What a great week of racing! Let's start by celebrating a great evening at Lakes. The meet directors collapsed the races down to two: Varsity and Open due to impending weather and course conditions. Since our Varsity was getting ready for Sterling, all of our bees were in the open race. I was really excited to see the grit of our racers today. We had SEVEN LPRs and just some great team racing!
Our first runner was Estrella. This woman had a heck of a race! Not only did she look happy the whole way, but she used the energy of the crowd to drop 30 seconds (on a soggy course) for a new LPR of 25:50. Breaking into the 25s is a big deal, and I don't think she is done dropping time, based on this race! Proud of you, Estrella! Our second finisher was Blanca, who had a great race. She got out aggressive and then held her second and third miles. Although it wasn't a PR, I was just impressed by her push every time I saw her along the road. Great job, Blanca! Aubrianna was our next bee. Like Blanca, she had a great first mile and really worked the second loop well, too. Coach Washington reported that her kick in the final stretch was strong, too. Great work, Aubri! :) Nataly ran a consistent race today, too. On a looped course, it is easy to get "lost," but Nataly put her experience to work. She did a great job of opening up on downhills and bringing her last mile split down. Proud of your grit, Nat! :) Cheyenne had a huge race today. She dropped 2:14 for a new LPR of 30:18, and she looked fantastic doing it. Not only did she use the downhills, but she also simply trusted her fitness. Awesome breakthrough, Cheyenne! Sheila was only seconds behind Cheyenne with her own LPR. She dropped 1:06 to earn a new PR of 30:24. She was so focused in the second half and looked so incredibly strong! Great work, Sheila! :) Aubri N. had a big breakthrough today. I knew that she had it in her, and she let her fitness shine today. Not only did she drop a whopping 3:37, but she also just looked GOOD racing today. Part of the time, she was twinning with Antonio, and then she moved up in the second half, challenging herself to run a strong last mile. Proud of you and your LPR today, Aubri! On the bus, people could not stop talking about Wendy's race. Not only did her focused face show that she was ready to rock, but she also helped pull teammates along. She used the energy of our cheers to drop 51 seconds for a new LPR. Proud of your growth, Wendy! Keep it up! :) Joanna was with Wendy most of the race. These two worked so well together, helping Joanna drop 2:29 for a big breakthrough LPR of 32:10! Congrats on a big race, Joanna! :) Melanie definitely wins grittiest race of the day. She slipped on the wet ground in the first loop, but she didn't let that fall stop her. Channelling Blanca's grit from Parkside, Melanie got back up and raced hard despite a sore leg. So proud of you for working through that obstacle, Mel! :) Our final bee in the race was Leilani. Since Libertyville, she has been on a ROLL. She dropped another 37 seconds to earn a new LPR of 37:28. While we did shout-outs on the bus ride home, Marisa kept repeating, "It's clicking...they get it now!" She could not be more right. I'm really proud of everyone's racing tonight, and I cannot wait to see what happens at Conference next week! :)
Nine runners climbed on the spirit bus for the long drive out west to Sterling, IL. The drive is scenic, especially this time of year, but I love this trip because of the distance. We move away from the stresses of school, work, and home, and simply lean on each other to make a great weekend. This group embraced the whole process, enjoying some long-time traditions (pics at the bridge and tree) as well as fostering some new ones (outdoor dining!) From the jump, I had a great feeling about this trip. The course was in great condition, we looked fantastic running the course and doing strides, and the energy was just on point. It was no surprise that when the gun sounded on Saturday, our bees had fantastic races. After the first 800, the runners emerge from the woods, and I am always anxious to see if we have navigated the narrows of the woods well. We certainly did. Audrey was securely in 3rd place with her eyes on the leaders; Riley and Lauren were within arm's reach of each other in the upper 20s with Marisa only seconds behind; Nat and Kate were working in tandem and looking sharp, and Sofia had an incredible start, looking confident! My pictures from the actual race are trash (lots of blurs and feet) because I was going nuts with how strong we looked. Coming around the mile, I was so impressed by how well everyone was using the course. That long stretch back into the woods, we were flying down the hill, working on other runners and just looking fantastic. In the woods, our crew moved up, especially in the second mile. By the time they were emerging for the last 400 kick, I had a headache from yelling so hard! :)
Audrey came out of the woods on fire. Her final kick was her best of the season by far: arms driving and face locked in! She finished 3rd overall and ran the fastest time a bee has EVER run on this course--a new LPR of 18:13! Afterwards, she inexplicably seemed disappointed. To run THAT fast on this course (which is no pancake) in the heat and humidity was a huge win. I am so proud of your grit, Audrey! Way to go! After a difficult week health-wise, Riley was on fire, too. Emerging from the woods, she fought hard to catch sleepy girls in that final kick, and catch them she did! She finished in 19th, a significant move up from where she started, with a speedy time of 19:22! Like Audrey, she was initially disappointed, but also like Audrey, this performance was ALL GRIT. Not only did she work the second half like a champ, her final kick was SO SWEET! Proud of your tenacity, Riley. This was truly a big race for you--even more so than the one on our home course last week; you showed that you could overcome obstacles and still race like a beast! When I saw the giant blister on her foot post-race, my respect for her grit more than doubled! Proud of you, Riley! Lauren had a huge race today, too! Not only did she set a new LPR of 19:37, securely putting her under 20 for the third time this season, she also looked happy doing so. After a few cautious races as we tended to her achilles, Lauren looked like Lauren from gun to chute today. She was pulling on Riley, using down hills, and slaying the last 400! I was so impressed by her grit in the last 200 when she was battling some dry heaves (not a shocking occurrence due to the heat and her fast race). She kept fighting for her girls, and she earned herself a medal for that grit! So incredibly proud of your fight, Lauren! Marisa was our 4th bee today, and they had a fantastic race! Like at Libertyville, they looked a little tight in the first mile, but they worked through that to run an incredible second half. Although Audrey and Riley's kicks were fire today, Marisa definitely had the kick of the day. As they emerged from the woods, I saw a fire in their eyes that said that the kick was going to be incredible. By my estimates, Marisa caught at least six runners in the final stretch (it might have been even more...). What I loved most was that they did not panic after the first mile; instead, they moved up, getting closer and closer to Lauren in order to help our team race and earn a huge course PR. Marisa's kick was simply electric, and I cannot wait to see them race again! :) Katelin rounded out our scoring 5, and she had her biggest race of the season. Every time I saw her, she had this serious look in her eye. Like her teammates, she looked so effortless and smart on the downhills. She simply owned the course today! Like her teammates, her kick was so strong to cap off a great race. More important than the race itself, Katelin's joyful reaction after the race was everything. When we let ourselves just run, the results are always better! So proud of Katelin's HUGE SPR--she dropped 40 seconds because she simply got out of her own way and leaned into the fun of the weekend. It was so much fun to watch your race unfold, Katelin--proud of you! :) Natalie had a similar race story today. After a rocky start to the season, Natalie simply raced today, pulling on Katelin's strength, then relying on her own strength in the latter half of the race. Coming out of the woods for the last time, I yelled for Natalie to tuck in her elbows--that cue was all it took for her to light up the last 400. She looked fantastic eating up sleepy runners to the chute. She earned a huge SPR, too, dropping 1:01 to do so! :) Way to go, senior! Our final bee in this race was the tough freshie Sofia. She had such a smart race--she got out well, ran the course with wisdom, and kicked so well! She dropped a huge 29 seconds to dip into the 22s for the first time--what a huge race, Sofia! Proud of your willingness to learn from your team and simply let yourself race without regrets today. What a joy to watch! The night before this race, Coach Hamilton and I discussed the possibilities of us earning a trophy as a team. When everyone races in sync like this, hardware is the inevitable outcome. I am so proud of the TEAM effort of this crew. There was no individual talk--simply a great team race. We took 4th, matching our previous best of 4th from 2019. As Audrey pointed out, though, we ran significantly faster to reach that outcome. More importantly, we are sharpening when it counts. I honestly think we still have a lot of improvements in us, and I cannot wait to see it happen in the coming weeks!
We had two bees in the open race: Brionne and Illy. These two could not help but feel inspired by their teammates, and their races showed it! Each got out well at the start, with Brionne sitting in the mid 30s, and Illy at 50. Brionne did such a great job of using the energy of her girls to make moves. Each time I saw her, she was working on people to keep her race focused. Illyana did an absolutely fantastic job of riding the downhills and racing the course smart. Emerging from the woods for the final time, Brionne looked so strong! She was just out of medal contention, but she was not going to let that happen. In the final 400, she caught at least three (maybe 4?) sleepy runners with her huge kick and determination. She earned a new LPR by dropping 15 seconds today. I cannot overstate how huge this race was for Brionne. She was "in it" the whole way, and she responded when it counted in the last 400. She let her fitness shine, and she didn't let her head get in the way! She also worked through the heat--both of these women had to deal with the warmest conditions of the day, so that makes the LPR even more impressive. So proud of you, Brionne! Illy, just like Brionne, came out of the woods on fire. She used the little dip to create momentum, and her arms looked fantastic as she dipped past sleeping girls. She ran a HUGE SPR by over 30 seconds, securely placing herself in the 24s despite the heat. What an incredible race to watch! I'm getting chills just typing this now! So proud of you for embracing the weekend, Illy, and letting your fitness shine. :)
On the bus ride home, I had a big smile on my face. There is nothing more rewarding than to present athletes an opportunity, and to watch ALL NINE seize the moment. This is the best group effort I have seen at Sterling, and I am thankful to all of you for making it happen. Let's use this momentum to keep things rolling through the end of the season, bees! :)