Saturday @ Rebel Invite--Parkside:
I woke up excited about this meet. I knew that we were physically read to compete after a few rest days, and I knew that our group was hungry for a good race. You all did not disappoint!
F/S and Open: This meet combines these two races, which is great. It gives people more opportunities to pass people! My only complaint is that the race is only 4K (2.5 miles) rather than 3 miles. I think the race directors wanted to give new athletes an easier distance in the early part of the season, especially on such a challenging course. There is no denying that Parkside's course requires some mental grit, especially the first hill. I knew that the hill might be intimidating to our newebees, so we ran up and down it for the warm up, and i was so proud of how this group simply let go down the hill. Everyone's stride looked powerful and open without my saying a word--awesome! On the starting line, I could see that there were some nerves (which is totally normal--it means that you care!) but Sofie and Estrella did a great job of being positive, offering thumbs-ups and saying positive things on the line. When the cannon finally sounded (after that really long count down...), our group was off, looking strong! I waited a few moments to watch them approach the first hill, and then I headed into the woods to see them after the mile. There is a great spot where there is a huge downhill to a gully, and then a quick short uphill. I was so excited to see how our group was handling the hill.
Liz & Chey were the first down that hill, and they were within steps of each other. It was cool watching them work together to pass a large pack. One girl tried to weave to keep Chey from passing, but Liz and Chey eventually made it around the pack on the uphill. These two looked fantastic with 400 to go, Chey leading the duo. Liz turned on her super-charged kick and edged Chey by a second. Chey did not back down, sporting her own speedy kick to finish a great race. These two really looked strong today, and I'm excited to see what they can do on our home course. Nice work, bees! Our next bees looked so great coming down the hill: Nathaly, Sofie, and Estrella. They were each about 10 meters apart, but they used the terrain to shorten that gap. Sofie was our third bee after starting off further back in our pack. She did an OUTSTANDING job of moving up during the race, passing girls on the downhill and then kicking hard at the finish! Estrella let her experience shine, working hard in the second half of the race to finish as our 4th runner. She looked more confident at the conclusion of this meet--nice work! Nathaly was our 5th and final scoring bee. She was so courageous today--she started hard and pulled on Sofie and Estrella to help round out our scoring. I'm excited to see these three work together at our course on Tuesday. I was so excited to see Tati and Emily fly down the hill next, working so well together. They looked SO confident--it was awesome to see. I was particularly proud of Tati for fighting hard today after a tough moment on the starting line. What grit! These two rounded out our team of 7. In cross-country, a complete team consists of 7 runners. The first five runners create the team score: each person's place is added together to create a team score. Obviously, being 1st is better than 2nd, so the lowest team score wins. The 6th & 7th runners are called pushers. They serve two purposes: they act as "back ups" in case a runner has to drop out of the race due to injury; and they can push up another team's score if they beat a 1-5 runner from another team (because their place score will go up). Our next two bees were Anahi and Eva. They were close to each other coming down the hill, and eventually Eva caught her friend and then outkicked her at the end. These two are showing such promise! I know they will continue to improve this week! Cici and Mel were not far behind, working well down the hill with a great open strides. Mel worked up to Cici and eventually passed her. Like Lake County, she finished with an outstanding kick! I like this trend, Mel...keep it up! Cici used the energy of the crowd to help her surge in the final 400 and finishing strong.
Overall, this group is making big progress. This hilly race will help us in future meets, and I cannot wait to see how they grow! Nice work, everyone!
Varsity Race: I was worried that the temperatures were going to be toasty for the Varsity race, but after leaving the tent area, I could feel the nice breeze and noticed that the clouds were starting to obscure the sun. Our seven looked confident when I met them at the starting line. We had some obstacles to overcome today: the shadow of their PERCEIVED flat races at Lake County, a stuffy nose for Lauren, a rude knee for Kate and Brionne, and some general nerves and fatigue. I am really proud to report how these seven overcame all of that to finish in 3rd in the team race. Here's how it unfolded.
When the cannon sounded, I saw that we got out hard. Mrs. Luell documented our pack attacking the first hill with Audrey in the lead, smartly taking the left side of the hill rather than the steepest section. Coach Hamilton reported that we looked good at the top of the initial hill. I saw the same when our pack made it to the steep downhill. Audrey was about 150 meters behind the leader, looking amazing rolling down the hill, then charging up the other side. There were several other runners in striking distance, but by the final 400, she had pulled away from them significantly. I barely missed witnessing her kick, but Coach Hamilton said that she looked amazing--really opening up for the final stretch! She ended up running an identical time to last year, which is impressive considering how much hotter it was this year. Proud of your effort, Audge! Riley and Lauren were our next bees. Coming down the hill, Riley looked like her powerful self again. Her stride looked amazing, and she was locked in, working up to the next racer. She finished in true Riley style with a killer kick, and she ran 13 seconds faster than last year at this meet. More importantly, she looked confident from gun to tape. Way to go, Ricat! Lauren was not far behind in 15th place. What I love about her race was that she was struggling physically and mentally during the warm up. She took some deep breaths, reset, and found a way to really compete for her team today. I loved watching her battle and hearing her confidence post-race. Lauren's race is a great reminder that it is not realistic to expect to feel perfect for each race. We have to learn to work through soreness like we did on Wednesday and less-than-perfect conditions. Proud of your grit, Lauren! The work of our front 3 was impressive--they helped keep our score much lower than last year since all three of them were in the top 15. NICE! Fia was our fourth finisher with a huge race. Not only did she run 3:13 faster than her performance at this same course last year (despite hotter conditions), she also was up much further in the race--over 60 spots! This is the first time I have seen Fia keep her confident body language for the whole race. She and Rachel looked amazing coming down and up the hill, working together to attack the next pack. Fia looked so strong in the final 400 with a speedy kick! Proud of your growth, Fia! Lock this one in the memory banks! Like Lauren, Rachel also proved her mental and physical grit today. She was feeling worn out prior to the race. She has been working so hard with the Varsity pack, but she does not have the same base that she does. After slaying Monday's workout and racing so well on Wednesday, it's no wonder she was feeling a bit sluggish before the race. What's important, though, is that she fought for herself and her team, despite rolling her ankle on this tricky course. She fought hard through the finish as our 6th bee, and handled herself like a pro! Proud of your grit, Rach! Kate had a heck of a race today. She got out hard, looked awesome on the hills, and was the sole winner of the "Catch 4 for Food" Challenge. When we saw her come through the last 400, she whipped by so fast that I almost didn't see her. I tried to catch her again at the cut-through, but she was so quick that I missed her! Her kick was simply breathtaking--she hunted down SEVEN sleepy runners and passed them with such authority that they did not have a chance to respond. This is what I want for ALL of you--that kind of hunger and confidence in the home stretch! She was six seconds faster than last year, but this performance was about more than just numbers--Kate looked unstoppable despite her knee feeling wonky. So proud of your grit, Katelin! Our 7th runner for the day was Brionne. She has worked so hard to manage her shin and knees this summer, and that work certainly paid off in this race. Not only did she look impressive on the hills, she also had a great kick. The pictures from Mrs. Luell show how open her stride was, complete with beautiful arms! Like Rachel and Lauren, she was not feeling great before the race, but she worked through it to put together an amazing race. Great work, Brioche!
Overall, this group really fought hard. Their races were so fun to watch! I love witnessing the beauty of an impressive effort, and I had the honor to do that 7 times in this race. Proud of you all! Let's use this momentum as we roll into our home course this Tuesday.
Ok everyone--there are some important things for you to know for this week. It's a little crazy schedule-wise.
1. We are at home on Tuesday. New Tech Crew--just walk over to the course when you get out of school. ZB Main Campus--if you have a car, please offer people rides. We won't have enough room in cars for everyone, though. Everyone else, CHANGE QUICKLY, then take the shuttle bus at 3:00. Coach Hamilton will be there, but Coach Anderson and I will be at the course already setting stuff up. When you arrive at the course, we will need lots of help setting up. Please plan to BEE OF SERVICE for set up and take down. For Tuesday meets, there are only two races. The boys will all run first at 4:45ish (it depends on when Lake Forest arrives). We will run after they finish--probably around 5:40. Don't forget that we will cool down and then take down the course. You will need to have your ride pick you up from the course at around 7:15.
2. Wednesday is our first shortened day of school--we get out at 12:50. You will need to get back to school at 3:00 because we have team pictures and practice in the afternoon. I know this is inconvenient, but I did not get to pick the picture time. Please wear your uniform for pictures (which means you will need to wash it Tuesday night) AND bring clothes for practice. We will ift and get in some recovery miles.
3. Friday is our first ZBXC Jamboree from 6-8 pm at Shiloh. Please make sure that you fill out this form (i also sent it out via Remind) before Wednesday night so Anderson and I can plan food. Since we are having the Jamboree, we will NOT have morning practice on Friday.
4. Saturday, we are meeting at Van Patten Woods, Shelter A for a long run. 7:00-9:15!
Ok, that's a wrap for Week 2! Before I sign off, I need you to know how proud I am of ALL of you. This was a tough week, and you handled it with grit and grace. Let's keep working together to improve! Oh, and one last important thing: It was great to see two alums from the class of '22 come back to support us. Natalie Fig missed the races, but her face always makes me smile! Aubri made it in time to cheer and lend her experienced wisdom! The fact that these two came to cheer shows that linked spirit. I was so happy to see both of them! :)
Wednesday--Lake County Invite @ Waukegan
I was excited about how we started the week: Despite warm temps on Monday, we had an outstanding workout in The Backyard™, with most of you hitting times significantly faster than I prescribed. It was awesome to watch the energy you gave to the workout and each other. I knew that the success of Monday would have a cost, however. Hard workouts usually start affecting the body 24-48 hours after the effort, which meant that Wednesday, you all might be sore or feel like your legs were heavy. When we arrived at Waukegan's course, and started the warm up, I could see that the heaviness was there for many of you, and the warm temperatures didn't help. Our varsity pack of 5 were the first to race, and they had to endure the warmest conditions of the evening. I know these five were not happy with their times, but I was focused on effort and racing. For some context, last year's winner--Aly from Grant--ran 18:03. This year's winner ran 19:30. To be fair, Aly is amazing on courses like Waukegan's due to her strength, but this year's race was just not fast. Last year, eleven runners beat this year's winning time. Clearly, it was not just our Monday workout at play.
With that context in mind, I think it's important to break down a few things from our Varsity race. First, let's talk about place: Audrey finished 4 places ahead of her performance from last year; Riley was 33 places ahead of last year; and Kate had the exact same place both years! I can't compare Lauren & Fia because they both ran the open race last year. Second, let's talk about time. I need to point out one big moment of growth! Sofia ran 25:58 on this course last year. This year, she ran 24:15 after being on vacation for a week. That jump is important because it shows her dedication this summer, and just how much her body has adapted since her freshman year. Proud of you, Fia! Finally, let's talk about effort. We got out well for the first mile. I was impressed with our placement, with Audrey in the front pack, Lauren and Riley working well together not far behind, Sofia looking strong, and Kate with a really impressive first mile. When I saw them again after the hill and first switchback, I could see the fatigue on each bee's face. What I DIDN'T see was an ounce of quit. Every one of our girls tried to reset, use the downhills, and fight. I was not able to make it back over to see finishes, but I imagine that the finish looked like the last 800 mark: our runners fighting through the heat and tiredness. That's all I ever ask! Our group ended up 9th out of 14, not far behind Deerfield. I think a key for this group as we head into our upcoming meets is focusing on the fun of racing. It is easy to let a course like Waukegan's feel intimidating and to let the weather be a distraction. Instead, let's pick two areas of confidence before the race, whether that is a certain section we know we can dominate, or a certain skill we know we have (like amazing kicks!). We are going to assert the positives and then keep that fighting spirit that I saw today!
Our open race featured several "first-timers", and I am so proud of that group! This was the first time that Liz, Nathaly, Sofie, Anahi, Emily, Eva, and Cici raced 3 miles! As I mentioned, this course is no joke, and I am proud of them for tackling it with grit! At the starting line, I was impressed by how our pack handled the crowded conditions. At the mile, I was so pleased to see Rachel in 7th or 8th (it was tricky counting in a co-ed race), looking fresh. Brionne was not far behind, looking really strong with her tall posture. Sofie was our next bee--she had a great start, pulling on her big sister from NT! Aniya seemed to defy the heat, looking fresh and focused. Liz & Chey were working in tandem only a few moments behind Bri. Nathaly had such a positive energy as she zoomed by the bridge, smiling Jenna-style. Estrella looked great in her racing debut as a senior, measuring her energy and pulling on Nathaly. Anahi and Emily had a great start, looking twice as confident as last week and working together. Melanie certainly took a risk in the first mile, getting out strong and pushing herself to have that open stride that she has been working on at practice. Eva was not far behind, pulling on Mel's energy. Cici was around the bridge only moments after Eva, looking strong and channeling the energy from her family. When I saw our group again on the way to the 2-mile mark, I was really happy to see that they were using the course and our fans to their advantage. In particular, Rachel, Bri, Anahi, and Liz really capitalized on the downhills, zooming to catch a new pack and pass sleepy competitors. Cross-country racing is so different than track racing because smart runners use the course to their advantage. These girls certainly used the "free" energy of downhills to work the second half of the course. While it was certainly cooler for this race, it was far from cool out. Our girls really battled hard. I didn't catch all of the finishes, but here are some good things I saw/heard about. Rachel finished 6th overall for us with a really strong time of 23:04. More important than the time, I was pleased to see her looking more relaxed compared to last week, simply letting her fitness shine. Nice work, Rach! I have to give Brionne the same compliment--she looked more at ease this week. Like Fia, she had a significant time drop compared to last year--nearly a minute faster! That is a testament to her dedication this summer. Although she could not run full mileage, she was dedicated to getting fit via the bike, and her hard work is certainly paying of. Proud of you, Brioche! :) I really liked Aniya's body language during her race--she really keyed off of our Varsity runner's cheers, using their energy to fuel her surges to pass other runners. Nice work, Aniya! Liz really stepped up today. It is easy to simply stay with a teammate during a race, especially a bestie, but Liz pulled away from Chey in the second half, really using the course to her advantage, despite competing at this distance for the first time! Yesssss, Liz! :) A little birdy told me that Nathaly did a great job working the whole last finish section, not waiting to kick until the last straight--nice job taking a risk, Nat! Anahi had one of my favorite races of the day. She looked so confident, despite this being only her second race in life, and first at this distance. She was joyful at the finish, owning her accomplishment! I love that kind of self-confidence! :) I have missed Estrella. Can I just say that? In the 2+ weeks that she has been back, I have been so impressed by her leadership. She has been looking out for people while building her own fitness. I know she wasn't satisfied with this race, but there are many ways to contribute to a meet. Today, she helped ease the fears of newbees by leading warm up with quiet confidence and then being a great role model in her own race. When her body catches up with her mind, she is going to have the race she wanted today! Little Sofie did a great job working through some breathing issues in order to finish strong--great work, freshie! Finally, I have to talk about Melanie's kick. She emerged from the hillside and was in a pack of 4 other runners. Coming off that turn, she just pressed the second-to-last straightaway, and she broke that whole pack--they simply had no answer to her kick. When she rounded the last flag, she used the energy of her teammates to sustain her kick and beat that posse. Like Sofia and Brionne, Mel also dropped significant time compared to last year: 2:23! Yowza! She dedicated herself to running consistently over the summer, and her hard work is paying off!
In honor of Mel's great kick, I want to make that our focus at Parkside. Since the distances are not comparable to our other races this year, let's work on sharpening our race tactics. I will buy anyone their favorite post-race snack if they catch 4 or more people in the final kick (the stretch from where you emerge from the woods to the chute). To be clear: I'll deliver said snacks on Tuesday. Additionally, let's use the hills to our advantage like Rachel, Bri, Liz, and Anahi did. So our theme for Saturday is RACE RACE RACE!
Last note: I was really happy to see the teamwork of our new hives in the weightroom. Let's keep that energy going!