Saturday-North Suburban Conference Meet @ VHAC (Stevenson):
After a powerful week of running, I woke on Saturday with excited anticipation of what you would do race-wise. How could I be anything but stoked after the awesome mile time trial, the 400s despite the rain, and the speedy power from Thursday. When we arrived at the course, it felt less than speedy; not only had the rain rendered some sections a sloppy mess, other parts were really soft. But I knew that despite the course, you would rise to the occasion. The energy as our first group--Varsity--headed to the line was focused and positive. Our pack got out well, and after the tennis courts, Kelsey was already in All-Conference position--17th place. Vic was in the mid-40s. The rest of our pack was toward the back of the race, but upon my prompting, Karen started moving up, along with Kaila and Marisa, and Carm was not far behind. Di, Delilah, Jenna, and Steff all worked together to move up as well.
Our overall times were solid, and I was happy with the effort I saw on the back stretch as well as on kicks. Specifically, a shout out is in order for Kelsey. This is her first race since Warren, and she looked fabulous. After only a few days of running on solid ground, she got out hard in 6:14, closed on a few people in the second loop (6:39), and finished strong with (to paraphrase her words) the best kick of her career, which allowed her to hold off a charging Jacklyn Hernandez of Waukegan. She finished in 12th, a significant improvement over her finish at Conference last year. Her race revealed her grittiness; not only did she have the courage to go out hard, despite limited workouts this week, she also worked through her doubts to create an impressive race! We are proud of you, Kelsey! Vic also looked great today--she got out harder than last time she ran this course, and moved up significantly in her second and third laps. She finished in 37th, which means that she caught almost 10 people in the middle of the race. Her workouts and races recently indicate that she is ready for an even faster race. I know that if she can focus on mile two as well as the kick, she will put together the race that we both know she is capable of! That being said, this race was important because she took some risks that she never took before. Specifically, I saw her make some nice moves to pass on the mini-hill as well as on the back stretch heading into the tennis courts. She has progressed so much as a racer this year--I am proud of her growth! Karen was our third finisher, and she, too had a solid race...only seconds from her lifetime PR. She looked smoother than in previous races, and her focus was evident on her face. That being said, she ran along with Vic all track season, and I'd like to issue a challenge for her to rise to that level again. With the evidence of her new LPR for the mile, I know she can get out a bit harder and take a risk with Victoria; she definitely has the strength to hang on in the latter miles, as evidenced by her hard work this summer and fall. Food for thought! Similarly, Marisa, our fantastic freshie, was only a beat behind Karen in the mile time trial. Although her time was solid today, she too has more in the tank. I can see how much she is learning each race, and I was impressed by her open-mindedness during the Sterling weekend. The regional provides an opportunity for her to take a risk and run with Karen to see what make a statement for her team. Kaila was not far behind Marisa; she told me post-race that the the muddy conditions were not favorable for her knee, and that she was a bit tentative after the first loop. That being said, she still ran a 3 second SPR in these conditions. The good news is that it is supposed to be dry all this week. Although Libertyville's course is challenging, mud should not be a factor on Saturday. I think the course will play into Kaila's strength. She has a strong base from running as a freshman as well as playing soccer for most of her life, so I look forward to her taking a risk with her racemates! Carmen, like Kelsey, has been battling a sore foot for some time now. This week, she seemed to be on the comeback, with her foot feeling better than it has in a while. The mushy conditions made it a bit difficult on her, though. She found herself in a no-man's land: not in contact with Kaila's pack, yet ahead of Di and our other pack. I offer her the same challenge for the regional: take a risk and go with Kaila. Di had her first race back after being sick. She looked stronger than she has looked all week, attacking the mini-hills and using the downsides to work on people around her. Her finish time was in the neighborhood of her SPR, and it was good to see her back in action! Jenna, Delilah, and Steff all leaned on one another today to keep focused. Their splits were very similar, and they finished within seconds of one another. I know that the sophomores definitely helped Steff out as she pushed through significant hip pain, likely exacerbated by the soft ground. Watching these three work together and keep each other accountable was beautiful; not only did they change the lead several times, but I could see them staying focused throughout. Nice work, women!
Now, on a soft course like this, it is more common to have more difficulty to maintain an even pace; not only did the squishy ground require more energy to propel yourself forward, but each time the racers circled the course, they tore up the ground even more. On the flip side, however, a mile-loop course normally allows for even splits since the terrain remains constant for each mile. Considering all of this, our second lap splits were too pokey. I know all of our runners were working hard, but the time differences between the first and second lap indicate that we were not quite focused enough, especially because almost all of you were able to bring the last lap down significantly. Let's use that info as a point of emphasis for next week at Adler. To be clear, Libertyville's course is vastly different than Stevenson's, but we can still apply the lesson: mile two must be a focus. After looking at the stats of other teams from our regional, I have concluded that there are five teams who are very likely to make it out. By my estimation, the sixth team spot is wide open. If you look here, you can see my predictions. The green teams are the ones I believe (based upon their previous performances) will likely advance to the sectional at Busse. I have highlighted individuals who have a chance, but that will be determined by the sixth advancing team. Honestly, our group has been improving by leaps and bounds each week. With Kelsey back in the mix, and the rest of you staying hungry, I offer up a challenge: Could you be the ones who break our drought of advancing to the Sectional as a team? Keep in mind that times DO NOT MATTER for the purpose of advancing. I offer the times to give you a reference as to what they have done during the year. The only thing that matters on Saturday is place, which leads to team points.
Our group was ready to take care of business after watching the other races. I loved the positive energy on the starting line, and the races did not disappoint! Jayla took the early lead for our group, getting out sub-8 for the first mile and looking assertive every time she passed me. Her form looked impeccable: tall, strong, and focused. She caught several sleepy runners on the second loop, and her finish was outstanding; she used the momentum of the last mini-hill to propel her onto the path. In her words, paraphrased, she kept accelerating until the last stretch, where she kicked harder than she has in the past. It earned her a new LPR by a whopping 52 seconds. Honestly, it was great to see her looking so strong after her back issues mid-season. I am so proud of her progress this season, and I am challenge her to plan her work schedule around summer running camp next summer--I know that she has the tenacity to make the Varsity squad next year! Really proud of your race, Jayla! :) Angie was our second bee for the race. She had a great start, too, and was actually ahead of Jayla for the first mile. She experienced a cramp in the second loop, but she overcame the pain to drop her time considerably for the last mile. She looked like a woman on a mission in the last mile, passing people like they were standing still and attacking the hills with gusto. I know she could have run a PR if that cramp had resolved earlier, but I am proud of her focus in the latter stages of the race. It shows her focus and grit! Proud of your race, Angie! Crizaber was not far behind Angie as our 3rd bee. She got out great--only a step behind Jayla at the mile--and looked amazing for the first half of the race. The muddy conditions were not favorable for her knee issue, though. She fought through the pain, however, and finished strong. I am so impressed with her grit--I gave her the option to step out of the race when I could see her knee was bothering her, but she shook her head and fixed her posture instead. Thank you for your dedication and tenacity, Crizaber! You are a real fighter! Loula was not far behind Crizaber. Honestly, this kid just keeps dropping time. Not only did she earn another LPR today, but she looked amazing earning it. She took a risk and got out hard--only 15 seconds off her mile PR for her first mile of the race! She kept passing people all through the race, and her kick was beautiful. Congrats on a 25 second drop, today! I cannot wait to see what you can do during track season! Sarah was only seconds behind Loula. Her first mile was more conservative than Loula's but her even splits allowed her to keep closing on her. I loved watching Sarah attack the mini-hills and work with her teammates to produce a huge SPR; she dropped a whopping 1:09 today, which is proof that mindset matters! She was super-positive before the race, and she kept focused during the whole run. Awesome work, Sarah! Elyssa was our next bee, and I need to point something out about Elyssa's season. She pulled a quad muscle early in the summer. She could have given up multiple times this season. Instead, she worked hard at PT, kept learning new taping techniques, and refused to lose her optimistic mindset. This muddy course did her quad, knee, and hip no favors, but she refused to quit. Not only did she push through, but she also helped Sarah and Loula with their races. Honestly, Elyssa is the epitome of the 62 mindset, and I look forward to helping her get healthy and pain-free this off-season. Proud of you, Elyssa! Claudia was our final bee of this race. As one of the last people to join the team, Claudia has come such a long way this season. After a prolonged mid-season illness, she looked sharp in practice all week, and even sharper in this race. Not only did she get out strong, but she kept battling to work up to the Libertyville runners ahead of her. Thanks to a heads-up move from Carmen, Claudia did not run the wrong way in the final loop, and she was able to run a HUGE LPR to shatter her pre-race goal! What was most fun about Claudia's race was the look on her face. Earlier in the season, she wore doubt every time she came to the line, but not today. Instead, she wore a smile from start to finish, attacking hills and kicking to a 6:51 time drop. So proud of your growth this season, Claudia! Great work! This crew certainly inspired the other racers of the day with their performances and positivity--nice work, women!
Our last racers of the day had to deal with a pretty torn up course, but they did it with grace and focus! Pre-race, they enjoyed some great advice from Angie: she told them to lean into the mud because "sliding is fun." Of course, I could say that, but it means so much more from someone who raced through it. These youngins took Angie's advice to heart and got out hard. Bianca was our first finisher for the day; she did so by running an even, focused race. Although her IT band has caused he some pain throughout the season, she looked open and strong at all points of this race, especially on the hills. She just kept passing people throughout the race, and her teammates saw her greatness and acknowledged it on the bus. Her focus earned her a huge LPR--a drop of 1:22! Awesome racing and impressive drop; so proud of you, B! Melanie was only a second behind Bianca. She got out hard and fought the desire to slow down in the middle mile. Anyone who saw her race KNOWS that she was focused throughout--it was all over her face! She finished strong to come within seconds of her LPR. Great first season, Mel! We look forward to watching you during track! ;) Joceline was only a few seconds behind Mel. She irritated her knee in the workout on Tuesday, but she toughed out the race today to show her team that she was committed to the whole season! She was a beast on the hills, using the downside to zoom past her competition. She earned a new LPR by 19 seconds. Of course the LPR is fun, but I am proud of her sticking out the season even though all of her friends quit. I hope that she found pride in this and that she will join us for track as well as next xc season! Ashley was our fourth finisher, and she looked awesome today. Although she did not beat her PR, she ran through considerable back pain to run a great race. Her form looked amazing (have you seen the pics on the gram?), and she was passing every time I saw her. More importantly, she stayed focused throughout the race. When I think back to where she was last year, I am so impressed by her growth over the course of the year. She has become a real leader on this team, both through her positive words and her dedication. I look forward to seeing what she can do during track season! Proud of you, Ash! Ixa was only seconds behind Ashley, and she did it by getting out HARD for the first mile and closing hard in the last mile. She struggled with some IT band pain this week, but she did not let it stop her from attacking each mini-hill and working with her team to move up in the race. She dropped an impressive 45 seconds on this muddy course, and I could not be more proud of her season. I appreciate her enthusiasm during our post-race discussions, too--she is the whole package! I hope she will join us for track, and I am glad she is part of our XC family! :) Jenni was not far behind Ixa, running a huge LPR, too. Jenni's shins have been non-cooperative all season, but she has been feeling good this week and was ready to race. She got out hard, and she her form looked impressive throughout the race. Her teammates complimented her for being in tune with their words of advice because she always zoomed when they cheered, and she really attacked the mini-hills. All this focus helped her drop 1:32 to earn a new LPR. Honestly, Jenni could have given up so many times this season, but she always looked for an opportunity to get better. She embraced the workouts she could do, and she cherished her race when she had the chance. Awesome job, Jenni! Sirrenda was only steps behind Jenni, and she also earned a big LPR today! Sirrenda has struggled with hip pain and then a nasty respiratory virus this season, but her race today was awesome. Not only was her mindset positive, but she also worked hard to be consistent in her second and third miles. She did a great job of using the down hills to help her drop a whopping 4:16--awesome work, Sirrenda! :) Nataly was our final bee for the day, and she too earned an LPR. She got out strong and didn't let her shins or allergies stop her. She had a great kick because she used the path and the final stretch to really push herself. She dropped a huge 1:05 to earn a new LPR. Awesome work, Nat! Overall, this group really shined today. Not only did they all help each other, but they also were out there cheering hard for the first two races of the day.
Overall, I came home feeling satisfied today. You all showed tremendous growth since the start of the season, and our team has become unified, as illustrated by the beautiful talks we have had on our bus rides. Honestly, we have not done that good of a job with that kind of positive feedback in the past, so it has been truly refreshing. As I reflect on the season, I know there are a few spots I will revise so that we can be stronger next year. But for now, I look forward to Saturday's regional. I hope we have full bus with the same positive energy of the regular season. Until then, please think about who deserves a link in our team meeting tomorrow. (You can see who has earned one on the Links Page on this website). Consider who has truly helped our team grow and who has helped you on your journey as a runner.
Finally, special thanks to Nathalie, Maya, and Noel for helping with bib numbers and splits today. You three really helped me and the team make the day successful! Thank you to 2018 alum Alexia for coming to support our team. It was great having your positivity on such an important day! I'm sure she can see how she has influenced this team. :) Linked for life!
One addition! Click on this link to see finish line pics of yourself. Simply scroll to our team, then click on your name! :)