Wednesday @ Lake County Invite
Despite the wet weather prior to the meet, the course was in good condition for miles 2 & 3. The opening mile was sloppy for sure, especially the opening 300 meters, but our Bees handled the situation with the right mindset. There were two races for the women: varsity and open, both running the full course (which is alleged to be over 3 miles, especially with a few new sections to make the course safer on turns). This race was an important one, as there is a good chance we will be back at Waukegan Sports Park for the Sectional in October. Assignments will be posted for Regional and Sectional on 9/11.
Due to the spread out nature of the course, it is difficult to report on the whole race. Here is what I witnessed in the Varsity race:
Kelsey got out harder than usual, per our plan, and looked strong in each switchback. Near the top, she was in the 20s, and clearly she did a lot of passing to get to All-County Honors in 12th by the end. When I asked her to tell me something good about the race, she reported that she felt strong and that she really worked to pass. I can add that she looked mentally connected the whole time, which is great! Zoe was our next bee, and she did not look as connected as at Deerfield. With Maya out to tend to her hip, and Kelsey further ahead, this was a chance for Zoe to test her pacing skills. To her credit, each time I saw her on a switchback, she was working to pass people, especially when she had the downhills to assist her, which helped her to an impressive 37th place. I know that she will be able to put this aggressive mindset to work at our next meet on Saturday, too. Our next finisher, Victoria, had some bright spots to her race. Not only did she do a nice job of passing, but she also continued working on her racing mindset. In terms of our team, though, we have to have a better split between our 1-5 and 1-7 if we are going to be competitive as a team. At 90th, there were too many people between Vic and Zoe. It is early, though, and I know that we will fix this issue as we continue to get stronger. Carmen stepped up as our #4 for the day, looking tuned in on every switchback. She was very receptive about working to pass people, which is a bright spot! We have to get her time where it belongs, and I know that that will come in the next few races. I am proud of her for taking on the challenge of being a scorer today! Karen rounded out our 5 today, not far behind Carmenita. I know that she will race stronger when her hip is feeling better; she definitely had a good learning experience today--we know she needs to get out harder to keep contact with her team like at Deerfield. Lesson learned! In her season debut, Di was our 6th runner. It's likely that she was starting to suffer from the bug that got her sent home on Thursday and kept her out of Saturday's meet. She is on the mend, though, and I anticipate that she will be ready to step up to help her girls ASAP!
In the open race, we had several "firsts" as well as many pleasant surprises. Before we get to that, I invite you to check out the first finishers overall from this race: https://www.athletic.net/CrossCountry/meet/150405/results/623935
The Vernon Hills team put on a clinic! Not only did they place 5 in the top six, earning a score of 17 in an invite (wow!), they also did a great job of working with each other in most of the race. Food for thought! That being said, our girls did a fine job of keying off of each other, as was the case with Elyssa and Marisa. Although Marisa had the stronger kick, these two worked well together, and pushed hard to be awake and passing throughout the switchbacks. Delilah got out much more aggressively in this race, and did an awesome job of keying off of this duo as well. So impressive! The next set of teamwork was between Jenna and Angie, who only finished seconds apart. Although Angie put together a fine race, doing a particularly great job of using down hills to catch people, Jenna wins the outstanding race of the day for sure. Not only did she look supremely confident for the whole race, she also was a passing machine, both on the flats and on the hills. This girl has no idea how great she can be! Keep pushing, Jenna! Melanie got out much more aggressively this race, too, and it paid off with great racing as our next bee. She looked great, especially in the later part of the race. Jayla was not far behind, looking much stronger than at Deerfield. As her fitness returns, I know that she will close in on the girls ahead of her on the team. Crizaber was only seconds behind Jayla, and she looked pain-free and aggressive, despite the challenging course. Nice work, Crizaber! Sarah was our next bee. She had a great second half of the race, pushing herself to pass in the last few switchbacks. Ashley and Noel worked great with each other to keep pushing, especially in the latter half of the race--nice teamwork, bees! Jenny, although nervous, did a great job in her first 3-mile race on a tough course--nice job! Not far behind her was Bianca, who did a great job of passing in the last switchbacks--nice work! Loula was not far behind these two, also completing her first 3-mile. Proud of you! Finally, Nataly took inspiration from her sister, a ZBXC alum, and worked hard to finish her first 3-mile. Although she was nervous, she took on the challenge! Overall, I was REALLY happy with this group. Not only was passing the theme of the day, but the teamwork was outstanding. Proud of you all!
Saturday @ Rebel Invite--UW-Parkside:
If I was a proud coach on Wednesday, then "over the moon" is the only way to describe Saturday. On the bus to the meet, I could see that you were all buying into our goals for the day: flexibility, toughness, and teamwork. When we were told that the girls would all race together in a 4K, you took it like champs. When we warmed up on the course, you addressed the 800 meter hill like champs. And when you saw the muddy sections and the rolling hills, you took it all like champs. Most importantly, when the gun sounded, you took off with the power of your previous workouts and the confidence of two races under your belts. I could feel your energy, and I could not wait to see you after the mile. You can imagine my joy as I saw you rolling through the woods, looking simply amazing. To a person, I was amazed by your aggressiveness on the hills and the willingness to pass multiple people. Since I missed finishes on Wednesday, I made sure to make that my next stop, and man...was I pleased. Kelsey ended up 7th for us in a strong field. She reports that she was proud of her kick, which is exactly what we need! Zoe took 24th to earn a medal with Kelsey--amazing! Maya was our 3rd bee, and while she was not satisfied, I certainly was. Not only was she pain-free during the race, but she was able to kick some rust off to get ready for Lakewood on Tuesday. She also battled throughout the race, keeping her close to Zoe. In another great race, Vic looked so much stronger than Wednesday, and her kicked looked really strong. I can see her race confidence growing each meet! Despite some pre-race jitters, Carmen stepped up to be a strong 5th for us today. Not only did she set the jitters aside, she also looked aggressive, especially during her kick (have you seen that pic on the Gram?). Despite feeling under the weather, Karen fought hard for her girls as our 6th runner for Varsity. I am proud of her grit, working through her hip tightness and nausea. This group managed an impressive 8th place finish out of 18 teams. Last year, Varsity took 14th out of 18, and JV/FS took 16th out of 18. Great growth since last year!
For this next group, I'd like to talk about mile splits and kicks. Marisa (22), Angie (13), Jenna (3), Jayla (14), Sarah (14), Bianca(1!!!) had the most even splits out of the group, only slowing by the seconds in parenthesis, but Melanie won for going negative between mile one and two (9:35/9:13)! These numbers are important because they show fitness, but they also reveal where we can work. By lowering each mile split AND keeping this consistency, we can start to see some more connected racing. What do I mean? As we close the gap between our teammates, we can help each other for longer in the race. It also means fewer finishers between us, making our score stronger. I really want to work on this concept in our workout this Saturday. Since only the Varsity boys are racing, Saturday gives us a chance to focus on pacework and packwork. I also need to give some shout outs in this race for kicks. Marisa, Angie, Jenna, and Ixa had the best kicks of the day. Not only did they each catch multiple girls in the final stretch, but they also looked like bosses as they crossed the line. Remember, there is ALWAYS something to summon in the final stretch, so don't hold back earlier in the race. Instead, count on your finishing strength, and then work on keeping your mile splits even and aggressive. One last note about this race--Sirrenda finished her first race today! Although she was doubting herself a bit, she worked hard and finished hard! Great job! :)
The conclusion of the meet was just as great as the racing. You came together to cheer for the boys. You came together to get our gear onto the bus and then into the school. You came together as you discussed the race highlights. I'm really excited about the direction of this very new team. Let's keep supporting one another through our difficult by rewarding work. Let's keep finding the edge of our limits, and then creating new edges.
I encourage you to find greatness in each other as we tackle the course at Lakewood. Please pack extra stuff for the meet, as this weekend's rain has undoubtedly left this grass and dirt course more than soggy. If the puddles all over Lake County are any indication, we are in for a gritty, muddy run. Let's embrace it like you did the challenges of Parkside--I cannot wait to see you race!
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