IHSA STATE FINALS
I am honored that I had the opportunity to travel with the boys to support Collin in his quest to break 15 and earn All-State honors. This trip has been amazing for so many reasons. Of course, just having the reason for such a trip is just awesome. My heart has been racing ever since the gun sounded at the Sectional! And much like my feeling about the chemistry of you girls this season, I was able to witness the closeness of the boys' squad--they simply love each other (even when they bicker), and they are incredibly proud to help Collin toward his goals.
I'd like to share with you a few key learnings from the trip. First, this was the loosest I have seen Collin all season. Let me explain. At the Warren Invite this year, I saw Collin sitting in our team tent during the beginning of the boys' frosh/soph race. I asked him why he wasn't out cheering, and he replied that he was worried about yelling and running around too much before his race. He was torn between his duty as a captain and his seemingly inexplicable superstition about using up his breath by cheering. When I encouraged him to compromise and simply clap for his boys, he looked scared but willing to give it a shot. And in race after race, I watched his face in the final mile as he mentally beat himself up for letting the leaders go. And after races, I watched him puke his nerves, a phenomenon that was new to this season. But from the start of our journey on Friday, something was different about Collin. As the band played and the ZB Nation clapped enthusiastically, he smiled and took in the experience. On the bus, he played DJ and laughed with his team. He told me stories about his family's roots. He reflected on the season. And when we practiced at the course, he looked easy and light. As we explored Peoria, he laughed with Lincoln and "reached Valhalla" at the shoe store. He even smiled while the reigning Detweiller record holder talked endlessly about himself, and later smiled while enjoying bread at Avantis. In the morning at breakfast, he looked rested and relaxed and in the moment. On the bus ride to the course, he lost himself in music and enjoyed the "100%" with some DMX. And at Detweiller? He was business and happiness. He did not let the bustle of the fans or the starting line phase him. During his strides, he looked at ease.
When the gun sounded, he got out hard, enjoying the freedom of one of the outside boxes. He went out with the leaders and simply let himself race. After the first 400, I had him in the top 10, and after the first mile, he was still working hard with that top group. And for the first time all racing season, he looked like he was eembracing the race. He looked tuned in and happy. His first mile was fast, and he ran a lifetime PR at the two-mile. What impressed me most was the difference between this year and last: when he got out hard last year, he panicked when he saw the times. This year, he let the success buoy his spirits, and he worked even harder. For the first time all season, he kicked hard with 400 to go. As I raced back to the top of the course to see Collin's time, I knew he was close to breaking 15. When I finally caught up with him and heard that he knew it was close too (he saw the clock tick over as he crossed the finish line), I was impressed by his post-race demeanor. He was not on the ground puking. He was not shaking his head or running his hands through his hair. And he was not pouting or ignoring all the people who supported him. He simply walked down the hill to the bus with his boys by his side. It was beautiful.
And after he got his warm ups on and cooled down, it was a perfect ending to see the video board flash his new lifetime PR: 14:59.88. It was beautiful to hear his team and family erupt with joy--one runner's effort celebrated by an entire group in a moment of shared happiness. That is what team is all about!
It was only as we headed out of the park that I realized for the first time that Collin had not puked post-race. When I turned around to ask him about it, he first asked, "What? Do you think I didn't race hard enough?" When I replied, "No! That wasn't my point at all!", he simply said, "I just really tried to keep calm today." It showed, Collin...it showed!
I am so proud to be a ZB today. Not only was I impressed by Collin's ZB history-making effort--no other ZBXCer has qualified for State twice--but I was also elated to see the extensive support of our ZBXC family. I was thrilled that Kelsey and Maya found a way to be there to witness the day (and I was equally excited by their thoughtful, heartfelt text responses when I asked them what they learned from the day), but I was also stoked to see that it was a priority for future leaders like Steff and Victoria to be there, as well as up-and-comers Charmaine and Crizaber. And what more can I say about Alexia's dedication to this team? To drive a car of fans speaks volumes about her commitment. And Takyra? After an incredible summer of hard work, it broke my heart that Takyra was not able to race this season. What soothed that hurt, though, was her thoughtful role as a manager. Her genuine joy as she reported each PR this season, as well as her thoughtful reflections on not-so-good races, shows her true knowledge of this sport. I cannot wait to see her race this spring!
I'll end with saying that this cannot be the end. I came home more hungry than ever for the girls to have the same experience as the boys. And while Collin made history as an individual, I have a sneaking suspicion that the girls team might make some history as a team in the near future. And for that...I cannot wait. :)
So incredibly proud of this team and this season!
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