This summer, we had a small but dedicated group who put in some serious miles. And since the season has begun, we have added many newbees who are already adopting that same work ethic. So it's no shock that I was excited to see what we could do in race conditions. Deerfield is the perfect start to the season: there is a two-mile race for our newer runners, the course is flat and fast, and there is usually solid competition. This year included the added bonus of a rainstorm and rainbow! Here's how the races shook out:
Women's 2-mile: This crew was a mix of veterans and newbees. I'm always interested to see how veterans will step up to lead, and how the newbees will receive that leadership. I could not wipe the smile off my face today! Brionne and Estrella made sure that this very fresh group knew what to do and when to do it. We arrived on the line with some nerves and even more positive energy. When the gun sounded, our pack got out well. After the first curve, Brionne was leading our bees, looking strong and assertive. She rolled through the mile in 7:48, then pressed to run negative in her second mile--7:43. Her kick looked strong and her effort paid off! Even though she has had to adjust her training this summer, including a lot of cross-training, she dropped over a minute over her time at the same race last year. Proud of you, Brionne! We had some nice pack work behind Brionne, with Liz, Cheyenne, and Sofie all took turns leading. Sofie came through the mile in 8:49, while Chey and Liz came through together in 8:59. In the second half, Liz asserted herself, especially in the last 400. She had a nice kick and finished 2nd for the bees in 17:54 (the athletic.net results still show the wrong name--it should be fixed this week). This was Liz's FIRST XC race, so I was really impressed that she took a risk to pull away in the last section of the race, running a negative split. Way to go, Liz! Sofie was our 3rd bee of the race. Not only did she have an excellent kick, but she did a great job of surging during the race. I was really proud of how she kept her nerves in check and just let herself be in the race--I have a feeling she is going to surprise herself in the next race. Cheyenne was only two seconds behind Sofie. To say that Chey is a different runner this fall is an understatement. Last year, she was not ready to race at Deerfield. Today, she showed leadership and guts in her race! Her splits were pretty even (8:58/9:07). I honestly think she is going to make some noise at Lake County on Wednesday, too! Nathaly was our next finisher. Although she was not with that pack, she was really working off of the Warren and Deerfield girls the whole time. Her mindset was so positive, and she had a strong kick in the final stretch. She got stronger as the race went on (9:37/9:17), so I simply cannot wait to see her race 3 miles! Tati was our 6th bee, and she, too ran negative. She got out smart, and then she showed her mental toughness in the second half (11:03/10:46). I am so proud of Tati's progress so far. Going from being a sprinter to XC is a challenge, and she has had the right mindset since the start. This work is going to pay dividends when she gets to the 300 hurdles. I think she is going to be able to shine in the 3 mile on Wednesday. Proud of you, Tati! Our final bee showed her veteran toughness today. Racing with a secret sore throat (please don't do that...I want to keep everyone healthy), Mel pushed through that discomfort to run a big improvement over last year's race. She dropped 1:20 from last year, and she had an OUTSTANDING kick. I think what I liked best was her gutsy start with that beautiful, open stride, and the mirror image of it at the end. If Mel can hold that form, she is going to have a fun season!
What I loved most about this race was the energy. Our newbees (El, Cici, Eva, Emily, Tyla, Anahi) were enthusiastically getting splits and cheering EVERYWHERE! And Estrella was such a great role model for this group! It definitely started off our day right, and the 3-milers could not help but feel that energy.
Women's 3-mile: While this group was small, it was certainly mighty! After getting rained on during their warm up, they were asking the sky-gods for more rain for their race (love that mindset!). The did not let the precipitation change their focus. As we circled up for the breakdown, I could feel some nerves, but it felt like the right kind--the "I care about this, and it's been a minute since I raced" kind of nerves. Our plan was this: Riley and Lauren were going to cruise through the first mile at 6:45-6:50, and then try to go negative from there. Rachel was going to keep them close for as long as she could. Kate was going to go out 7:15ish and try to run more even. And Aniya was going to pull on the energy of the girls she has been practicing with all summer.
After the first set of turns, our front duo of Riley and Lauren looked impressive. They weren't pressing, but I could tell they were going faster than 6:45 pace. In the lead with a Deerfield girl in the mix, these two worked together SO WELL ALL RACE. I was happy to watch them help each other for that first mile. Sure enough, they were a little zesty for that first split (Riley 6:33; Lauren 6:35), but that is fine by me! They both looked great! Rachel came through in a speedy 6:46. I love that she was willing to take a risk in this first race, and it was fun to watch her challenge herself in that first mile! Kate was perfectly paced in 7:25, and Aniya looked fantastic in 8:19. The middle mile is tough on this course--it is a repeated loop where the fans are concentrated in the middle. Our bees looked strong in this section, although the pace fell off a bit in this section: Riley 6:54; Rachel 7:32; Kate 7:51; Aniya 9:12. Lauren was by far the most even, only giving up 12 seconds in that second lap: 6:47. This mile will be a focus as we go to Lake County this week. It is perfectly set up for lots of surges and passing in the second mile, so we will work on making our races more even! The most exciting part about this race (for me) was the finish. With 800 to go, I could see that Riley was in a good position. She pushed through our go-zone path, and she had her signature kick in the last 400, finishing in FIRST PLACE--her first XC win! To say that I am proud of her gutsy race is an understatement. She could have been much more conservative without Audrey in the race, but she took control like a senior, and she ran an incredible last mile--her fastest of the race: 6:11. That final mile shows what kind of runner Riley is--she loves to compete, and she was NOT about to let anyone sneak up on her to take away that #1 spot. It also shows how incredibly fit she is right now. FOr comparison, she ran a crazy 2:09 faster than last year at this meet! Proud of you, Ri-cat! :) Lauren's last 400 was GRIT embodied. In the second mile, the Deerfield runner pulled away from Lauren a bit. In the last 400, Lauren had a choice to make--she could let the girl go and be satisfied with 3rd, or she could take a risk and go after the girl. A lot of runners are afraid to make an attempt to catch people who feel out of reach because they think it is embarrassing if they fail to catch the racer. This is where Lauren's grit comes in: she didn't think about how it would look, she simply went for it. WE NEED THAT MINDSET in EVERY RACE. If you never practice taking a risk, then it's hard to conjure up the courage when it counts. Lauren started to work on the Deerfield runner in the final 300. After the final turn, Lauren "moved those little legs" and found another gear. It took nearly the entire last stretch to catch her, but catch her she did! I love that she fought for herself and her team like that! SO PROUD OF YOU, LAUREN! Her courage paid off time-wise, too. She dropped 1:03 from her time last year on the same course. What a testament to her hard work this past year! Rachel was our 3rd finisher today. Not only did she have a great race, but her final 400 looked strong, too! She finished in 21:47, 1:13 faster than her impressive effort at Bee Linked this summer. Although the courses are not identical, it still shows that she has grown as a runner so much this summer! Rachel took some nice risks in this race. As she gains racing experience this fall, I know that she is going to hit her goals without problem. Way to represent for us in the 3-mile, freshie! Kate had a big race today. As we talked about at Oshkosh, she has just been a different runner this summer, and it showed in this race. To steal Jared's phrase, she just looked "locked in" during the whole race. Her second mile is where she needs to work, but I am so excited to see her 3rd split of 7:23. It shows her fitness and mental toughness that she pushed back in that final mile. Her kick looked outstanding, and I am SO impressed by her growth over last year. She dropped 1:20 from last year--whew! Most importantly, I am digging her confident energy. After the race, she could not stop smiling because she owned how well she did. LOVE THAT! Keep it up, Katelin! Finally, Aniya just keeps amazing me. She did not even race at Deerfield last year because she was a newbee. Her growth since last year is just remarkable, and I attribute it all to her mindset. She has been quietly working hard since she joined as a freshman, and her improvement is all her own. Last fall, Aniya never broke 32:40. To start her season running 26:43 is just awesome to watch! I love that she kept working off that pack of Warren girls, and that she was not afraid to surge and work that second mile. I cannot wait to see her race again! Overall, this group was so much fun to watch--way to go bees! We finished in 2nd behind Deerfield. To be clear, both Deerfield and Warren held out some of their top runners, but we were without Audrey and Fia. I am confident that we would be able to stack up against these teams!
Overall, this was a great first meet of the season. I love the energy. I love the confidence. And I love that you all were owning your greatness as we did shout-outs on the bus. Let's keep this momentum as we head into the upcoming week!
This week's focus: Now that school is truly underway, I need you all to make sure you are taking care of yourselves. I know balancing academics and athletics is no easy feat. You need to find time during the day to get work done. Finished your math work early? Get out your history homework for those last 10 minutes of class rather than talking or sitting on your phone. Feeling overwhelmed with the workload in a particular class? Stay after to talk to your teacher, or email them to ask for tips. Not getting a concept and a test is coming up? Talk with your teammates--we have some smart cookies on this team who have probably taken the class you are in. They can help you! Tired after practice? Take a 20 minute power nap (make sure you set an alarm AND ask for someone to check that you get up), then do some lunges once you wake up to get the blood flowing and get you ready to do homework. Let's work together to make this team successful this season!
Newbees: Quick pro-tip! You can check out your progress on athletic.net this season. It is a really cool website that shows all of the results from our season--your final time and place as well as everyone else's. It also shows team points, etc. You can make a free account so that you can see most of the features. Bee a student of your sport--follow your progress as well as that of your teammates! Go to athletic.net and type in Zion-Benton OR a name to see! I like this particular page (see below) because you can see everyone's progress for the season.