Monday @ Home vs. Mundelein & Warren:
We closed out our dual/triangular season with two wins and some gritty racing on our home course. While working out at Shiloh Saturday (well, near Shiloh!), we knew our course would be soggy for race day; there was standing water in several spots, and we knew more rain was on the way. Sure enough, we had to alter one section of the course on the first 400/post-second mile due to calf-high water. The change made our course a hair long, making today's PRs all the more special. Pre-race, the Mundelein coach disclosed that her #1 runner was out, and the Warren coach conceded that his squad was not racing all out. After an invite-free Saturday, we were racing all-out regardless of the competition's intentions.
It's hard to single out race highlights from this meet. In the last blog, I asked you to tap into that 20, and to let your actions roar. You did all of that and then some! Honestly, the vibe pre-race was great, and from the gun, I could see that we were ready to prove some things. By the 800, Kelsey and Audrey had established a nice lead that they would not give up. Without any competition, I was excited about Kelsey's strong effort. She finished feeling proud, and shared that with some competition, she knew she could be much faster. Having a win under her belt is a nice confidence booster, too. Although she wanted to move up on the Top Ten Board, I am proud of her effort from gun to chute today! Audrey had an outstanding race. Not only did she earn a new LPR, but she just looked awesome throughout the race. After the volleyball courts, she attacked the woods, responding to my cheers. And in the last mile, she attacked the downhills and turns, finishing with a strong kick and holding off the surging Warren duo. After several races that left her unsatisfied, I hope she is proud of this one. Her efforts earned her a new spot on the Top Ten Board: she is now #5 all-time on our course. Congrats, freshie! :)
Other stand out performances at home included Katelin's huge race. Despite some sore shins this week, she persevered to earn a big new LPR of 22:25. She looked focused for the whole race, and she finished with a great kick. Katelin keeps racing with that serious face and focus, and her grit is paying off! Julien had her second race in the 23s, proving that her strong race at Lake Forest was not a fluke! Julien is really starting to figure out how to tap into that 20%, and it is fun to watch! Marisa was right behind her, earning a new SPR by racing with purpose. She has been battling some shin pain like Katelin, but she blocked it out and ran hard for her team tonight. Nice work, Marisa! :) On Marisa's heels was Kelly with a breakout race this season! Not only did she dip into the 23s for the first time, but she also looked like a woman on a mission from start to finish. Her outstanding performance earned her a trip to Sterling this Saturday. She skipped the 24s completely and simply raced hard. So proud of you, Kelly!
Our next PR earner was Loula, dropping 5 seconds to earn a new LPR. Loula has been consistent all season, but she has not looked as sharp as she did at Lake County; today was different! She worked the woods hard, and had a great finishing kick. Kudos on the new LPR, Loula! Lesly wasn't far behind Loula. Although her last mile was not what she hoped for, I have to comment on her first two miles. She got out hard and worked the woods by surging on the turns. I hope that she will take that kind of risk again because I know that she can hold on for the 3rd mile in the future.
Another great moment in the race was Elyssa's grit. On the racing bench for a few meets due to a rude hip, Elyssa felt confident to race after just one PT session. The warm up went well, and at the 800, she gave me the thumbs up, and her form looked great. Even through the Shiloh side, she looked fantastic, engaged in the race and passing to make up for lost time. Elyssa gritted through the last mile to finish with pride; I know that mile three was tough for her, but I am so impressed by her will to finish strong for her team. Nice work, E! Jenna was close behind Elyssa, and came close to a new LPR, running another tough race like she did at Lake Forest. I know if she keeps up this type of racing, a new LPR, but in the 24s, is in her future.
Aubrianna had a huge race today, dropping a ton of time to earn a new LPR in the 26s. Every time I saw her, she was surging around turns and using the few downhills to her advantage. She also had a killer kick! Proud of your race, Aubrianna! :) After a rough race at Lake Forest, Ixa had a huge comeback today. Not only did she earn a new LPR, but she also looked great doing so. This was an honest race from her...no excuses and no hiding, and I'm so proud of her! Great job, Ixa! Bianca was not far behind, earning a new SPR, and creeping closer to her lifetime. Nice work, B! Joceline used Bianca's lead to help her earn a new SPR. It was great to see her race so strong after some quad issues slowed her down last week. Nice work, Joceline! Ashley worked through some knee pain to join Joceline with a sweet SPR. Post-race, she reported that she felt god through the second mile, but started to feel the knee act up again. She gritted through, pushing to a great finish with a great season breakthrough. Great job, Ash! :) Jenni had another solid race, showing that her huge gains at Lake Forest were not just a blip. Proud of her consistency,, and I look forward to seeing her race again! One of the other LPR earners at this meet was Stacy. Although she has been dealing with some sore shins, she set that aside to earn a big LPR, dropping nearly 30 seconds on our sloppy course. She did it by using her teammates to push her in the difficult moments--great job, Stacy! After a brief racing hiatus, Blanca was ready to join her teammates in dropping time. She earned a new LPR, looking more like an athlete in every race. Proud of your grit, Blanca! :)
Jamaya deserves her own paragraph. After a racing hiatus, she came back with avengence, dropping a whole 2:10 to earn a new LPR. I am so impressed by her grit in this race. Every time I saw her, she was working to push around turns and use the downhills. Sh had a great kick, and she deserves to enjoy this big improvement all week! Proud of you, Jamaya!
Overall, our team earned a ton of great times because we were willing to go beyond tired and empty the tank. I could not be more proud! While times are nice measure, our score was impressive today. We are working on fixing our split, and it showed. We bested Mundelein and Warren, improving our record to 3-4. More importantly, I could feel our confidence grow today, which matters as we head into our last invite and championship season. I am proud of this group today, and I could not stop smiling my whole drive home. Nice work, bees! :)
Split Squad Saturday--Varsity @ Sterling and JV @ Wheeling:
This week was a busy one: home meet on Monday, Bee Pink hype all week, and Sterling trip on Friday. It was great to see so many ZBXCers dressed in pink to support our school-wide fundraising efforts. Thank you for joining in a cause that means so much to me! I had my mind on Sterling all week, but it was reinforced by a text from Vic--2018 Captain and Sectional Qualifier. She was checking in to see who would be making the trip to Sterling and wishing us luck. By the time we left on Friday, I was in a great mood, and we had fun telling stories on the bus ride. When we rolled up to the course, I warned our crew that it was chilly, but they still did not expect the briskness of the windy afternoon; we knew it would be even colder the next morning. As we made our way around the course, we realized that cold would not be the only obstacle. The course was in the muckiest shape I have ever seen, but it was not surprising considering the amount of rain we have endured this fall. I was glad to see our crew take the mud pockets in stride, revelling in how fast the first mile felt, and enjoying the beauty of the woods and our traditions. Watching our crew practice some starts and finishes made my heart sing, and Coach Agee said this was her favorite course of the season by far. She said she hoped the team would simply enjoy the day. Little did she know how much our bees would embrace that idea.
After a funny and delicious dinner, we got down to the business of lifting each other up. Although some writers were slower than others, the process of recognizing each others' greatness was a fine way to get ready for some restorative sleep. In the morning, I awoke to a text from another alum, Sectional Qualifier and Captain Julia! She shared that Kipchoge had indeed broken 2:00 while we slept, and predicted that today was a day for PRs! I was all smiles as we convened for breakfast, and I was pleased to see that the women had pushed tables together so that they could eat as one. It was another good omen for the day. As we headed to the course, the energy felt good, but it quickly deflated as we exited the bus and felt the whip of the wind. Truth be told, I was worried about everyone cloaked in blankets, multiple layers of clothes, and cloudy demeanors: would we step up to deal with the conditions, or would we give in to the mud and cold?
Thankfully, a transformation occured when it was time to take the sweats off and tighten laces. I felt a calm watching our bees organize themselves in box 24, wearing our traditional black and pink. After a VERY quick gun, our bees were off, running a perfect tangent for the first 400. After the beginning woods loop, the racers emerged, and Kelsey and Audrey were tucked in with the lead pack. Coach Agee and I cheered like mad, excited to see these two get out so aggressively. Maya was more conservative, but looking sharp, with Kaila and Natalie close by. Karen and Katelin were working in tandem within sight, and I was over the moon! As Coach and I raced to the mile, we were stoked because everyone seemed to be confident and calm in their positions. After the mile, we watched bee after bee smile, seemingly in love with the race. Our opening miles were fantastic, despite the sloppy course: Kelsey 6:04; Audrey 6:09; Maya 6:39; Natalie 6:43; Kaila 6:46; Katelin 6:54; and Karen 6:57. A 53 second split at the first mile is what I want to see! Heading into the woods, Kelsey kept working on the top pack, Audrey stretched on the downhill to catch sleepers, Maya zoned in on the top 30, Nat and Kaila worked with purpose, as did Katelin and Karen. Everyone was leaning into the race. Everyone nodded when I said we had a great team racing going. Emerging from the woods toward mile two, I was proud to see Kelsey working on the top two runners, smiling broadly, and that energy is what I saw in the remaining six bees! The mile two splits were solid: Kelsey 6:12; Audrey 6:45; Maya 6:51; Natalie 7:04; Kaila 7:12; Katelin 7:33; Karen 7:30. As Agee and I kept counting places, I realized we could have three racers in medal contention. We were going nuts as our racers headed into the woods for the last time. As they popped out in great position, we watched with pride as runner after runner turned on the heat for the last 400. Kicks looked outstanding, and so did the finish times. Kelsey dipped into the 18s for the first time this season and beat her previous best on this course. Audrey smashed into the 19s for the first time this season, earning a new LPR by 25 seconds! Maya ran a huge SPR by 30 seconds, and showed this course that SHE was boss! Natalie had an outstanding race, earning a new LPR and showing her team that she is serious! Kaila was right behind, matching her SPR and looking great! Katelin smashed her LPR by 25 seconds and said goodbye to the 22s. :) And Karen ran a new LPR as well, dropping 28 seconds and looking TOUGH.
I was all smiles as I ran to the finish to find our pack embracing one another and revelling in a well-executed team race. As the open women prepared for their race, I sneaked a peek at the results--our efforts had earned us a 4th place finish, our best at this meet ever! We also had three medalists: Kelsey, Audrey, and Maya. The team trophy happened because each women did her job: she ran selflessly and with purpose. It was a beautiful sight to see, and it left me hungry for more. All the post-race talk pointed to the fact that you are ready, too. Kelsey shared that there was a point where she held back, but she won't next time. Audrey brooded over her performance, believing that she has more to give. Maya revealed that she is ready to get out harder and keep contact with our 1-2 punch. Kaila and Nat promised that they could be closer to Maya. And Katelin and Karen, proud of their PRs, talked about what they could do the next week. A coach's dream!
Our women in the Open were pumped up by Varsity's success, and looked BA in black on the line. They enjoyed warmer temps for their race, but the course was more chewed up. Like Varsity, they got out well with Lesly taking the lead, Julien and Marisa working in tandem, and Kelly close behind. Emerging from the woods, I saw the same focus and grit as the previous race. Unfortunately, the timing mat at mile one was not working for this race, so I do not have mile splits. Our order was the same at that point, with Lesly looking strong heading into the woods, Marisa moving up smartly to catch her, Julien working the downhill with perfect form, and Kelly making moves once she passed Agee and me. By the time they re-emerged, Marisa had worked her way to Lesly, and the two were only seconds apart at the two mile (Marisa 15:12; Lesly 15:15), while Julien was within shouting distance (15:26) and Kelly was looking sharper and working hard (16:20). The absolute best part of this race was the last loop. Marisa was just outside of a medal, and when I informed her of this, she made some moves and worked the woods like a champ. Emerging for the final 400, Marisa kicked like mad, working to catch several sleepy runners and looking strong. She finished with a huge season PR, dropping 43 seconds despite a sloppy course. Her 27th place finish earned her some bling, too! :) Lesly was not far behind and within seconds of her LPR. This race was a great comeback after a frustrating last mile at our home course earlier in the week. Her kick looked fantastic, and her aggressiveness all race was more like the Oshkosh version of herself that we all know and love! Julien was only a few seconds behind Lesly after what had to be the kick of the day. Clearing the woods and mud pit, Julien was on fire, arms driving and face focused on catching as many runners as possible! Her kick helped her earn a new LPR by 7 seconds--congrats, Julien! :) Kelly rounded out our four with a strong kick, hunting down one Sterling racer and nearly catching a second at the line. As a freshman at her first "varsity experience," Kelly really embraced the trip. Not only did she blend with our team, offering some funny, sarcastic moments, but she also worked through a sore hip and unrelenting cough for a strong performance. Overall, this group looked outstanding, just like the previous race. I arrived at the finish breathless, excited to see the smiles on their faces and to talk about the race.
From start to finish, this was by far the most successful trip to Sterling we have had. The vibe felt right, the racing was on fire from every single woman, and the post-race fun at the park was safe. ;) What makes me most happy was that each racer seemed pleased with the collective effort, but by no means satisfied for the season. I heard a lot of talk about what we could accomplish in the coming weeks, and I cannot wait to see it unfold. What really warmed my heart was that on the bus ride home, they were seeking information about their teammates in Wheeling, and future teammates from St. Pat's. While it may seem small, that genuine curiosity about their team means everything to me. As we waited for lunch, a new alumni text from Steff, 2018 Captain, warmed my heart. She was so excited to see the growth from last year until now, and she was overcome with joy at our success. Although she was not in Sterling in person to see the product of her leadership, her (and countless others') foundation helped this season become a reality. Click here if you'd like to nerd out on the numbers from Sterling!
Open @ Wheeling:
As we drove reports started rolling in about our girls stepping up at Wheeling, and I could not wait to see the stats! From Franklin and Ashley's explanations, the race of the day goes to Angie and Ixa. Angie had a huge day, dropping 35 seconds to earn a new SPR AND a medal for her speedy 17th place finish! I'd like to note that Angie, along with Delilah, Loula, Jenna, and Elyssa all originally elected to run in the Varsity race. Unfortunately, due to wet conditions on the course, the Wheeling coaches changed the race order, putting Varsity first for the best possible footing. Since we had moved the bus time to later, it was impossible for the women to get there in time to warm up and race that early. It seems that Angie, a wiley veteran, did not let that change affect her. Instead, she made the best of the situation by posting an impressive race--congrats, senior! Looks like Jenna had a great outing, too, only seconds away from her season PR. I have seen reports that the course is long (click here to check it out), so on a true 3-mile, Jenna's performance would have been a PR for sure. Nice work, woman! :) Jayla had a big season best-a big 26 second drop to hit the 25s for the first time this season. Way to go, Jayla! :) Speaking of true PRs, Melanie had quite a day, posting a 17 second LPR and racing well beyond her previous limits. Way to tap into 20, Mel! :) Joceline took Mel's lead and dropped a whopping 43 seconds for a new LPR, too. This is Joceline's first time in the 26s--way to go Jocy! :) The PRs just keep coming: Naiomi dropped 9 seconds to earn a new LPR, too. Awesome work, Naiomi! ;) After Ixa's awesome performance at home on Monday, it's impressive that she dropped even more time (12 seconds to be exact) to make it into the 26 club, too. So sweet, Ixa! :) Crizaber was not far behind, posting an impressive SPR by slashing a huge 1:27 from her JT performance--holy cow! Gritty work, Crizaber! :) The PR fest doesn't stop there. Sarah had an outstanding race, slicing away 57 seconds to earn a new LPR. Proud of your, Sarah! :) And Nataly rounded out our PR performances for the day, dropping 15 seconds for a new LPR. Way to get after it, Nataly!
Overall, I am so stoked to hear about these performances. Historically, our Wheeling squad does not perform as well as expected. Who knows what usually causes this dip, but I am elated to see that it did not happen this year with this group. I DO know why they performed so well: this group is hungry for growth and trusts the process and themselves. We had a great week of work between the home meet and the training, and I am proud that they let it shine on race day! What a glorious weekend to have so many PRs and strong performances! It makes me reflect on that first big meet at Lake County; the energy was so powerful, and we have maintained it all season. You have worked through the valleys and found a way to the 20 percent--I am so proud of you all. I cannot wait to see you all shine at Conference next weekend. In the meantime, we need to take care of business this week, the same things we have been preaching all season: sleep, nutrition, and mindset. Let's continue to lift each other to greatness!
Looking for some inspiration? Check out this week's edition of Fast Women. It discusses the Chicago Marathon, Kipchoge's sub-2:00 success, and some shorter races from this week. Bee a student of your sport! Also, I want to shout out three ZBXC alums for their tremendous success at the Chicago Marathon Sunday. Jocelyn Barajas--class of 2016--finished her first marathon with an outstanding time of 3:54. Anything under 4 for a first attempt is impressive. Nice work, Jo! :) Mary Baxter Reid--class of 2003--ran a huge PR in her second marathon ever, in 3:51. Congrats on your huge drop, Mary! Finally, Kristen Whiteside--class of 2009--(some of you met her at Bee Linked; she was the women's overall winner!) made a big marathon comeback after a 2-year hiatus due to injury. She dropped 3 minutes from her previous best to run a scorching 3:13. That's 7:21 pace! What a great weekend for ZBXC--this is one proud coach! :)