Tuesday @ Waukegan with Mundelein:
In our second NSC Meet (NSC means North Suburban Conference--there are 8 schools in our conference: Lake Forest, Lake Zurich, Libertyville, Mundelein, Stevenson, Warren, Waukegan, and us! For our Tuesday meets, we only race against these schools, while we race anybody at invites on Saturdays), we returned to Waukegan's challenging course. This course provides several opportunities that I love for toughening us up as a team: hills, switchbacks, and lack of fans. You really have to be mentally locked in on this course!
I asked our Varsity to work on some race tactics for this meet. They were to run the first mile as a pack, coming through around 7:04, then fartlek mile 2 while attempting to stick together, then run the last mile hard. I was SO excited to see our pack roll over the bridge just after the mile, running in pairs and looking SO POWERFUL. Excellent execution of the first goal! It was hard to see the fartlek section, but I could tell that we did that work, because we moved up considerably on Waukegan's lone runner (Emily--our new BFF!) and Mundelein's top three. Another goal accomplished! I knew the last goal would be tough--this course is unforgiving in the switchbacks, the weather was toasty, the bugs were in full force, and Mundelein's lead runner Praise had a big lead. I was so happy to see our top seven continue to press in that last mile, cutting down the distance to that first Mundelein runner and securing the overall team win. Overall, I was pretty stoked about the way we executed our plan today--this was a big TEAM win! I hope that our pack felt the power of each other as they rolled through the mile and that they will take that confidence into upcoming meets.
Since most of our remaining runners have very little XC racing experience, I asked them to simply work on beating their previous time on the course. We had A LOT of growth in this race, despite the weather! Lil' Sophie A. dropped a whopping 5:54 by using the downhill segments to zoom! Aniya dropped 51 seconds, looking so much stronger in the process! Estrella was so much more powerful in this race, dropping an impressive 2:25! Emily had an outstanding day, too, pushing to drop 1:52! Eva had a big breakthrough, dropping 3:20! Awesome job working on that goal, bees!
Aniya led this pack, pulling on the energy of the Varsity pack and really looking aggressive on the downhills. Totally locked in! :) Liz stepped up as a leader in this race, helping Sophie A. stay positive and helping her to drop so much time. Nice work, Liz! At the mile, Emily, Janalise, and Estrella were working as a powerful trio. Although they would lose Emily in the switchbacks, Estrella and Janalise did a great job of pushing each other. Tati fought through some sore shins to have a really strong race, pulling on their lead. Eva was not far behind, keeping Tati in her sights. Anahi has been so tough the last week--after having a cold and some ear issues, she fought hard despite not feeling 100%. Proud of you, Anahi. Cici did an excellent job of keeping her stride more open--she showed it off on the bridge and coming down the switchbacks. Great job, Cici! Overall, this group showed a lot of progress--nice work!
In the final standings, we beat Waukegan on a forfeit since they did not have 5 runners, the minimum in order to count in team scoring. Remember--the place of first five finishers from a team is added up to create the team score. We also beat Mundelein, although I suspect they might be tougher in an invite, as their coach revealed that they, too were running a workout of sorts. I was happy with these results, and I cannot wait for us to race at Warren on Saturday!
Saturday--Bill Dawson Invite @ Warren:
What an outstanding day of racing! This was our first invite that separated our frosh/soph squad from the open/JV bees. While I'm sure Chey and Liz did not appreciate the separation, I like that our big freshie squad had the chance to run in their own race. This group definitely enjoyed the best conditions of the day: the breeze was blowing, the sun receded behind the cloud cover, and the temperatures were still moderate. Our bees seized the opportunity and raced hard today!
F/S Women: Our bees got out well in the first 800, with Aniya leading the way. I love that she took a risk today and went out faster than usual in the first mile. After Thursday's workout, she knew that she was ready to go faster, and so she gave herself a chance to PR by taking the first mile sub-8. It paid off! She ran a BIG lifetime PR, dropping 49 seconds and looking fantastic in her kick--way to go, sophomore! Sofie A. was actually our first finisher for the day, and like Aniya, she also had a big race. She pushed herself out of her comfort zone, running faster for 3 miles than she did for 2.5 at Parkside! That is a HUGE improvement. She did it by running a pretty even race: 7:40, 7:57, 8:27. Her final time was 24:05--an impressive improvement, and almost touching the 23s. Nice work, Sofie! Janalise had a breakthrough race today, too. She was smart and budgeted her energy more evenly through the race, but she still took a risk and got out harder than Waukegan: 7:57, 8:58, 8:51. Now that she knows she can go out harder (in the 7s) and not die off, I anticipate that her second and third miles will be better in the next race! She dropped over a minute from her debut at our course two weeks ago--nice work, Jana! I already bragged about Aniya--she was our 3rd runner for the day--. Cheyenne was behind her, fighting hard through some physical pain. I know, I know...everyone deals with pain during the race, but her hip has been rude for a couple of weeks now, and then the solution (her wrap) was also causing some chaos #chaffing. What I love is that Chey fought through all of this because she was determined to run in this race! Last year, I don't know if she would have had the mental toughness to do so. She had a great start in 8:25, then finished with 9:49 and 9:54. Despite all of those distractions, Chey still ran a lifetime best, dropping nearly 2:00 to beat her previous PR from Conference last year. What a huge breakthrough, Chey! SO proud of you! Julianna had her racing debut today, and she did awesome. Not only did she courageously get out hard, but she also fought through the fatigue to finish with a great starting time (her best compared to practice so far AND sub-30). Now she has a starting point in an official race that she can shave time from. Proud of your grit, Julianna! Eva and Anahi were not far behind. Not only did these two work hard together in the latter parts of the race, but they both showed a lot of guts. Eva had a huge breakthrough--she dropped over 5 minutes from her race at Shiloh! Whew! Eva is just going to keep getting better because she keeps bravely attacking each race. She did a nice job getting out harder than usual and bringing her last mile back down, too: 9:14, 11:17, 11:00. Like most of the bees in this race, the key is to now keep that second mile closer to the first. That will come! Speaking of even splits, Anahi won "most consistent" today. Check out her splits: 10:22, 10:39, 10:31. Talk about methodical! Once she gets this congestion healed up, she is going to make a mark! great work, Anahi! Our final two racers stood out for their amazing kicks. Emily fought through some hip pain while Yazaira had to manage her nerves from her first race. The two of them hit the last turn, and they ran down the final stretch, stride for stride. It was so exciting to witness their drive, neither bee giving up an inch. The crowd was going crazy! These two really challenged each other, and I love that!
Real talk, our team standing does not reflect the big growth that happened in this race. I know I talked about times above, but there are other important measures of growth. Post-race, Eva asked where the brick wall was at because she wanted to be there to help her teammates in other races. That is a great example of a linked mindset! Post-race, Yaya wanted to know her splits immediately and was looking for the QR code to look at the results. You can click here to see your specific race results. It shows your miles splits plus whether you caught people (green numbers with the up arrow), got caught (red numbers with a down arrow), or stayed even (sideways arrows). Most meets don't provide all this detail, so that's just another reason why this meet is so great! And post-race, I saw a whole mess of people cheering on the course, then rushing to the stadium to watch finishes. These moments plus more are what shows me that we are making good progress!
Varsity Women: I'm not going to lie--I was terrified to watch this race. You seven DESTROYED the workout on Thursday. My intention was for it to be more tempo-like, but every interval was much faster than I anticipated. Although I was delighted and proud about the fitness you seven displayed, I was worried that your legs would be heavy Saturday. If they were, no one would know it by watching you. I could see on the line that you all wanted to bring it. My favorite moment pre-race was when I asked Audrey to not win the first 800, and she replied, "Oh, don't worry girl. I had a whole conversation with myself. It's under control." I laughed on the outside and kept laughing on the inside. Thanks for breaking my tension, Audge! When the gun sounded, I didn't even watch our pack like I usually do--I just turned and walked to the 800, right by Eva's brick wall as the trail pops out behind the start. I talked with the Mundelein coach for a minute, and then the leaders emerged. I was OVERJOYED to see Audrey sitting comfortably in 12th place and eyeing the front runners. It was a SUPERB start--she was under control and could see who she was going to pick off. Riley and Lauren were not far behind in the low 20s. They, too, looked controlled and ready. I could barely contain myself, and then Rachel and Fia came rolling up, looking like baddies, only seconds later. WHAT?! And before I could recover from that amazingness, Kate and Brioche were rolling with locked in expressions and powerful strides. For a brief moment, I worried that we were getting out too hard, but honestly, everyone looked controlled, just like Thursday. I sprinted (well, D-sprint) down the field to catch everyone as they left the stadium and turned back into the woods. Everyone had already moved up a bit in the race, and I could tell that we would DEFINITELY be having a great day. I could just see that the the pace was going to stick, and that we were RACING hard as a team today. As I darted around the course, I kept smiling like a big goofball. There is NOTHING more thrilling for a coach than to watch her athletes simply step up to their abilities and compete. I knew that Thursday's workout was only acting as a motivator in this race. When it was over, I was feeling joyous as I headed back to the tent. I knew we had done well as a team, but I didn't anticipate Tolliver showing me a 3rd place result. I had been so busy watching our greatness that I paid little attention to how other teams looked in comparison to us. We would later find out that 3rd place would turn into 4th after a tiebreaker, but I don't care. It was so much fun to watch us race hard and kick hard.
This race illustrates that order of operations matters. I didn't see anyone look at a watch or worry about splits. I saw tough cookies racing hard and then the times took care of themselves. Audrey ran a season PR by almost a minute. Her splits were divine, and I am confident that she will be able to shave down mile 2 & 3 in coming races, especially if she keeps running smart like today. Riley had a heck of a race today, too. She ate the whole race, and the pictures of her kicking are so beautiful (Shout out to Mrs. Luell--click here to check out Riley's kick!). She did not break 19 until the sectional last year, so this race is a big deal! Proud of you, Riley! Lauren had a similar story--she raced hard, and her time is not only a season PR but also matches her second-half of the season best from last year. Huge progress, Lauren! Proud of your grit today--I saw the nerves on your face prior to the race, and you worked through it to perform beautifully for your team. Proud of your effort, Lauren! Rachel was our #4 today--a huge step up! While I could go on about how she ran a new LPR by nearly a minute and ran a huge first mile, what I care most about is that she looked happy during the race. I have a picture of her going back into the woods with a giant smile on her face. THIS is why we run--to enjoy the process of becoming strong people in the world. Awesome effort today, Rachel! Kate and Fia were our 5 & 6 today. Go back to the FB link and watch their kicks, too. Whew! These two fought to the finish--that grit is exactly what we need to hone. Kate had a huge breakthrough today. She ran a big season PR, and she is in the neighborhood of her lifetime PR. More importantly, she looked locked in for the entire race--she was fighting for her team the whole time, as evident by the fact that she only passed others after mile one, and was never passed. What more could I ask? Fia, too, had a big day. She broke her LPR by 23 seconds. Last year, it took her until October 30th to get into the 21s. Now she has done it in early September! More importantly, she took a risk and got out hard in the first mile. That act requires faith in one's training, and I love that she is believing in herself more. That kind of risk taking is going to pay off--proud of your grit, Fia! Brionne continued the trend of breaking a lifetime PR. She dropped 46 seconds from her last race of the season last fall. SO impressive to be that far ahead of schedule! Aside from the time, I loved watching Brionne set aside her nerves and just RACE today! Like Katelin, she simply ate, catching others and holding off any aggressors. Her splits were even, and I appreciate that she got out hard in light of her success at the Thursday workout. SO proud of you, Brioche!
Overall, this group slayed FOR each other. I love that when we were back at the tent, everyone was joyous and owning the greatness of the race. I cannot tell you how many coaches came up to me to compliment the race throughout the remainder of the day. It felt great for you seven to be seen--that all the hard work of the summer came together on the same day! I want to continue this momentum; let's agree that this kind of grit (times aside) is our new standard.
Open Race: By this point in the day, it was HOT HOT. Liz and Estrella took this unchangeable truth in stride. They relished the nice breeze, and they gladly focused on the cups of water I provided. At the start of the race, these two got out well, working together at the 800 mark. I think what stands out most about this race is that they took turns doing the work. Initially, Liz was pushing the pace and leading, and then Estrella stepped up when Liz needed her. It was a beautiful display of teamwork! It was most successful in the second mile when Estrella (5) and Liz (4) passed people like crazy! I love that second-half strong mindset on display. That hard work paid off: Estrella dropped 38 seconds for a new season PR, and Liz ran a new LPR by 45 seconds! THese drops are especially impressive in light of the temperatures--it was TOASTY for their race. While the times are fantastic, I am really proud of how they pushed each other. That's why we are here!
Yes, I am still going crazy about the impressive efforts today, but what I loved most was the atmosphere on Saturday. Shaved ice, cheering, searching for more knowledge...the energy just felt GOOD on Saturday. I'm really proud of our progress, and I can't wait for us to race again!
And for you new bees in search of knowledge. Don't forget that you can track your progress on Athletic.net. Here is a link to our team grid. It's a good way to see how your teammates are progressing, too.