Saturday @ Grant's JT Invite:
After a stellar week of training, I knew we were ready to step up our racing. The ladder on Tuesday revealed that we were capable of faster times, and the tempo on Thursday proved that we are stronger than we think! While I was disappointed that the conditions on Friday and Saturday would not allow for super-fast times at Grant, I was excited to see our grit in adverse weather. You all did NOT disappoint!
Honestly, I was a bit concerned on the bus. We had such a good week, I wanted to make sure we did not leave our best efforts in the workouts. The quiet mood on the bus did not help, either. But as we exited and started to warm up, my nerves were allayed as I felt the energy of the Frosh/Soph women on the warm up. They felt that the loop was quick, and they seemed to embrace the misty rain, the muddy conditions, and the "hill" (Coach Agee is STILL shocked that we call that a hill ;) ). We pulled a good box number on the "better" side of the hill (less muddy), so I was excited to see how our first group would do! Pre-race, Marisa asked for some advice to keep from falling asleep; she did not want to repeat the mistake from last season at this meet. I love when athletes strive to grow mentally! We talked about getting out hard and making a passing goal for each mile. When the gun sounded, Marisa did just that: by the time she emerged from the first loop, she was in the front of the pack, and she kept catching people each successive loop. What I loved about Marisa's race was that she looked engaged the whole time, enjoying the hunt and challenging herself to be elite! By focusing on passing, she was able to create a more even race: 7:50, 8:10; 8:02). That fight paid off with a season PR and a medal. Awesome work, Marisa! :)
Her teammates also had great races. Bri and Kelly also had strong performances, each moving up throughout the race to earn ribbons for being in the top 20. Sweet! Their efforts to fix the split were instrumental to our 3rd place trophy. :) Melanie had a big breakthrough at JT. Not only did she earn a new SPR by 44 seconds, but she just looked fantastic the whole way. She got out harder than usual by trusting her fitness and herself. Like Marisa, she never missed an opportunity to pass people--great job, Mel! Finishing as our fifth runner today, Aubrianna had a HUGE race. She lost her chip shoe on the first loop, but she did not let that obstacle slow her down. She ran a new LPR by 29 seconds with only one shoe through the mud! Like Mel, she got out harder than usual, focused hard in the second loop, and had a great finish. So proud of your gritty performance, Aubrianna! She was not the only one to earn an LPR in this race: Illyana and Stacy also broke through today. Illyana rolled her ankle last week, and she has been working through the swelling and discomfort all week. I was concerned that she would struggle in the sloppy conditions, but she did not allow that to slow her down. Her quick start and great finish helped her shave 21 seconds from her previous best! Stacy has had a difficult week, too. Her shins have been uncooperative all week, but she tried the warm up and raced like a champ. She blocked the pain during the race, and she stayed locked in the whole time, dropping 9 seconds. Naiomi, Sam, and Blanca all had strong races today, too, despite what the clock said. Like Aubri, Blanca ran with only one shoe for part of the race, not allowing the distraction to push her off track.
This group set the tone for the day. They worked hard for each other, and they raced ELITE. Congratulations on the 3rd place trophy--you all earned it!
Our Varsity women were the next to toe the line. Prior to the race, officials agreed to move the second hill flag over so that runners would have a slightly less muddy ascent. Our racers did not seem fazed by the conditions. I asked Kelsey to take a big risk and try to go out with Grant's #1, Aly Negovetich. Although she was not able to make that big goal come true today (yet), she did get out aggressively and kept fighting fiercely to catch the Lake Forest runner ahead of her. Kelsey ended in 4th, helping our team score tremendously. Audrey, coming off of the plague, got out hard today, too. She looked strong at the start, and fought mightily throughout, keeping Kelsey in sight the entire race. Her time was only five seconds away from her LPR, and her grit was unquestionable--nice work, Audrey! Both of these women earned top-10 medals today for their efforts. Maya had a great start today, too, and was in shouting distance of Audrey after the first loop. Although she was not happy with her performance today, I hope that our post-race conversation was helpful; I anticipate a change on Tuesday at Lake Forest! Her 21st place finish helped our team score, too. Our next finisher was Kaila, who had a strong race today. For most of the race, she and Natalie worked together to catch other girls and push one another. Kaila had a stronger last mile, finishing in 27th. Natalie took a big risk today to race with Kaila, and it paid off with a new LPR of 22:03. She showed herself what she is capable of, and I look forward to her and Kaila racing together on Tuesday. The big breakthrough of the day was Katelin's race. She got out hard, worked to pass throughout, and ran a new LPR by nearly a minute, despite the muddy conditions. This is the kind of race I knew she could run, and I'm proud that she proved it to herself today! Our final runner was almost a scratch today. Karen has been a late adopter of our plague, and I was hesitant to have her race. After the warm up, she looked me in the eye and said, "I've got this. I want to race." Who can argue with that assertiveness? Despite missing a few days of practice, Karen looked locked in and ran a competitive race. I look forward to seeing that same grit as she gets well. This is the first complete team race we have run this season. We looked good from 1-7 and it showed in the results: we finished in 3rd behind a tie-breaker to Lake Forest, a team we will need to beat at the Regional. (FYI, if there is a point tie, the place is then decided by comparing 6th runners. Ties are NOT broken at the Regional or Sectional for the last qualifying spot, though; both teams advance in the case of tie). Speaking of the Regional--on Tuesday we compete against Lake Forest again, on their course, home of our Conference and Regional meets this year. We will need to use this opportunity to learn the course and make mental notes about go-zones. Our 1-5 split was 2:15, much improved over early performances, but still needs improving. our 1-7 split was 4:12, a slight improvement. Clearly, we are a close match to Lake Forest, and we will need all seven racers scrapping from gun to tape to make the win happen. This race was an improvement over Lake County, and I know we will continue to improve! I also know that Lake Forest is well-coached, so we need to be ready to grit out a scrappy race!
Our final racers of the day had to deal with the worst course conditions. Repeat loops are easy to learn but suffer more churning; by the time our open racers went to the line, the course was a slip and slide in many sections. That did not deter our bees, however. Loula got out hard as our lead racer, and she did not relent! She ended in 10th place, helping our team score and earning a ribbon! There were a few other significant races from this group. Angie had a nice breakthrough today after several races of being "stuck." It was good to see her being the gritty racer I know her to be. Her kick was fantastic, too. Jenna made a nice comeback after an extended sickness; her characteristic smile was on display as she passed people throughout the race! Bianca raced hard, only seconds away from her LPR despite the nasty conditions. Crizaber was able to run a strong race finally, despite her knee pain. This was her first 3-mile race of the season, and it was great to see her fighting for her team! Speaking of records, Alexandra was a hard maybe before the race. She, like Karen, caught the plague late in the game and struggled all week because of it. She tried the warm up and wanted to race today, and race she did! She battled a kid from Wauconda for most of the race, then dropped him in the final loop, finishing with an amazing kick. Her efforts helped her drop a whopping 58 seconds despite the messy course, for a new LPR. I am really proud of her efforts! I also want to highlight a few kicks from this race: Delilah, Ashley, Ixa, and Jenni all had outstanding kicks today--great work! Although there was no trophy for this race, our bees finished in 3rd place as a team, too!
I was really happy with the energy at this meet. I watched MANY runners simply give up in the mud, but not us. Check out the pics on insta to see how aggressive you all looked on the hill. It was fun to watch!
This coming week, we have some work to do. First, we need to get healthy. I know I sound like a broken record, but we have to rest, refuel, and rehydrate at elite levels this week. With no invite, our focus is the race at Lake Forest on Tuesday, and a quality workout on Saturday to help us sharpen for the championship part of our season. The weeks are moving fast, so we need to be intentional about our work this week. Second, we need to focus more on our WHY. When I asked each squad to share their why at the starting line, too many of you struggled for a reason. Without having a purpose, running hard is difficult. Let me offer some food for thought:
*We have sent individual runners to the sectional consistently since 2013, but we have not sent a team since then.
*We have not had a F/S runner or Open runner earn a medal at Conference since 2011.
*We have not had a team finish in the top four at Conference.
*We did not win the GPA contest last fall.
*We have not shown our true potential yet.
*Recent workouts indicate that we are ready to race much faster!
Let's work on the mental side of things this week in order to finish the season with the seniors' intention: as a family of ELITE student-athletes. That requires that EVERY team member needs to rededicate herself to our collective purpose. That requires that EVERY team member takes care of herself so that she can help take care of the team. I am re-dedicating myself to this team this week; I look forward to hearing the same from each of you. Let's go, bees!