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.