Saturday @ Adler Park--IHSA Regional:
We knew what we were up against for the regional--it was going to take a perfect effort as well as another team's faltering in order for us to advance to the Sectional as a team. And all week, we worked hard, both physically and mentally, to prepare for our challenge on Saturday. I was proud of the way you all tackled the course on Tuesday. You all seemed to have an optimism about how to attack it on race day. And then during breakfast on Friday morning, there was just an easy joy among you as you laughed and ate. That easygoing attitude flowed into Saturday morning...the energy on the bus was positive, and it was the same as you headed off to warm up. As we circled up before the race, I could see that you were ready, and I was proud of the progress of this team. Many of you have stepped up into roles you were not expecting this season, and I knew that the race would be another learning moment for this team.
At the gun, the group was off well, unencumbered by the narrowing of the course. At the 800 mark, Kelsey was almost 20, Vic was in the early 40s, and the majority of our pack was working together to move up. Unlike the boys' race, ours seemed to get out very aggressively, and all of our bees adjusted well. Heading into the mile, Kelsey had moved up to 17, Vic had moved to the front of the group she was running with. Karen was our #3 and was working hard to move up to the next pack of runners. Marisa was not far behind, working toward Karen, and Kaila was doing the same to catch Marisa. Carmen looked focused as she surged into the woods, and Steff was working on an HP girl and Waukegan girl. When I saw our girls again by the river, both Kelsey and Vic had moved up considerably. I was impressed by how Karen and Kaila used the gradual downhill to catch people, too. Marisa looked tight, but then opened as all her teammates cheered for her, and she too pushed down the hill. Carmen's form looked impeccable as she coasted down the path, and Steff rallied at the cheers of her team. In the final loop, I was impressed by everyone's focus; however, it was clear to me that we did not have enough today to surprise any of the teams ahead of us. After watching some gutsy finishes, especially Marisa's where she outkicked a girl from Waukegan, I was eager to talk with our team. In our circle, we talked about what went well: using the course to stay awake; catching girls in the latter parts of the race; kicking with guts; using our teammates' energy to help fuel our work.
I knew Kelsey was far enough up to earn a spot at the Sectional, but I was worried about Vic; although she had worked hard, I was not sure about the 6th place team, so she was on the bubble for advancing. When the results were finally posted well after the finish of the boys' race, I held my breath as I flipped to the second page. Elation is not a strong enough word to describe my emotions as I saw Vic's name in bright yellow highlighting. As I ran up to tell her, I could see her initial shock, then joy as the great news sank in. I was stoked to see her teammates celebrate this great news with her, and I was equally happy to know that Kelsey would have a fellow bee on the starting line at Busse.
I need you all to know how proud I am of you. You fought hard in a tough race--both course and competition. You kept yourselves positive to give yourselves the best possible chance. And you used your resources throughout the race--time and time again, I watched you feed off the energy of our fans, and it was awesome to watch!
So where do we go from here? First, we take some time celebrating Kelsey and Victoria's accomplishment! Their efforts continue our trend since 2001--that we have qualified individuals or a team every year! They both battled hard all season and in the race in order to become Sectional Qualifiers, and I'm so proud of them both! This is Kelsey's second time qualifying, which shows her continued commitment to racing hard. And this is Victoria's first time qualifying, which shows her faith in the growth mindset. Way to go, women! :)
This coming week, we will support them as they prepare for the Sectional at Busse. Unlike Adler, the sectional course is relatively flat. It is a simple course: just a mile loop repeated three times. It is very spectator friendly--most of the course can be seen at once. The only problem is that SO many fans show up, that the crowd can be four to five people deep, especially at the finish, which makes seeing the runners difficult at times. We are going to try to check the course out on Tuesday (just waiting to hear about spirit bus availability). On race day, our mission is to watch and learn as much as possible. We have most of our team returning, and our goal needs to be that we make it as a team in 2019. Please--watch and learn!
Before I close, I need to thank the bus FULL of fans who helped our team with their love and support. Shout out to Jayla and Crizaber who were among the first and most helpful to arrive--they moved all the gear out to the hallway by themselves; thank you for your selflessness! Thanks to Maya and Nathalie for their help with chips and times; their diligence makes my job so much easier! There were plenty of fans who were spread out to cheer their heads off: Jenni, Sirrenda, Delilah, Loula, Claudia, Ashley, Melanie, Di, and Jenna. It was beautiful to have your warmth, positivity, and selflessness here to share the joy of the day. Thank you--I appreciate you all! And finally, thanks to the alums who came out to cheer, too: Cynthia and Julia. You two have made a lasting impact on this team, and it is evident by the way that they reacted when they saw you show up! We have had a lot of alum support this season: Janelle planned to come to Sterling before it was cancelled; Ana joined us for practice; Alexia joined us for a meet; and countless others have sent their well-wishes! #linkedforlife :)