Tuesday @ Libertyville with Lake Zurich
This course is no joke. While it is beautiful, it requires full attention in order to race well. After a week without racing, I was wondering how we would respond against great competition and a challenging course. I was so pleased with the way you all stepped up!
Coming off the first mini-loop, I was excited to see everyone using the course to their advantage. Every single bee was working with teammates and cruising down the trail toward Bertha (that big ol' hill by the river). I liked the aggressiveness I was witnessing, too. We were really racing, and I was happy to see it! There was a lot of great teamwork today: Rachel and Fia pushed each other through the first mile; Janalise, Sofie, Liz, and Anahi had great packwork in the first half; and Estrella and Janalise worked well together in the second half. Even when people were not side-by-side, they were pulling on each other for inspiration. I was really happy to hear about great kicks, too.
Overall, I was pleased with the way we raced today. Although we were bested by Libertyville and Lake Zurich, (we were without Riley because she was being smart and listening to her body) we still competed well. As I mentioned before, this is not a fast course, but we still had some big PRs. Congrats to Estrella for a new season PR. She looked fantastic today because she used the course to her advantage and really pulled on her teammates. She dropped an impressive 48 seconds, which signals to me that she is ready to rip a really fast race on a flatter course. Awesome work, Senior! We had FIVE lifetime PRs today, too. Liz dropped 28 seconds and looked incredible today. She is really starting to "get" XC racing. She also had the cutest "hidden" socks today, while Cici won for best "seen" socks. Nathaly had a huge breakthrough today. Not only did she bid farewell to the 30s, she also dropped a whopping 3:16! Whew! She did it by trusting her training in the first mile and really racing the people around her while using the course. Awesome improvement, Nat! Proud of you! Anahi said "bye" to the 30s, also. She Did an impressive job of pressing in the second half of the race, rolling downhill with a nice open stride! Way to drop 2:28 for a new PR, Anahi! So cool! Yazaira also joined the 20 team, kicking hard to sneak under 30 for the first time. She really embraced the course today and dropped 2:42 today! Sweet racing, Yaya! :) Finally, Cici kicked the 40s to the curb, dropping 2:28 for a new LPR. Great job with your kick, too, Cici! Additionally, Sheila raced for the first time and looked fantastic! Nice work, Sheila! There were also a few other standout races today: Shout out to Audrey for taking a risk and going after Brooke today--I like you moxie; props to Lauren for going with Audrey's flow and just attacking the race; Janalise did a great job working through a tight hip and just competing! Overall, I was really happy with the day, and I'm glad it concluded with some fun at the park. It's important to seek joy whenever it presents itself!
Friday @ Lakes
After a scheduling mess-up, our F/S and JV women headed to Lakes on Friday after the pep rally. I was bummed about the change because it meant that I would not get to watch the race, but Estrella reported that there was A LOT to be excited about. Thankfully, this meet is recorded, so I was able to see everyone's finish. You can check out the video here! I saw that Liz and Sofie worked together for a great race! Liz dropped an impressive 2:35. I am so impressed with this drop! Proud of these two for helping each other race hard--nice work! Only seconds later, Estrella and Chey zoomed through the finish. How cool to watch them work in tandem and finish so strong! Estrella dropped 1:25 from Tuesday's SPR, earning a new SPR today and rapidly approaching her lifetime. What a great race, Senior! Chey looked awesome and reported that her hip felt great! She dropped a ridiculous 2:18 from her impressive race at Warren to earn a new LPR. So proud of you, Chey! What a great breakthrough! Our next bee was Janlaise, and she was working hard against a Lakes runner. She looked fantastic coming through the finish line, pushing to challenge the girl to the last moment. Great work, Jana! Emily was our next finisher, and wow did she race hard! She skipped the 30s and ran an LPR of 29:12, dropping an impressive 1:54. For two weeks now, her knee has been bothering her, but she overcame that obstacle to put together an impressive race! Proud of you, Em! Her sis was not far behind, shaving off two more seconds for ANOTHER LPR this week. Whew! I know Eva will ditch the 30s next week at Conference. Awesome race, Eva! Sheila had a great finish, dropping 2:10 from her debut on Tuesday at Libertyville. Nice work, Sheila! After being sick and struggling with her shins, Tati looked fantastic today. She dropped an incredible 5:10 from her previous best, looking smooth into the finish. Nice work, Tati! Mel was our next finisher. She looked open and strong coming into the home stretch. After also being sick, she dropped nearly 3 minutes from her previous best. Way to push yourself, Mel! In her racing debut, Syneiysha had a thrilling finish, pushing a runner all the way to the finish line. I love that kind of grit--nice work, Syneiysha! Cici was our final runner, and what a race she had today! After smashing her previous LPR on Tuesday, Cici came to compete, dropping 5:43 today to earn a new PR of 33:29. Whew! So impressive, Cici! Will she drop into the 29s for Conference? I believe she can!
Overall, I am so thrilled for this group. You all came to compete, and you worked together to make big things happen. I'm so proud of you all for stepping up and focusing despite a hectic week! Way to go, bees!
Saturday @ Sterling
The weather was gorgeous as we headed west to Sterling. The drive was filled with blue skies, puffy clouds, fun sing-alongs, and great memories. When we arrived at the course to practice, I was happy to hear our bees talking about the course positively: they felt like it flew by, and they loved the mix of trees and park that helped make the miles feel like feet. At dinner and our team meeting, I felt good vibes, and I hoped that a good night's sleep would help produce a fun day of racing on Saturday.
These women played no games on Saturday. Aniya starting things off right in the F/S race. She looked assertive on the line, and she got out well, tucking in with a group of girls from Rochelle in purple. When she emerged from the woods, I knew it was going to be a great race for Aniya. She has been so strong all season, and she just looked ready to embrace the experience. She worked the uphill well, and her mile split was speedy--her first time well-under 8 in a race! As I watched her slip back into the woods, she used the downhill to challenge the pack she was in. When she emerged again, she had put distance on that pack and was looking strong up the bus line. I watched her behind the start, challenging another girl in black. It was so cool to watch Aniya fight for a full three miles. When she emerged for the last time, she squared her shoulders and turned to that great sprinter form. All her efforts turned into an impressive outcome. She didn't worry about time while she was racing, she simply raced. And she ended up with nearly a minute drop to earn a new LPR of 24:32. Congrats on such an impressive day, Aniya!
Varsity had no choice but to follow Aniya's energy. They got out perfectly, following Audrey's perfect tangent to the woods. When I saw the first runner emerge from the woods, she was still in the shadows. I was hoping it was Audrey, but I wasn't sure until she popped into the sunshine. Audrey looked so impressive when she drove up the hill. She was taking a risk to take the lead, and she had already put 30-40 meters on the next runner. To take the lead in an invite is a statement: Audrey said--through her actions--that she beelieved in her fitness and her training. It was beautiful to behold! Only seconds later, the beauty multiplied because Riley and Lauren were running in tandem in the teens. They looked comfortable and strong! And then only seconds later, I found Rachel and Fia only feet apart as they climbed the hill. They, too, looked assertive and controlled! I could see Kate and Brionne's pink sleeves as soon as I whipped my camera around. These two were running tall and strong, just like their teammates. I was so impressed by how close together we all were, and I knew we had a chance to do something great as a team yet again this season.
I was just around the corner from the mile, and I could tell that everyone was running fast. Audrey was sub-6 while Riley and Lauren were right at the 6 mark. The remainder of our bees were ALL sub-7 for the first time all season! I was so proud that EVERYONE was taking a risk today. Those black uniforms were bringing out the real runner in everyone! As we headed into the woods for the second mile, Audrey had extended her lead a bit while Lauren and Riley were moving up in the pack. Rachel was making some moves, as was Kate. I was really happy about our placement. I held my breath that everyone would stay awake in the woods, knowing that Aniya was by the Bezerker tree to keep everyone honest. Coming out of the woods, I could see that everyone was so locked in. Audrey looked so calm while Riley and Lauren looked HUNGRY--they were challenging the very strong runners from Glenwood Chatham. Rachel came out looking fantastic, as did Fia! I was really proud to watch these two challenge people on the climb to the starting line. Kate was having the race of her life, closing the gap between her and Fia. And Brionne looked so in-the-moment as she opened up down the little gulley and used that energy to launch herself up the climb. I watched all seven bees push behind the start line and then slip into the trees before emerging for one last tree loop. I could see that the Glenwood girls would probably not make a play for Audrey in the last loop, but I could also see the sophomore from PV starting to make a move. When I told Audrey to be ready, she looked stoic and responded by pushing hard into the woods. At this point, Lauren was doing her best impression of Jenna, smiling huge and moving into second for us. I could see that Riley was hurting, and I wasn't sure of the source. Here's what made me happy, though: Lauren was stepping up to help, and Riley was showcasing her signature grit--she was not going to give up an inch in the woods. Rachel made several moves, using the downhill to try to fix the split between her and Lauren. By this point, Kate had closed on Fia and was stepping up senior-style. Fia was fighting hard to hang onto Kate, and Brionne was working the downhill with that beautiful long stride.
I raced over to the final 350ish mark, and I saw Audrey emerge by herself. I could see that the PV runner had moved up, though, and I knew it was going to take everything Audrey had to hold her off. Audrey fought so hard, but the PV runner bested her in the final 20 meters. Audrey's risk-taking paid off: she ran a HUGE season PR and was within SIX seconds of her lifetime--a mark she earned at State last year. This race was HUGE. Not only is she WAY ahead of schedule (last year, she ran 18:13 at Sterling), she also is racing so aggressively. I cannot get enough of it! I love the confidence, and I can't wait to see her at Conference! SO PROUD OF YOU, AUDREY! Lauren was our second finisher with a HUGE day also. She has been so consistently BA this season, that I didn't realize just how big of a PR this was until I sat down to write. Last year, Lauren's PR was set at our home course at Conference--19:25. This season, she has been running consistently in the mid-19s, but today was different: She ran a GIANT Lifetime PR of 18:38--dropping 59 seconds from her previous season best. Like Audrey's, Lauren's time came from great racing. She let herself be in the race, eating up opponents in the second half and finishing SO strong. Lauren Kelly Hamilton--way to go, sophomore! Riley was not far behind as our third finisher. I was panicked when I saw the look on her face when she came out of the woods. Was it her hip? Her neck? She was so smart this week--listening to her body. Had something acted up again? Post-race, she reported that the race was hard. She had trouble breathing, and her stomach was not feeling great. Here's the great news, though; on Riley's worst day, she is a 19:01 runner, placing 14th and doing everything in her power to fight for her team. This woman has NO QUIT in her, and it makes me teary-eyed to think about how hard she fought today. Proud of you, Ricat! Our 4th finisher was our freshie Rachel. She had such an amazing race today, too! When she emerged from the woods, and I told her she was in the 19s, I swear that her eyes nearly popped out of her head! She kicked so hard for that final stretch, finishing in 30th overall. She did such a great job of being in the race today, pulling on opponents and working the course to her advantage. Her new LPR of 20:12 (a 43 second drop) is the result of her great racing. So proud of you for being in the moment, Rach! Kate rounded out our scoring 5 today, and I'm so proud of her race! Last year, Katelin had a big breakthrough at Sterling; this year, it was a different kind of breakthrough. What I loved about her race today was that she looked both fearless and in love. She has been feeling her progress this season, and I love to see it! In the last mile, Katelin simply passed passed passed. Her final kick was so impressive, too! All of this added up to a new LPR of 20:49--her first time out of the 21s! Katelin--I am so proud of your ability to set aside mental obstacles in order to perform for your team. Your maturity is what I always want in a captain. Today's race really made a statement, and I'm so proud of you! Fia popped out of the woods just behind Kate. Last year, Sofia was a different runner--she was still timid and learning what she could do. At Sterling, she ran SO well, finishing in 22:57--a huge PR at the time. Today, she was in a different space! She took a risk in that first mile, going out faster than she ever has! I never once saw that negative look after that mile. She kept hanging on, using the downhills and pulling on Katelin's strength. She finished in 21:12, a 23 second drop from her previous lifetime from the Dawson Invite. Fia keeps making moves in the right direction, and this race was a big step--proud of you, Fia-Fia! Brionne was our #7 today with a huge race, despite a side stitch. Like Fia, she let herself take a risk in the first mile, and she used the course to her advantage throughout in order to earn a big LPR of 21:33, a drop of 33 seconds. This is her first time in the 21s, yet it is not surprising. Brionne has worked so hard this season, and she really let herself be in the race the whole time today, even when side cramp tried to derail her. I am impressed by her push in the final 350--way to go, Bri! Overall, we raced HARD today, and it was simply a joy to watch! That focus earned us a 3rd place finish behind two very talented teams--Pleasant Valley and Glenwood Chatham. I am excited to see where we go from here! Thanks for the fun weekend, bees!
This week, let's focus on the basics: sleeping consistently, fueling for greatness, taking care of practice, and soaking up every moment!