After a three-day weekend and a goofy workout on Tuesday (thanks to two lightning-packed storm cells that would not leave our area), we headed back to Waukegan Sports Park for what was supposed to be a triangular with Waukegan and Mundelein. Unfortunately, Waukegan's small squad has endured some serious family losses recently, so their top 3 were unable to race us (and the remainder of their team was not ready for 3 miles yet), so the meet became a dual between us and the Mustangs. This kind of racing is different for many reasons. First, it forces runners to really stay tuned in because there aren't as many racers to work on. Second, the scoring is tighter--every spot really makes a difference.
I asked our top pack to do just that--pack for the first mile. I asked Audrey to pace it around 7:10. After that, Audrey, Lauren, Marisa, and Riley were supposed to attempt negative splits, while Katelin and Natalie were on a slightly different mission. As a coach, I can make all the plans in the world, but the race unfolds the way it unfolds. Audrey did keep the pack together, and the pictures have been making me smile all week. The pacing was a bit spicier than the assignment, though, so the negative splits did not happen. Honestly, I am completely good with how the first mile actually shook out. The 6:40ish split showed Katelin and Natalie where their fitness is truly at. And it showed Marisa, Lauren, and Riley that they are capable of going out faster in a race. It also allowed Audrey to work on an important part of racing: having the patience to chase people down. During mile 2, Audrey reeled in Mundelein's #1 girl, Jocelyn. By the time I saw Audrey at the top of the hill, she had passed her and was working on building a lead. Throughout the switchbacks, Audrey did a fantastic job of staying focused and building more of a cushion, despite having a stomach that was uncooperative. I was not able to see the finish, but Coach Washington reported that Audrey looked sharp, which is awesome! Lauren worked that part of the race, too, inching closer to Mundelein's #1. Unlike in previous races, she looked like she was pressing, though, grimacing through the last mile. She had a great race, but my feedback is that she needs to focus on the fun part, letting the race unfold naturally rather than forcing it. Marisa, after feeling dissatisfied with their finish at Rebel on Saturday, did a fantastic job of keeping a growth mindset in this race. They were pulling on Lauren the whole way, and then they went back to their track success from this summer, fearlessly kicking in that last soccer field, pushing themself and Riley the whole way. Proud of your grit, Marisa! Like I said last week, I don't care what order we finish in, so long as we are racing hard, finishing strong, and having fun. It was cool to hear that these two were sharpening each other! Speaking of Riley, like Marisa, she is so far ahead of last year in terms of fitness and racing IQ. She ran a much stronger race this second time on this tricky course, and she is already knocking on her lifetime PR. Great work! Our 5th bee was Katelin in a VERY important race. That first mile was an important learning moment--now she knows she has the fitness and is not going to totally blow up if she starts challenging herself more in that first mile. The closer she gets to the pack, the stronger our team race becomes! Natalie had an outstanding first mile, too. Unfortunately, as she rounded the bridge, she stepped funny in the deep, sandy trail and twisted her already angry ankle. I pulled her from the race just to be safe. The most important part had already been accomplished: she had stuck with her pack. If we can get 6 to stick? Whew...we are going to keep surprising ourselves and others! I am REALLY proud of the progress of this group--nice work, bees!
The next two bees across the mile were Illyana and Sofia. As they crossed the bridge together, I could see that these two were in for a strong race! Illyana later reported that she told Sofia to go, and go she did! Sofia worked up to some Mundelein runners while Illyana kept her eye on her teammate, pulling on her energy and creating a great race for herself. Coach Washington told me that both of these women looked strong in their finishes. You can check our our team Facebook page to see Mr. Davis's pics. The look on Illyana's face is fierce! :) Our next finisher was Blanca. She had a great first mile, and during shout outs, several people commented on how awesome she looked during her kick. She has been doing a great job of working on her finish: opening up and attacking the last stretch of the race. Look up, Blanca! That's the final step! Estrella was not far behind, looking strong and holding off a Mundelein racer. Her form is looking so strong, and I think we might have this hamstring issue beat! Proud of your grit on this tough course, Estrella! Nataly finished shortly after Estrella. Nat has made huge progress this season, looking more aggressive than ever! I like that she is working the middle of the race with surges in order to make herself more competitive. She had a great kick, too--you can see her dig in those finish stretch pics! Aubrianna was only seconds behind Nat, looking fantastic with her kick. She did a great job of working the middle of the race and achieving her goal of having a strong kick. Proud of you, Aubrianna! Everyone was blown away by Adrianna's kick. She has come such a long way since track season, jumping into workouts and increasing her mileage, not to mention hopping into racing 3 miles like she has been doing it all along! Her kick was fantastic today; she saved nothing! Great job, Adri! :) Aubri made her racing debut today after nursing a sore hip. She did a great job of staying positive and working with teammates early on. At the end of the race, she kicked hard, letting her competitive nature shine! I look forward to seeing her race more in the coming weeks--she is starting to see what she can be as a runner! Sheila was our next finisher. She did a great job of working with her team and improving as a runner. This was her first 3-mile race, and she kept her pinky promise to push the whole way. She finished like a beast, showing off her skills to her sisters who came to show their love and support. Great job, Sheila! Tikia made her XC racing debut today. A few weeks back she rolled her ankle, and it has been slow to heal. She decided she wanted to race today, though, and race she did. She and Sheila worked well together in the mid-parts of the race. In the last switchback, she surged to drop a Mundelein racer. She used the same speediness in the final 200 of the rac, looking strong and proud! Congrats on a great race, Tikia! Aniya made her first 3-mile debut today after mastering 2.5 mile the course at Parkside over the weekend. Aniya did a great job of keeping focused and positive throughout the switchbacks. In her final kick, her form looks so strong! Congrats on your first 3-miler, Aniya! You are just going to keep improving as the season goes on! Melanie was our next finisher. She did a great job of working the last 800 and kicking hard at the end. She keeps improving each race--nice work, Mel! Our final finisher made her racing debut today--Alexandra. I am so impressed by her gutsy decision to race today. She joined us late, but I'm glad that she did! She kept pushing the whole way, and she used the energy from her team to fuel her final kick. Congrats on your comeback race, Alexandra!
Shout out to Lily, Bri, Abri, Wendy, and Makayla for your help with splits. I appreciate your help! :)
One last thing--we did beat Mundelein (and Waukegan by forfeit), so we are 2-0 in our conference. Nice start, bees! :) Remind me to show you how scoring works on Monday.
Saturday Paavo 400s
I have to include a quick note about how happy I am about the grit and focus I saw from you all on Saturday. WHAT. A. WORKOUT. I am over the moon! Audrey, Riley, Marisa, and Lauren did an incredible job of cutting down the pace with each 400. Whew! Katelin, Natalie, Illyana, and Brionne--whew! You worked so well as a unit. Impressive! :) And the second half of Group 2? Blanca, Aubrianna, Adrianna and Nataly? So consistent and gritty! Proud of you all! And Group 3--You all made some HUGE gains today, both mentally and physically. Cheyenne looked SO STRONG running along the goose poop alley--stride open and fierce! And Sheila? She made the last one her best one for sure! Aniya was SO consistent and kept the recovery section rolling. And Melanie kept working on her knee lift and powering through, despite her tight calves. Wendy looked great on the intervals she could manage before her stomach ailment won out. And Leilani did a great job of pulling on her group in order to finish all six.
I am so incredibly proud of how you handled the 800 dessert. This workout was a great turning point! Your body will be able to physically benefit from it in another 10 days or so, but you should lock it in your mind right now. Don't forget that you are SO strong and fit. Don't forget that you managed a very difficult workout by leaning on each other.
This week, we have a full 5 days of school and two races. I need you all to really focus on recovery. Let's commit to getting to bed on time without electronics. And let's enjoy racing on two fast courses! Tuesday we will be at Lake Forest, an incredible well-groomed course (the grass is luscious!) that is flat and fast. We will have plenty of competition between Lake Forest and Stevenson, so let's use that to our advantage! On Saturday, we head over to Warren for the Bill Dawson Invite. I love this meet for many reasons: the course is flat and super-fast, and the event is named after a dear friend of mine who died of cancer right around this time just over a year ago. He was the men's coach at Warren for decades, and he was what was right about cross-country. He believed in running as a way to bring people together, sort out difficult feelings, and find inner strength. Although he was incredibly sick, he still kept coaching because watching his team shine gave him energy and joy. I hope that we can focus on energy and joy this week in his honor.
Let's have a great week, bees! :)