speedy and light on your feet--two traits of peaking at the right time. And when I entered the weightroom on Saturday, I felt a calm across our team that I thought would be a sign of great things to come. After Kristen Whiteside's wise words about patience and growth over time, I was ready to see you all race well.
Our Varsity boys started things off right with two All-Conference finishes by Collin (4th) and Michael (16th) and a solid team race. After seeing their success, I hoped our Varsity women would take inspiration. At the gun, I was pleased to see an aggressive start and good use of the hill. Coming off the first loop, Jocelyn was in great position in the top pack of the race, and Julia was right with her. Mary had a great start, too, as did Jacqueline. Lainey, Taylor, and Shayla were a little further back than I would prefer, but I knew that they had each other to help move up in the race. Karyn and Steff were not far off this pack, and Tianna--although with a conservative start--was working hard to pass people. The highlight of the race was Jo. She has raced well all season, but the look in her eye today was something different. She was feeding off the other racers, and she was determined to be in the top pack. With about a half mile to go, Jo was in All-Conference position (about 18th place) and looking aggressive. While the remainder of our runners had solid races, I am concerned about the gaps. You have all run the same workouts this season, so I KNOW that you are capable of being closer together. The magic and power of our opening race at Deerfield is still in you. The confidence you exhibited at home just last week is still in you. Our focus this coming week is to work with each other...to focus on WE. To recommit to what we established as goals this summer. To energize ourselves with the power of the pack. I know that we can tighten up each position and eliminate "enemy" jerseys in between our pack members. I know that we can finish with more power because we have stayed committed to the long run all season, and we have run negative splits in nearly every workout. I know that we can beat Warren again (nice job, by the way!), take out Mundelein, and defeat Deerfield. I know that we can advance to the Waukegan Sectional as a team.
Here's how we will do it.
On Monday, we are going to run a mile time trial. I need you to mentally prepare to feel fast. It starts with taking care of yourselves today. Get your homework out of the way, eat great meals, and get a good night's rest. When you wake up, think about how far you have come as a TEAM this season. During passing periods at school, use the crowded hallways as a mental boost...imagine that each unsuspecting student is a Mundelein, Warren, and Deerfield runner. As we warm up at practice, feed your teammates positivity. Talk about how much hard work we have done. Complement each other about something good that happened at Conference. Feel the great energy of a pack of women on a mission. At the starting line, remind yourself: "we are strong," "we work hard," "we don't make excuses." Once the trial is off, use the boys to help you go beyond what you have done before. When you feel tiredness, remind yourself that you must take the next step to make US stronger. Remind yourself that you must push through to make OUR goals come true. Remind yourself of what Kristen said: that she PRd at the Chicago marathon by trusting her training and trying something new--going out hard. And at the finish, feel fast, drive your arms, and find that extra boost for your girls.
All week, our practices will be focused on unifying the team to WE.
And on race day? That's your job. Do some research this week. Look at the race results from Conference. Look at how we can dismantle Mundelein. Look at how we can ensure another win over Warren. Look at Deerfield's times on a fast course for their Conference Meet. Plan for how we will succeed.
I'm not sure why the Open Women raced second, but the why doesn't matter. On the starting line, Takyra's positive words fed the already focused group. Ashley had the most aggressive start, but all of our open women looked strong after the first loop. As I headed to the woods to watch the passing, I was happy to see our bees working to pass sleepy runners who were way too happy to stay on the line (and sometimes walk?). What impressed me most about this group was that while there were three falls (Takyra, Alyssa, and Naya), there were zero excuses or pity parties. I watched each of you (whether you literally fell or not) work to "get back up" throughout the race. Ashley was by far our most consistent racer of the day, earning a season PR of 23:37, while Naya, Alyssa, and Kristina did a great job of each bringing down their third mile times to finish strong. I was also happy to hear several of you ask to continue practicing in the following week, and possibly race again after the Regional. I love that hunger! Overall, I felt really satisfied with the fight of this group--nice work!
Before the Frosh/Soph race, the girls had a moment with Alexia that I can only describe as transformative. These women came to the line with purpose and focus, and their starts showed it! Kaila had her most aggressive start of the season, looking amazing as she used the downhill to stick with the top pack. The remainder of our group had the same mindset coming down the hill, with Victoria nearly running me over as I tried to snap pictures! As I moved to other sections of the course, I was amazed by the aggressiveness of each member of this group. Not only did everyone take coaching and put it into action (passing packs or individuals on demand), they used Jo's advice of "free speed" on the downhills to their advantage. Kaila took the biggest risk of the day, and it paid off by her ending as our first bee. Emily ran the best all-around race of the day by running very even splits and bringing her third mile back down to the same time as her first; her consistency earned her a new LPR by 28 seconds (over her previous best at Warren--that's an impressive feat!). Way to go, Emily! Victoria also looked incredibly strong by running even splits as well and passing on command. Daz, as always, passed with authority and focus, while Diana had the bravest race of the day; she ran her first almost-post-plague race with courage and determination. Carmen worked on her consistency, too, passing several other runners right after her two-mile so that she could bring her last mile time down. Angie gets the biggest kudos of this group, as she continues to drop amazing amounts of time in each race of the season. She worked hard throughout the race, even after running a LPR at the mile of 9:37, in order to run an overall LPR of 31:08. She dropped 2:04 from her previous race--outstanding!
The positive feeling from all of our races fed into our link session after the awards. I felt great getting on the bus, and I can't wait to see you all beast the time trial on Monday! Nice work, bees!
Please bee thinking about our two awards that we will vote for on Monday. You can vote for both men and women, and you can only vote for people who have been on the team for at least two seasons. Check out the definitions below to get yourself thinking!
The MVP award is a very serious honor. Most valuable signifies that the runner contributes in every way: he/she leads through words and actions year round; he/she encourages positive attitudes; he/she strives to keep practices and meets challenging, competitive and fun. His/her hard work and speed set him/her apart at meets and at practice. Essentially, this person defines dedication to Cross-Country.
Outsiders view Cross-Country as an individual sport: the times are individually taken and a runner can compete in the State Meet without his/her team. True Cross-Country runners know that the spirit of the sport is embodied by the team concept…that no one individual is more important than another. Every successful team can attribute its success to a leader who stepped up, who sacrificed, who united everyone in order to help the team grow. A true leader possesses the heart and compassion to help the team become LINKED.
Tuesday @ Home against Lake Forest:
Our teamwork and speed to set up the course fed into our actual race for the day. I was really pleased with our start: not only did most of you get out in a smart but aggressive way, but you continued your work into the duck pond and twilight woods. What impressed me most was our kicks today. As I stood by the sectional loop, I could see each of you use that section--especially the downhill--to create momentum into the last 400. I was also able to see you come down the final hill and fight to the finish. Tianna certainly had the strongest kick of the day, looking like she was floating for the last 100 meters, but kicks were certainly the theme for all of you today. Nice work!
Jo had a very even race that allowed her to move up to #3 on the Top Ten Board with a lifetime best of 20:08. Julia ran next to her for most of the race to earn her own LPR of 20:31 and a spot on The Board at #9. Carmen earned a season PR for the day while looking very aggressive for most of the race; she chopped 39 seconds off her previous best to finish at 23:46. Nice work! Victoria looked amazing throughout her race, too. She dropped 23 seconds from her best to earn a new LPR of 23:48. Naya wore her signature race face and ran a ridiculously fast last mile to drop 50 seconds and earn a new LPR of 26:45. Finally, Daz had the biggest drop of the day: 1:00; she is finally under 26 minutes with a new LPR of 25:53. Like Naya, she ran a really strong last mile to make that drop happen. Overall, these individual time improvements came from consistency and then strength in the final mile. We need to continue to work on running aggressive yet even races in order to produce the times I know you are all capable of running.
In the team race, I am pleased to type that we beat Lake Forest for the first time in my tenure of coaching. Lake Forest is a powerhouse every year, so to win 25-34 is quite an accomplishment! Their coach did reveal to me that he had to sit three girls who have been dealing with nagging injuries. While I am sure that those three may have made a difference in the score, part of the "game" is to keep people healthy. Our top seven have been resilient (coughing aside) this summer and fall, which has allowed for consistent training and racing, so congratulations on that GRIT! This win came from a great team effort. Lake Forest had two front runners well ahead of us, but we packed 3-4-5-6-7 after them, which made our score great! The finishing blow was that our 6th and 7th runners (Taylor and Shayla) were able to beat their 4th and 5th runners. While Taylor and Shayla did not affect our score, they acted as a great defense; by finishing where they did, they "pushed" Lake Forest's score up higher and gave us more of a cushion to make up for Lake Forest's first two runners. At the start of the summer, I knew our strength would be in the tightness of the pack, and this race proved just that. We need to take inspiration from this race for the championship part of the season; keeping our pack as close as possible will be the key to success at Conference, Regionals, and beyond.
Saturday @ Wheeling Invite (Heritage Park):
While I was not able to witness the races at this course, I did have eyes and ears who reported the highlights and opportunities to me. First of all, I am glad to report that the mindset going into this meet was much improved over last year; gone was the intimidation from the hills and the lack of focus. They were replaced by positivity and support which have been the hallmark of this team this season. There were many of you who came very close to your season or lifetime PRs at this more challenging course, especially Lainey who placed 28th and earned a ribbon, Emily who had a great finish, Helen, and Kristina who had one of the most even races of the day. Angie deserves a special shout out for dropping nearly 2:30 from her previous best to earn a new LPR of 33:12--outstanding improvement! :)
Coach Hughes's assessment was that while there were many positives, we missed some opportunities to grow as racers. He felt that many of you fell asleep during certain parts of the race. While that may be due to a lack of teammate help (let's be honest, it helps to have teammates on the course to snap you back to the present, and with 9 people at Sterling and several others sick and/or injured, you likely did not have the course-support that you are used to), part of great racing is learning to stay disciplined and in the moments when no one is watching. Let's make that our goal moving forward--to keep mentally tuned in during the "quiet" parts of a race. Overall, this meet was still a vast improvement over last year, and I am thankful for that progress!
Saturday @ Sterling Invite:
Our race was similar to that of the crew at Wheeling in that it was MUCH improved over last year. It started with a positive practice on the course on Friday, followed by an entertaining dinner, and focused goal session before turning in for the evening. I felt a really positive vibe as we warmed up (kicked off by cute race shirts this year). On the line, I had a good feeling about the race, and I was not disappointed as our runners emerged from the woods. Jo and Julia were working smartly together; they got out hard and were in the mid 30s at the 800. Mary was a little further back than I would have prefered, but she was working hard after emerging from the woods to work back to her girls. Jacqueline fell victim to the narrow woods and was too far back as well; she looked focused on passing as she came up the hill, though. Shayla and Taylor looked strong at the start but would need to do some serious passing to make up for Lainey's absence. After the mile, we needed to stay focused in the woods, but our pack never got close enough together. Although the times were solid (Jo PRd by one second, and Julia was within seconds of her PR; Taylor and Shayla looked strong after toe and illness issues respectively), and parts of the races looked really good (Jo had a great kick, as did Mary), we need our pack to be much closer like it was at home earlier in the week. In a bigger race, we can't lose each other! Keeping close is what will keep our season going. That being said, I felt that the race was definitely a step in the right direction in terms of risk-taking and aggressive finishes.
In the Open Race, Karyn and Steff got out hard and raced well. Karyn was in the top group from the start, while Steff worked her way up and was aggressively passing throughout the race by responding well to coaching at different points on the course. The race of the day goes to Karyn, though. Not only did she stay awake for all three miles, but she responded in the final stretch. When she felt people passing her, and her chance at a medal starting to slip away, she reacted and dealt with the situation by kicking with purpose. Her finish was by far the best of the day because she caught at least six in the final straightaway. More importantly, this race was a big shift for her mindset-wise. Her efforts were rewarded with a medal in 22nd place!
Overall, I feel good about this trip. We have not had a team-positive Sterling trip in several years. I walked away from this one feeling like we are going in the right direction. Let's keep the momentum going!
Tuesday@Stevenson with Mundelein: For the second week in a row, we only had one meet, and it was on Stevenson's speedy, flat course at Half Day Forest Preserve. After walking part of the course and warming up on the rest, I felt confident that we would be ready to make the most of this course and cool weather. Our pre-race motto was to simply take a risk. In writing, that task sounds easy, but anyone who runs knows that it takes some mental gymnastics to convince the brain to go out faster than usual or to get out of the comfort zone. I was pleased to see that many of you were able to rise to the challenge. In the end, we were no match for Stevenson's speed and depth, but we nearly bested Mundelein--they edged by us by one point. Three of our Varsity racers--Lainey, Taylor, and Shayla--all beat their number five runner to keep the score close. This effort illustrates that every single racer matters, and that every place matters. We need to continue to live that mindset as we enter the final stage of our racing season.
There are plenty of highlights from this race. Of our 23 competitors, 15 earned either a season or a lifetime PR in this race. Julia slashed 42 seconds from her previous LPR to run 20:03; her splits were very consistent, and I know that she can break 20 at our home course Tuesday. Jacqueline was able to drop 31 seconds in order to earn a new LPR; like Julia, her splits were solid; if she works on her third mile, I know she will run the time she wants on our home course. Taylor ran a very even race, keeping two of her splits in the 6s in order to match her LPR; a more aggressive third mile will allow her to drop even more time from her LPR. Victoria had an outstanding day as well! She got out strong to shave 28 seconds from her LPR; her progress this season has been tremendous, and I know that she will continue to drop time in our remaining races. Takyra wasn't going to be left out of the LPR parade. She ran an aggressive, even race to drop an impressive 41 seconds from her previous LPR to land herself solidly in the 25s. She is showing her fitness now and will continue to drop time this season! Daz also had an outstanding race. Not only did she drop a whopping 1:24 from her previous best, she also ran an aggressive finish to put herself in the 26s for the first time! Kristina and Alyssa worked together through every mile to help each other to earn LPRs. Kristina dropped 15 seconds, and Alyssa dropped 10 in order to run in the very low 28s. If these two keep working together on our home course, I know they can break into the 27s! Odalis had an awakening today, too. She dropped 2:14 from her previous SPR, and 29 seconds from her LPR to move into the 31s for the first time! I know she can get into the 29s before the season ends! Finally, Angie earned the final LPR of the day by running a very focused race; she brought her third mile down; undoubtedly her overall time benefitted from her outstanding finish (which she is becoming known for). Great work from all of these LPR-earners!
We also had a nice crew of season PRs. Mary ran another even race to earn a SPR by 5 seconds. I know that she can bring that final mile down to get back to the 19s where she belongs. Lainey also earned an SPR by 6 seconds; more importantly, she fought hard in the final miles for her teammates. Shayla matched her SPR by getting out harder in the first mile--nice work! After a week of rest, Karyn ran a sharp race, earning a season PR and looking more like her real self. Carmen also earned an SPR with her Carmen-kick; if she is able to keep her last split closer to the others, she will be able to smash her LPR at home.
Although she was not able to earn a new PR, I'd like to give props to Ashley's final kick. Coming off the bridge in the final loop, Ashley was not afraid to challenge a runner from Mundelein; after numerous lead-changes, Ashley managed to best the other runner in the final step into the chute. This kind of prolonged grit is what we are looking for! Don't be afraid to challenge other runners AND yourself throughout the race!
Heading into our final dual meet of the season, I ask that we consider a few truths:
1. We had a tremendous week of racing and workouts. Saturday's workout on our home course should create an even deeper confidence for our race on Tuesday. In our first home meet, we looked crisp, focused, and aggressive. I want to see that same edge when we enjoy our homecoming race.
2. There has been A LOT of progress this season so far. If you look at our season progression (click here!), you will notice that there is A LOT of highlighting on the grid. Our workouts are designed to make you the fastest during the upcoming weeks. Have pride in how far you have come, and believe in how much more you can accomplish.
3. I am really proud of how you have picked each other up as a team. This part of the year can start to feel stressful academically--stay focused and continue to lean on one another. Let's keep the grades looking great, and let's keep elevating each other.
4. Finally, let's continue to work on honest racing. Accept the pain as the price of running, but focus on how you feel after you accomplish your racing goal!
Tuesday will be my final opportunity to evaluate our team to decide our Varsity line up for Sterling, our annual overnight trip. If Sterling is a goal of yours, then I need your race to tell me just that.
Also, we need to start thinking ahead to our Regional. There are ten teams, and we need to be in the top six in order to advance to the Sectional, which will be held at Waukegan's course. Here is our competition. Feel free to start scoping them out on athletic.net!
Libertyville Regional (10T)Date: Saturday, October 22
Adler Park--10:00 a.m.
Lake Forest (H.S.)
With only one meet this week, we were able to get some quality work done at Wadsworth on Tuesday. Here's what I hope was the learning opportunity: even when the surface is uneven and hilly, you are capable of running fast. This workout was not easy, but you handled it well. Please lock it in your mind--for later in the season when we return to Libertyville's Adler Park for Conference and Regionals!
Saturday, September 24th @ JT Invite (Grant):
Our Frosh/Soph crew started things right for us: we had two lifetime PRs--way to go Daz and Victoria who each dropped 11 seconds on this more challenging course; two sets of bling--Kaila finished an impressive 10th place to earn a medal, and Steff ran strong to earn a ribbon in 23rd place; and one "first race ever" from Angie who showed grit and tenacity the whole way! Overall, I was really pleased with the progress of this group. They placed 4th out of 8 teams and offered our other racers some valuable feedback. Nice work, women!
Varsity ran it's typical pack race, with Jo leading our group, and Julia only 51 seconds behind. Jo and Mary earned ribbons for their finishes in the 30s, and Shayla and Taylor were only 1:33 off Jo. As we discussed in our post-race talk, this tight split is what makes our team great. We need to get into a mindset more like the boys, however...we need to shift our focus from individual times and think more about racing and placing. If our pack were to move up just 15 seconds in the race, we would've ended up 5th in the team stats. Honestly, I think we are ready for that. One of you needs to step up to take the risk and bring the pack with you. Tuesday is the perfect opportunity to take a risk; Stevenson's course is flat, fast, and familiar to you all. Let's hold each other accountable to all of our talks from this summer. Let's capture the same fight that we showed at our home course. Let's channel the same enthusiasm we had at the opening meet at Deerfield. I know what this group is capable of, and I think you do, too. Let's go!
Our Open women ended our outing with solid races, too. Ashley got out hard and took a risk for the first mile. Tianna and Helen both worked in their second miles to stay awake and pursue other racers who were asleep. Takyra and Sam both used their long legs to maximize the downhills. Meghan used second-half grit to catch up to Naya and finish strong. And Naya used her tenacity to overcome an(other) ankle roll. In our post-race talk, this group was generally pleased, with Takyra proclaiming that she truly raced--that was my whole goal of the pre-meet bus reading, so props! :)
Shout outs for this week: all who helped paint our #hoco2016 window, especially Daz and Naya for their mad drawing skills and Emily and Steff for their cute handwriting; Lance and his fam for hosting the pasta party this week; Janelle, Alexia, Alana, Karyn, Diana, Carmen, and Sarah for taking care of stickers and getting times and pictures at the meet; and all of you for your honest talk on Thursday. Who is interested in hosting the next pasta party?
In this coming week, I have a new challenge for you all: lose yourself in the fun of spirit week, but stay balanced with homework, hardwork at practice, and a honed focus at our only meet this week on Tuesday. Saturday, we do have practice, so please plan ahead! I want you to be ready for our XC homecoming on October 4th! :)
Tuesday, September 13th @ HOME:
This day was pure heaven from start to finish. It began with Janelle, Steffany, and Freddy's tremendous help loading up the Spirit Bus during 8th period. These three had all the stuff on the bus before I could finish changing into ZB gear. Not only did they work quickly and efficiently, but they embody the true spirit of championship-mindset team: selflessness. They could have said that they had homework or something else to do, but these three bees gave up their study halls to make the coaches' jobs much easier--thank you!
That spirit of team continued once we arrived at the course; it was all-hands-on-deck setting up the course, cleaning up garbage, and generally getting things done. Every time I turned around, someone was asking how to help. That spirit of shared work makes my heart sing! THANK YOU! By 3:30, everything was done, and we could focus on the task at hand: racing.
The men had a great start which undoubtedly inspired our races. When I headed over to the starting line to check on you all, I was impressed to see everything happening as it should, but what impressed me more was the demeanor on your faces: I knew you were ready to pop great races. The breakdown gave me chills; I could feel the great energy in our group, and I couldn't wait for the gun to sound.
Our top runners ran smart for the first 800--we were packed up comfortably in about 15th place, looking comfortable and ready to pounce. By the time we exited the "sectional loop," we were already making ground on some of the LZ pack. Our mile splits were outstanding: our top five were all sub-7 and looking very comfortable. Our next pack (Taylor, Karyn, Kaila, Janelle, and Steffany) were all in the mid 7s and working well to help each other, too. We had a nice group all in the 8s (Helen, Carmen, Victoria, Emily, Sam, and Daz) who were looking aggressive and focused, too. And the remainder of our racers all ran in the low-to mid 9s for the first mile (Kristina, Naya, Alyssa, Deisy, and Meghan). Overall, I am really pleased with the first mile; you are all showing restraint and confidence in your training!
While I did not get to see the whole thing, I did enjoy watching much of the Twilight Loop. Not only did I see some significant moves in this section, but I also witnessed the confidence gained from our workouts there--nice job transferring your workout to a race! In the final loop, I was amazed by the grit displayed by every single one of you. Many of you battled with other runners to maintain or gain positions. Many of you battled to run even splits. Many of your had outstanding kicks. For the first time every, Jocelyn ran in the 6s for all three miles--amazing! She finished the race as our first bee with a lifetime PR of 20:35 after a significant illness. Her outstanding effort moved her up a spot on the Top Ten Board. Julia was not far behind with an outstanding kick and a 34 second lifetime PR! She worked extremely hard to collaborate with Jo throughout the race, which undoubtedly helped both of their times as well as our team score. Mary had the strongest kick I've seen from her ever, running a season PR by 31 seconds! Jacqueline was only steps behind, running a lifetime PR by 27 seconds! And Lainey did battle with three LZ girls for the entire last mile, kicking hard for her girls to earn a season PR of 32 seconds. I cannot say enough about this top five--I was going nuts watching them grit out the race for each other. This summer's hard work showed through a tiny split of 42 seconds between 1 and 5. Although LZ edged us by 5 points in the team score, I simply cannot wait to see what happens as this group continues to get stronger together. Who will step up to join them? Many of you have the potential!
Taylor ran a great race as our 6th bee, earning a season PR by 14 seconds. Karyn was only steps behind, also making progress this season to earn an SPR by 25 seconds! Kaila looked strong near these two, running only seconds off her LPR. And Steff (starting to get sick) also ran within seconds of her LPR. And Helen was close to this group, finally looking like herself again by shaving a whopping 3:01 off her season best to earn a new SPR; it's great to have you back, Helen!
Victoria ran an LPR by 2 seconds as a tribute to her grandfather. What a great example of finding inspiration despite a difficult situation! Emily was only seconds behind Vic, earning an amazing new LPR by 38 seconds! Great growth, Em! Carmen took inspiration from both of these women, shaving 1:11 off her previous season best, and kicking like the strong woman she is to a new SPR!
Speaking of SPRs and LPRs...the next group threw down: Sam dropped 56 seconds for a new SPR; Naya looked completely focused as she chopped 3:07 off her previous race to earn a new LPR; Kristina worked with Naya to drop 1:55 for a new LPR; Daz was only steps behind to drop 1:08 for a new LPR; Alyssa finished with a strong last mile to drop 46 seconds on her way to a new LPR; Deisy, despite shin pain, dropped 8 seconds for a new LPR; and Meghan rounded out our day with an 11 second drop for a new LPR.
Out of 22 runners, we had 11 lifetimes and 7 seasons...THAT is the kind of focused racing we need to bring to every race. Start with confidence, race without regret, and finish like you have faith in your training. Store this one in your mind as a victory of body and mind! This kind of race is the one that you should draw upon when the going gets tough.
Before closing, I just want to reiterate how impressed I am by the teamwork from the day. While Anderson, Hughes, and I did battle with the scoring system, you all TOOK CARE OF BUSINESS. The course looked great, rides were handled, and you all made me extremely proud to be your coach. Thank you! What an outstanding evening! :)
Saturday, September 17th @ Blue Devil Invite:
I knew it would be hard to replicate the energy of Tuesday's meet (and Wednesday's workout--nice job, by the way) at this meet, but I was counting on the magic of this course to help bolster your confidence. There is something so manageable about this course; I don't know if it's the fact that you can break it into loop segments, or the lack of hills, or the abundant shade...all I know is that our bees usually bring their best to this meet.
Our F/S pack started the day strong for us. Kaila started (and ended) strong with a sub-7 first mile. Motivated by bling or pride or both, her last mile ended up being her fastest, which earned her a ribbon for 24th place out of 234 runners, AND a new lifetime PR by 1:31! Nice work! Steff also earned an LPR for the day after a speedy start and a fastest last mile; she dropped 56 seconds at this race! Emily was our third finisher, running awesome negative splits--her last mile was a minute faster than her first--to earn a new LPR by 1:50! Carmen dropped 1:49 to earn a new SPR (again). Vic ran a solid race to finish within seconds of her LPR, and Diana soldiered through being sick to run a solid race. Overall, this group set a great foundation for the day--nice work, women!
So this next paragraph is going to feel like a contradiction...and that's because this race was just that. At the starting line, our women looked ready, but just after the breakdown, I felt like there was more nervousness than readiness, especially compared to our race at home only days before. I take responsibility for not saying something at that point to alleviate this situation, because I think that nervous-energy took away from our racing-sharpness a bit. Jo and Julia got out HARD at the start, sitting around 40th in the first 800 and running a fast first mile (6:22 and 23). While I like this aggressiveness, they both paid the price in the second mile, slowing by 57 and 66 seconds respectively; this kind of middle-of-the-race lag affects the mind because we are used to doing the passing in mile two rather than being passed. That being said, going out hard like this is called race-shocking. It is hard to go out that fast in workouts because workouts do not create the same kind of adrenaline and oomph that racing does. By going out this hard in the race, both of these women have now had a shock to their systems, and their bodies will be forced to adapt. After about 7-10 days, that "shock" will be part of their training, and that pace will no longer feel as rough to manage. So while that risk did not allow these two to finish where they wanted time or place-wise, it will pay off in a week or so! :) Additionally, Jo was able to bounce back for the last mile to run a 6:36; this shows that she was able to refocus and prove her fitness; this refocus enabled her to earn a new LPR by 28 seconds. Julia was able to do this to a lesser degree (she dropped back down to the high 6s for her final mile), but that first mile stress is "in her" now; I know that Julia's competitive drive will push her to bounce back at JT with better 2nd and 3rd mile results!
Mary, Jack, and, and Lainey started a bit more on the kind of pace that we have been running, so the second mile wasn't as big of a drop off, but it was still slower than on our course this week. This makes me think that the nervousness on the line took its toll on this group at this point of the race as well. All three came back down to the 6s for the final mile, which is good, but I know that this group has a bit more to give. And here comes the contradiction: criticism aside, Mary dropped 25 seconds to earn a new SPR; Jacqueline earned a new lifetime PR and went under 21 for the first time; Lainey earned a new SPR. I guess my point is that I'm greedy; I know what our top five is capable of, and I'm pleased but not satisfied yet. ;)
Taylor and Shayla (coming back from sickness) rounded out our Varsity racing today with solid efforts: each ran their last mile as the fastest and ran pretty even splits. Taylor earned a new lifetime PR by a whopping 1:18, and Shayla shaved off 31 seconds for a new SPR. Again, great growth from these two, but I am hungry for more! :)
The open race was our final race of the day, and the SPRs and LPRs kept coming ! This group endured the warmest temperatures of the day, but they were not to be deterred! Karyn was our lead runner with an aggressive first mile. Like Jo and Julia, her first 800 aggressiveness certainly affected her second mile, but the benefit will come in a week or so. She was able to bring her last mile down, earn a 24th place finish out of 212 racers, and set a new SPR by 29 seconds! Tianna was only steps behind Karyn at the finish, running her last mile as the fastest and earning a new LPR by a whopping 2:38! Way to go Tianna! Ashley, after feeling a bit off at the beginning of the meet, buckled down and raced hard today; she dropped 3:18 to earn an SPR of 23:04! Helen was not far behind, looking strong and finishing with an LPR by 43 seconds! Nice work! :) Despite nursing an irritated hip all week, Sam ran her last mile the fastest and earned a new LPR by 2:06! Outstanding! Takyra was not far behind, earning a new SPR by 29 seconds. :) Naya destroyed her very young LPR by 33 seconds and had an outstanding last mile--it was her fastest by 53 seconds! Alana, Alyssa, Kristina, and Meghan all worked together at different points to push through the last mile. Alyssa ran a lifetime PR by 1:13, as did Meghan by an amazing 2:05--outstanding work, women! Odalis shaved some considerable time off her season PR--a crazy 4:03! Nice work!
Overall, our efforts at Blue Devil were great. We are growing each race, and we are helping each other get there. This week affords us an opportunity to get in some quality work early in the week, and then race on a NEW JT course. For those of you who raced there before, it looks like it might be easier--it is now a loop that gets repeated 3 times, which allows for more coaching and cheering and fewer opportunities to fall asleep. It also looks like a lot of the previous twists and turns have been reduced. I look forward to everyone bringing their grit to the workouts this week as well as our next racing opportunity!
Before I sign off, three things:
First, don't forget that the deadline for ordering clothes is TONIGHT at midnight. Go to www.americanoutfittersltd.com to order your 2016 ZBXC gear!
Second, I challenge you to ponder the following question (to be answered at the start of practice tomorrow): what makes a great team and teammate?
Third, there is an volunteer opportunity to give back to the running community on Friday, October 14th at 6:00 pm. Mrs. Batz, teacher at Kenneth Murphy, is in charge of the Full Moon Run in town. The proceeds go to Cory's Project, an organization that provides support to families dealing with a child who is going through chemotherapy. Please let me know if you will be able to attend. Time commitment: arrive at 5:45 to get organized, cheer on the runners until about 6:45! You can arrive earlier to help set up, or stay late to take stuff down and/or cheer during the awards. Please let me know ASAP!
Tuesday, September 6, 2016
Yes, the times are not amazing from this race, but what is most important is that you rose to the occasion despite two obstacles. First, this course is a true cross-country course: it requires the racer to deal with hills, various terrains, turns and more hills. You all dealt with this challenge with ease--I loved watching people capitalize upon the downhills and set their faces with focus to attack the uphills. The second challenge was also a physical and mental one. The heat and humidity were rude, but you all stepped up to handle the situation. There were no complaints at the starting line, and there was no drama at the finish line--that's just how I like the meet to be. In the middle, we had some gutsy racing. Usually Libertyville rolls a perfect score on us (for those of you who are new, that means that they earn a 15 and push us to a 50--they win 1st-7th places). Today was different because Julia broke up their pack. I believe we can put more of us in their mix by the end of the season, though. Warren still beat us, this time by 7 points; that was without Jocelyn and Shayla, though...put them in the mix, and I think we can take them!
There were a few other highlights for the day: Naya finished her first XC race and looked amazing; Sam ran a season PR in a show of toughness; Taylor stepped up to score for Varsity; and Tianna and Helen made their season debuts with strong efforts!
Overall, I was pleased with the mindset and effort of our team today. I know that the heat was tough to overcome--there were several other conference teams that cancelled their meets today. Let's keep moving forward, but let's remember that the next time we run at Adler, conditions will be MUCH easier!
Saturday, September 10, 2016
Due to the weather, the order of races was changed--Varsity and Frosh/Soph swapped spots to ensure decent course conditions for the Varsity race. Our Varsity 6 got out well, and our pack was united at the 800. In the woods we broke up, though, and by the start of the second loop, there were significant gaps. Rumor has it that the course is now 3.1 due to mowing changes, but that does not completely explain the drop in our third mile splits. After the success of negative-split workouts this season, I KNOW we can close better with some more focus in this last mile. Let's make that the goal on our course on Tuesday. Overall, I was pleased with our effort; it was a solid team race. I am waiting to see what kind of statement you are willing to make when we head home. It was great to see Jo back in action, Shayla finishing strong, Julia and Mary taking command, Janelle gritting it out for her girls, and Jacqueline fighting so hard at the finish.
The Frosh/Soph women got out strong and competed well. Kaila was our leader for the day, running a really strong first mile in 7:02. Steff was not far behind, looking strong going up the hill after the 800. Victoria and Carmen both did a great job of getting to the outside and zooming around the crowds. Sarah and Diana worked really well together early in the race, and Emily and Daz were not far behind. Emily ran the most even splits of the day, and her efforts paid off with a new LIFETIME PR of 25:28--awesome job! Daz also earned a new LIFETIME PR by 5:19--ridiculous! Way to go, Daz! :) Sarah also stepped up to race a partial. Overall, I was really impressed by the finishes in this group: despite sloppy conditions in the final stretch, you all looked aggressive and competitive. Really proud of you all!
I have to reserve my biggest kudos for the women of the Open Race. When the 5 minute whistle sounded, the wind picked up dramatically, and the rain ceased to be refreshing. When the official started waving off the starting line, I could only assume he was saying sweats-off. My shock has yet to abate that he was signalling that the meet was over. Never in my 20+ years of coaching have I ever heard of a meet being called off for MUD. There was one time Wauconda was cancelled in advance because the course was flooded. And there was one time we had to shut things down due to lightning. That's it. I still cannot understand why the decision was made, but what matters most was how these women reacted. While other teams inexplicably cheered, our women were angry, shocked, and unwilling to accept their fate. So when I suggested that we run anyway, I knew that my words would be received well. I called the start, and our women were OFF. Our pack got out hard to the cheers of our team and other true cross-country fans. Lainey absolutely stepped up--not only did she run a season PR with hardly any competition (there were a few other teams that started to "race", but not at the same time as us), but she also looked confident and strong the whole way. This race shows that she is capable of running more even splits and racing hard despite tough conditions. Taylor had a great start, too, going sub-7 in the mud! Tianna looked strong in the first mile, too, with Ashley and Takyra not far behind. Sam had an aggressive start, as did Naya and Meghan. The finishes in this race were outstanding--each woman had a determined look on her face, and ran aggressively to the line--the same line that the officials said was too dangerous to run on. Sam ran another season PR today, despite the longer and very sloppy course--great work! Ashley finished her first race of the season after some knee issues--an impressive feat in this mushy course! Overall, this group raced well and took suggestions well as they raced. I also love that each runner in this group took pride in racing--that's what every coach dreams of! I can't say enough how PROUD I am of the grit of this group--you embody what cross-country is all about!
Let's take the courage and grit of today and translate it into great team races on our course on Tuesday.
FoAs I admitted on the bus, I went into this meet with some trepidation: the last time we were on this course (when Mary and Nate were freshies), it was not in good shape at all. After scouting it out with Coach Anderson, I was satisfied that we would be safe, but I wasn't sure how fast the course would be. The Varsity girls gave us the answer: the course--while bee infested and a bit uneven--was fast. Unfortunately, my conservative-first-mile-game plan was not conducive to the narrowness of this course. Our Varsity pack felt trapped and quickly split up as they tried to weave around slower runners. Our first mile was solid, but our lack of a pack made the remaining miles suffer, not to mention the absence of Shayla and the addition of the plague in Jo. Our third mile needs to mirror all of our hard work from this summer and recent weeks; if we can manage that, our team place will improve dramatically. I know that we can make that happen! Take a look at the split Libertyville had on the same course. That is the kind of team I know we can be.
Ok, so that critique aside, there were some great things that happened in this race: Jacqueline ran an LPR by 9 seconds; Mary, Lainey, and Karyn ran SPRs; and we learned a lot. I know we are more ready for Libertyville now due to today's race.
In the Open, I was beaming from ear to ear. EVERY SINGLE RUNNER earned an LPR or SPR in this race. Fantastic! Kaila was our first bee and ran an impressive race; she got out hard and kept fighting throughout. Her time put her 6th on our team overall today--excellent effort! Taylor was not far behind, running a very even race. She dropped 58 seconds from last week's run at Deerfield for an SPR; her time placed her 7th on our team for the day. Steff ran an impressive race as well, shedding 51 seconds from last week to earn a new SPR. Victoria looked amazing in this race. Not only did she drop a whopping 3:50 from her previous race, but she also had a great kick! Diana was working hard too, losing 1:38 from last week and challenging herself to the end. Emily had an amazing 3-mile debut, running a solid 25:46 and learning more about her abilities. Takyra looked wonderful in her racing debut for the season, hitting her goal on the head by running in the 26s. I know that she will continue to improve as her fitness comes back! Alyssa ran a ridiculous LPR of 30:16 and looking amazing as she headed into the last stretch of the race! Deisy was gritty in her first 3-mile race, channeling her anger at a wrong turn into a nice finish and an LPR of 30:27. Meghan looked simply amazing in her second race ever, dropping a ridiculous 4:13 from her previous outing and looking confident and strong the whole way.
More than the times, what impresses me most about this team is the spirit of growth. Post-race, I heard conversations about improvements, congratulations, and questions about how to get even better. During the boys' open, I watched as you all supported our guys and learned from their race as well. If we keep moving in this spirit, this team is going to do great things this season. Thursday and Saturday's workouts also show me how gritty we really are...I can't wait to see another race!
Focus for Libertyville: Using the course to our advantage and challenging ourselves in miles 2 & 3 to stay focused.
Shout outs: Thanks to Naya, Ashley, Kristina, Alana, and Alexia for all the great stats for the day. This was NOT an easy course to get splits on, but you women made it happen. Props!
Women's Varsity Results. Be sure to scroll down to check all the cool data.
Men's Varsity Results.
Women's Open Results.
Men's Open Results.
After a tremendous summer of preparation and dedication, it was with great enthusiasm that I looked to this first meet of the season. Although the meet is rather relaxed (no official flags on the course and only two other teams), I knew that it would be a great way to test what I suspected all summer: (to steal from the Cubs) we're good.
In the 2.25 race, we had six bees represent for ZBXC, three of whom had never run in maroon and white on a cross country course before. As we warmed up, I could sense some nervousness, but the overall feeling of the group was positive, which translated into great races! I was pleased with our start, and specifically with Alyssa's assertiveness, which earned her an LPR for her first mile! In the first loop, I watched as each of our women started to figure out where she should be and with whom she should work. Over on the other side of the bridge, I was pleased to see how each bee reacted to the cheers of her teammates: I watched each of the six surge to catch another pack of racers or reunite with a teammate--it was awesome! Emily came alive in this loop, passing opponents and moving up significantly in the race. Alana was our most consistent racer of the day, running nearly even splits. Kristina had a strong kick that signalled that her hip is feeling great, and Daz and Deisy both completed their first XC races ever, looking strong every step. Overall, I was pleased with this race as a starting point--let's just keep getting better!
In the 3-mile race, our runners embraced the positive vibes from the first. On the starting line, I was proud to see the optimism and anticipation in each bee's eyes. At the gun, I anxiously watched to see if our pack would be able to execute our plan. As they rounded the first corner, I was so stoked to see the pack running in formation and looking strong. At the mile, I was even more happy to see the aggressive attack. Not only did it look stinkin' cool, but the power of the pack was unmistakeable. Although the race was far from perfect, it illustrated that our pack is ready to play with race tactics and can compete with any team! THIS IS PROGRESS! But the fun at the mile did not stop with our top pack--Taylor ran a SPR at the mile, as did Sam and Victoria. Nice work, women! Meghan decided to just break her LPR at the mile...and keep running...no big deal! :) This kind of aggressiveness will pay huge dividends later in the season, so keep pushing, bees!
At the two mile, our pack was in pairs, but I was really happy to see that these pairs were actively working to pass Deerfield and Warren as well as to "repack." That kind of late-race tenacity is due to all of this summer's hard work. Our whole squad looked great attacking the finish line, too. Many bees accelerated prior to the final turn, which is what we will need to do on other courses this season in order to be competitive.
The final stats show a tremendous amount of growth. Jo was only seven seconds from her lifetime PR. Lainey was an important part of our strong pack work in the second mile and was faster than Bee Linked. Mary ran a SPR and looked amazing racing on an XC course again--I've missed you, Mary! Julia...an LPR by 54 seconds; she did it by believing in the pack, and working with Jacqueline late in the race to stay sharp. And Jackie? An LPR too, by 16 seconds! Again, a testament to letting the pack fuel the individual race. And the PRs don't stop there: Shayla ran the most even splits of the day to earn a new SPR; Janelle shaved two seconds off her lifetime best after rolling with the pack through the first mile; and Karyn actually hit the first mile goal time I set for the group and ran a SPR. Not too shabby for this lead pack. :) Taylor and Steff were not far behind--both earned SPRs and ran significantly faster than their Bee Linked 2016 times. Both looked tough and ready to race even faster at Lake County. Sarah was our next bee to finish--not only did she run a LPR, but she lowered her Bee Linked time by over a minute! It was great to see her take on such a positive mindset in her first high school XC race! Diana and Carmen took some of that Varsity-Pack-Magic and worked together throughout the race; they did a great job of bringing their third mile times back down. Shout out to Diana for all of her hard work this summer as she completed her first XC race of high school! Victoria was not far behind these two after a strong start; she ran an LPR (compared to PPMs) and looked great in her first XC race of high school. Sam was aggressive at the start, too, and ran a SPR for mile one. ALthough she was not happy with her finish, I know this veteran will work to improve that issue! More importantly, she helped Meghan complete her first XC race, too. Meghan ran a LPR for her first mile and finished her race with a great kick. Overall, SO proud of this group!
So even though the score (math) didn't work out tonight, I am energized by our ZBXC GREATNESS REVIVAL. This race is just the beginning. To steal from the Cubs one more time (in this post at least...you might as well get used to LOTS of references this season), LET'S GO!
Focus for Lake County: even more mile two aggression.
Shout outs: Thanks to alums Olivia Wagoner, Violette Betancourt, and Ana Beck for coming out to support the kick off to our 2016 season; your presence means the world! We run for you! Thanks to Alexia, Takyra, Naya, and Ashley for getting impeccable splits, and thanks specifically to Alexia for #racemath.
Reminder: Go to www.athletic.net to see how your results stack up throughout the season (search by your name or by Zion-Benton). Check out dyestatil.com to learn about other meets and runners throughout the state. And follow us on Twitter: @beelinked and/or Facebook: Zion Benton Cross Country and Distance Crew