Saturday, October 16th @ Shiloh #homesweethome
This meet could not have happened without the kind of teamwork that cross-country is all about. So many people gave their ideas, energy, time, and expertise in order for it to unfold as wonderfully as it did, so I have to start this entry with shout outs! While Coach Anderson did a million things to help this meet happen, I particularly appreciated his calmness and humor when things don't go quite right, his artwork on the course, and his "let's get it done" mindset. Coach Hamilton has similar traits, but the one that I appreciate the most is the "what needs to be done next" mindset. We packed her truck with ALL of the things, and she was the first one to the course on Saturday morning, laying out the chute. Losing Coach Franklin this year was such a big blow, but when one door closes, another opens. Coach Hamilton has been such an important addition to our ZBXC family, and I simply cannot imagine this season unfolding the way it did without her. :) Coach Lunsford and Coach Chihoski as well as their wrestlers were clutch in helping make sure people went the right way on the course and kept it moving in the chute. Class of '12 alum and CLC coach Taylor Lindblad was the perfect person to direct runners into the final 300 of the course and keep the course clear of fans who aren't paying attention. And it was great for Coach Franklin to come cheer us on and help out with keeping that stretch clear for finishes, too. I also loved all the alumni energy. Forgive me if I miss anyone, but I talked with or saw Andrew Fig, Collin, Alex R., Marcos, Ixa, Maya, Kenneth C., and Kaila. I also received messages from several alums wishing us well for the day. #linkedforlife I also appreciated the energy and enthusiasm of Coach Tolliver and Washington. Thanks for your help taking down and unloading the course, too! Let's talk about the Park District for a moment. The people who work there are just fantastic. Whenever I emailed about something we needed, my requests were always met with a smile! Constantly they asked how they could be of service; that kind of mindset is what makes life so much easier! Finally, you guys might not understand it, but our Athletic Director Mr. Niemi stepped up big for us. Whenever we asked for something, he simply made it happen so that we could look GOOD all day. Give Mr. Niemi a high-five next time you see him!
Ok...all of those thank yous set the stage for letting you all shine, and shine you did! I am going to do my best to let you know how happy I am in these next sections, but start reading with a giant smile on your face in order to get into the right space. :)
Varsity Women: This was our first group of the day. The grass was still a bit damp, the temps were still rising, and the wind was relaxed. When I arrived at the staring line, I was impressed with the energy. Pink sleeves certainly help with the mood: that bright pink conjures up so much for me. I picture all the strong women who have run in those shirts, and I cannot help but get goosebumps! :) Seeing our pack put their pink arms into the breakdown circle and doing the Riley spin made me smile hard before the race! At the gun, I knew that we were ready: we have raced well as a group the last few weeks, and Tuesday's workout (despite the grumbling) was really strong. We got out well, and by the first 800, we were in great position! I was impressed with Audrey's great start, Riley and Lauren's good teamwork, Marisa's link to those two, Katelin & Nat's teamwork, Sofia' & Brionne's energy, and Illyana's grit. When I zoomed to the Shiloh side, I was so happy to see the pink pop against the beauty of the woods. We did some real work over on that side. In particular, I was impressed with Audrey's push to stick with the pack she was fighting, Marisa's work coming off the volleyball court section (she WHIPPED into the woods), Natalie's drive in the same section, and Illyana's focus on the Stevenson runner ahead of her. I missed Audrey going back across the street, but I saw Riley and Lauren zoom into the cut-through, Marisa harness Maya's energy, Katelin take over the work of leading, and Sofia and Brionne find another gear heading into the two mile. When I cut back to everyone's favorite horseshoe (the final 700), I was stunned by the progress we had made. I swear, everyone had moved up in the race.
At this point, I need to just give you each some shout outs.
Audrey...girl. For several weeks, you have been stuck on your own in races. Without the luxury of someone to directly pull on, you have had to be mentally disciplined to push yourself. To be honest, you seem to excel a that kind of solo running, so I didn't know how you would react to running in a pack like you faced at Conference. I am SO HAPPY with the grit you displayed. Not only did you respond every time someone tried to push, you also still showed off your new-found signature kick. I told my husband the morning of the race that I would be really impressed if you could take 7th today. The fact that you were able to be 5th says so much about your hard work and mindset. I am over the moon about your race because I think it shows you are ready for Regionals, Sectionals, and beyond. I am so asdkfjadfkj proud of your race today that I am tearing up a little just writing about it. I know that you won't give yourself the credit that you deserve, but now it is in writing, so it is real. Read it and own it! :)
RILEY. Just when I don't think you can surprise me anymore, you pull off a last mile like you did today. Don't get me wrong--your first two miles were fire. But that final mile was just gold. I don't know how many girls you caught, but I'm pretty sure you were at least 19th or 20th coming out of the woods (I was so excited that my counting was not perfect). That kind of closing grit is what landed you on The Board, and it's what helped you run another LPR of 19:03. More important than times, though, is your teamwork. Your gutsy moves allowed Lauren to pull on you, which helped our team effort tremendously. I cannot say enough about how much you have progressed as an XC runner this year, and that is saying a lot after your amazing debut last fall. I am so proud of you--congrats on being All-Conference! :)
Lauren. Whew girl. After a rough patch a few weeks back, it has been so much fun to watch you just enjoy racing again! I love that you are not afraid to match all of Riley's moves and challenge the runners around you. Every time I saw you, you were looking ahead and focused on the task at hand. That kind of focus what allows our team to keep improving! I am so proud of your cumulative hard work and effort. Getting onto The Board as a freshman is no easy feat, and it happened because you did the work every day. Congrats on getting your name up there, and congrats on earning All-Conference honors as a freshie! So proud of you, Lauren!
Marisa J. All season, you have been the rock of our scoring five, and today was no different. Like Riley, your second-half game was SO strong today. When I saw you come off the volleyball courts, you looked like you were on fire. Your last mile was particularly strong--my husband said that your work along the pines after the two-mile was impressive. He said that you just kept eating! When I saw you on the other side in the horseshoe, you looked so smooth coming down the hill into the last 400, and your speed in that kick was beautiful! The fact that you were SO close to your LPR, despite the slower conditions (that stupid grass was not cute), shows your grit. More importantly, your ability to keep so close to Lauren and Riley is the key to our awesome team score today. I am so proud of your effort, senior!
Katelin Katelin Katelin! I hope it is ok that I say that your Conference race is the perfect illustration of the fact that NO FEELING IS FINAL. Four weeks ago, you were not feeling this racing thing that we do. But rather than give up, you did what makes me so dang proud of you--you admitted how you felt, and you did something about it. Your honesty and grit in the last month has been so impressive to me. You deserved this race today, and I am so glad that it came together for you the way it did! Since Lake Forest, you have adopted this distinct look when you are racing. It is not the smile of Jenna or Lauren or Jarek. Instead, it is the personification of dramatic irony: you know more than the rest of us, and we have to wait to find out what you are about to unleash. Your moves in the second half were so much fun. Not only did your leadership help Natalie in the second half, but it also helped the team score. And your kick was FIRE! I am so proud of you for earning a new LPR. I know that you were thinking a lot about time; now you can let that go and simply race for these last races of the season! Congratulations on a fantastic race from gun to finish--I'm so proud of you!
NatNat. Your race today was important for so many reasons. In the first half, you kept leading Katelin, pulling her along faster than she might have gone without your guts. Each time I saw you, you were one or two steps ahead, challenging yourself and her rather than being complacent. That kind of leadership matters in the early stages of the race! In the second half, I know that Sofia could see your pink sleeves, and you helped her pull along harder than she normally would have. Unlike during this past track season, when you struggled a bit in the latter half of your race, you did not fold; you pulled on your senior strength and kept scrapping. As our #6, that mindset matters so much! You were only seconds off of your SPR from Sterling. Why does that matter? Because your ankle was rude at the beginning of the season, you are honestly about ready for a big performance, as your fitness is a few weeks behind your teammates. I know that you will step up even more for your girls next week! Congrats on a strong race, Natalie! :)
Ok, Sofia! This is the first race where you did not immediately apologize after the race was over. :) I was so impressed with your poise today. You let the energy of the meet and your team fuel you with confidence. When you came out of the woods, I was so impressed with how strong you looked! Not only did you rock the second half, but your kick was absolutely fire. When we were driving home after the meet, my husband commented that he couldn't believe that you were the same person who turned around to find your friends at Bee Linked. In one season, you have grown SO MUCH, and I am proud of you for being open to doing so. Your biggest strength is your growth mindset, and I cannot wait to see what you do next week! In the meantime, congrats on a new LPR--a drop of 16 seconds! Way to go, freshie!
Brionne :) Every single time I saw you in this race, you were reacting to the people around you. That is the way racing should be! You were so locked in today, and it was so fun to watch! In particular, your last 700 loop was fire--you used the downhill, unlike the girls around you, and you lit up that last 400. You just looked so dang happy at the finish, and you had every right to be! I honestly did not know how you would race after such a huge breakthrough at Sterling. Sometimes people have a stable week after a big drop like that. Not you! You soaked up the energy of the pink and earned a new LPR by 22 stinking seconds! Considering all the ups and downs you have negotiated this season, I am just so happy about your competitive mindset ("I'm DONE running Frosh/Soph!") and your grit. Congrats on a fantastic race and a new LPR!
Illy. When I asked you your racing preference this past week, you YOLO-ed me and said you wanted to run Varsity. I cannot tell you how much I love that mindset. Not only was it fun to watch you race in the BA black and pink, it was just a joy to watch you stay locked in the entire race. Honestly, if you had another 400 meters, I think you would have hunted down that Stevenson girl--you had been working on her the whole way, which is why you had such a sweet race. Every time I saw you, you pulled on the energy of the crowd, smartly used the course, and simply raced. It was beautiful. The fact that you were only seconds away from your SPR today speaks volumes about you. The fact that Coach Hamilton said that you were essentially the coach while I was taking care of meet stuff today does not surprise me at all. I am so proud of your progress and grit this season, just as I am proud of this race! :)
Overall, this group lit a fire in me and the team. We could not help but race great the remainder of the day! 3 All-Conference medals. 5 LPRs. Tons of grit and a 5th place team finish. Whew! :)
By the time our fresh/soph crew was ready to go, the racing conditions had improved. The course had tightened up a bit from the previous two races. Not only was the grass pounded down, but the morning dew had dried, the sun was at full strength, and the wind had not yet whipped up. Our newbees took advantage of the opportunity and raced the hardest I have seen all season! It was simply a joy to watch! Sheila was our break away star of the day. She started aggressively and grew throughout the race, catching people with a cool confidence that she did not have at the beginning of the season. She looked so good going into the final 400, and her time showed it! She earned a new LPR today--breaking 30 minutes for the first time today! She dropped a whopping 1:15 from her great performance at Lakes. So proud of your growth this season, Sheila! I cannot wait to see you in track season! :) Cheyenne was our second bee in this race. After a great performance at Lakes last week, I was hoping that she would be able to break 30, too. At the halfway point in Shiloh, Cheyenne turned it on, letting her second half be her best half. Not only did she have a fire kick, but she also earned a new LPR by dropping 29 seconds and smashing the 30 minute mark! Congrats on a great finish to the season, Cheyenne--I'm so proud of your strength! Not to be outdone by her teammates, Adrianna had a huge race today, too. After struggling with her quad and hip for a few weeks, Adri really let the energy of the day fuel her. She looked fantastic throughout the race, and she stayed strong in the last mile, pulling on Cheyenne's energy to sneak under 30, too! Adri earned a new LPR by dropping 11 seconds. What a great day, Adrianna! Proud of your race! :) Aubri had a big day, too. She ran a really even race today, pulling on her teammates and racing smart. She really pushed the last 300, turning it on at the "bridge" over the creek and dropping 20 seconds from her great performance at Lakes last week. She definitely showed that she gets racing now--great job, Aubri! :) The trio of Wendy, Joanna, and Melanie were only seconds behind Aubri. I am so dang impressed with this group. They really pushed one another the whole race, truly embodying the idea of being linked. Rather than being complacent, they kept switching the lead, pulling one another along. Their kicks were also impressive, using each turn as a way to shift gears. Wendy earned a new LPR by dropping an impressive 1:27--what growth! :) Joanna dropped 1:36--a huge improvement! But Melanie wins the day for the biggest breakthrough. After joining us this summer, Melanie has worked so hard on growing as a runner. It clicked in this race. She dropped 3:50 for her most competitive race of the season. So proud of you three--way to empower one another to greatness! Our next bee was Aniya. After missing a week and half of practice in quarantine to keep us all safe, Aniya ran an incredibly strong race. She was only a few seconds away from her LPR, and she looked so strong the whole way! I am proud of her tenacity and team-focus today and all season. Way to go, Aniya! Our final bee in this race was Leilani. She had such a big breakthrough at Lakes last week, and I was hoping she could use that momentum today...and that she did! She struggled with some calf issues this week. I'm not sure if it was due to dehydration or her new and improved open form, but she had to gear back several days to let her calves feel better. She was good on the starting line, but she admitted post-race that they bugged her in the final mile. You would have never known by looking at her--she looked open and strong for the whole race, challenging the girls around her. Although she was not able to earn a new LPR, her race was certainly one to be proud of. Honestly, this crew has come SO FAR this season. I cannot wait to see what they do this track season and next XC season. Congrats to you all!
Our final race of the day featured four strong women--three vets and a newbee (well to XC at least). By this time, the course was in really fast shape, but the wind had picked up considerably. The energy at the starting line was fantastic, and I could tell that none of them would allow the wind to bother them. I'm not going to lie--after the gun sounded for this race, my tiredness really hit me. Watching these four come off the first 800 gave me life, though. I was so stoked to see how well they were racing, I forgot how tired my legs were! :) Aubrianna was our leader in this group, rolling through the first 800 looking fiery. She was tucked into a competitive pack, and she looked like she was on a mission. Over in the woods, Aubri was not backing down. I watched her pass people along goose-poop-alley and then whip into the woods with strength. Her final mile was simply beautiful: she pushed along the pines on the backstretch, glided down the horseshoe hill and kicked like a senior on a mission. This is by far her most even race of her life, with her last mile clocking in at 7:59. After her race, I couldn't control my enthusiasm and asked if I could hug her. She gave me that Aubrianna look and said no. But a few minutes later, after she had recovered, she let me hug her (and I think she even smiled). Aubrianna has been hard on herself all season, but today, even she had to admit that it was a great day! :) What a great race from start to finish! She earned a new LPR of 24:10 by dropping 45 seconds from her previous best from her sophomore year. What an incredible way to cap off her senior season. So proud of you, Aubrianna! :) Our next finisher was our "newbee" Estrella. This kid has really figured out XC racing, and I cannot wait to see how it translates to track and next XC season. For now, let's talk about her great race. She dropped a big 59 seconds to earn a new LPR because she let herself just feel the race. Every time I saw her, she was catching some sleepy runner or using a turn to gain momentum. I am so proud that she broke the 25 minute barrier, and I am thankful that she is part of the future of this team. Great racing, Estrella! :) Blanca was not far behind Estrella. Last week, I was really happy with Blanca's race at Lakes, but I had no idea she was going to pull off such a big drop today! This is the first race where Blanca was looking up every time I saw her, and it showed in her racing. She was constantly catching peeps and was just tuned into the race. In the final horseshoe, I screamed the time at her, and we locked eyes for just a moment. The look of joy on her face was phenomenal. She knew she was going to PR, and PR she did! She ROLLED down the horseshoe hill, and she kicked mightily to earn a HUGE season PR and an LPR by 12 seconds. What an incredible way to cap off her XC career! I'm guessing it was not shocking to hear her name when we called the Sportsmanship Award winners. Blanca has been a rock of this team, bringing her positivity and consistency to practice and meets every day. To say that XC spirit clicked for her from the jump is an understatement. Yes, the training took some time, but she simply got our ethic from the beginning. This season, she has given rides, encouraged the entire team, and just embodies the positive character I want our team to be known for. So proud of you for your great race, Blanca! :) Our final bee has had a phenomenal season. From surgery last year to being so gritty this year, Nataly had the race of her life today. Like Blanca, I yelled her time in the horseshoe and watched her kick it into high gear. Nataly told me early in the season that she wanted to break 29 this season. She accomplished that goal easily in her awesome race at Warren. To then drop another 1:24 to earn a new LPR of 27:04 is just nuts. Nataly is one of only two 4-year seniors (fun trivia--do you know who the other one is?). To see her growth since her freshman year is just so much fun. So proud of you for seizing the day, Nat. :) This group finished the day right for us.
Overall, I am still giddy over our performances and power today. Everytime I ran somewhere to cheer, I saw swarms of bees lending their strength to their teammates. The energy of this team has been a work in progress, and we finished the right way. So proud of you all! I cannot wait to witness links on Monday! :) In the meantime, thank you for reminding me of why I love to coach. There are so many ugly things in this world, but being part of something bigger than yourself...being part of a team that believes in honest, hard work...that believes in lifting one another up...that believes in celebrating each other's victories...that is what makes life worth living! That and the donuts from Sweet Life. :) Let's have another great week, bees! :)