I opened my email this morning to see the official, "Your team made it to Sectionals, so here is all the info" email. I clicked on the box assignments, and we are #7. How fitting, considering it took all seven of you to make Saturday unfold the way it did...heck, the whole season the way it has. In our team huddle before the breakdown, I said that you did not need to do anything extraordinary...you just had to be yourselves. I don't think I explained myself enough in that moment. As a group, you are extraordinary. You feed each other good vibes, and you bring out the best in each other. It is simply a joy to watch.
As you all leaned forward, hearing the whistle and anticipating the gun, Illyana said, "I feel like there is really good energy today." I agreed with her because you all find a way to make the energy right. Despite a stomach in full rebellion. A throat crying for relief. A hip causing chaos. Muscles feeling less than rested. Minds worrying. You all find a way to get your faces and minds and hearts right when the gun comes.
I don't know why, but I didn't even watch you crest the first hill. Maybe it was because I knew our good box assignment would help you all out. Maybe it was because you looked so effortless on the sled hill on Tuesday. Maybe it was because the energy was right, and I wasn't worried. All I know is that as soon as that gun sounded, I ran toward the bridge that marks about a half mile of racing. And as has happened all season, when you all emerged, I was overjoyed by how you all were racing. Audrey had a beautiful start with her eyes on Mia. Riley and Lauren were working in tandem, looking strong. Rachel was placed well, able to see our dynamic duo. Fia had a great start, only a pack beyond the freshie. And Kate and Bri looked awesome within steps of one another.
And no matter where I stood on the course, all I saw was the seven of you working for one another. Pushing past slowpokes on the hill. Taking ten hard steps into the woods. Pressing people who needed pressing. Here's what stood out to me:
Audrey was gutsy as heck today. Despite being sick the night before and cramping in the last mile, she WENT AFTER IT. She challenged Mia and was working on the McHenry leader in mile two. Although she was not able to hold off McHenry's second and Mia in the final mile, SHE KEPT FIGHTING. I am so impressed by her grit, and I am incredibly proud that she was able to earn All-Regional honors for a second time after narrowly missing one of those tiny medals last year (the state really cheaps out on the medals...and I don't know why...there are only five!). Audrey Caitlin, people are going to have to look out next week because if you can race that hard while sick, what is going to happen when you are healthy next Saturday? SO proud of you, girl!
Lauren and Riley REALLY maximized their race together today. These two just ATE the whole race. It was gorgeous to watch them pass people during the second half of the race, beautifully pulling on one another's energy. Riley finally broke away in the last mile, climbing through the people whose legs were trashed by that hill and outkicking SO MANY GIRLS. When I saw her head into the woods for the last time, she was behind Stevenson, Libertyville, and Grant's #1 runners. She took them all and kicked like she always does to secure a 7th place spot. Incredible!
Lauren did not want to let Riley go, so she fought hard and soaked up Riley's energy, pulling ahead of Warren's #2 and Grant's #1. After feeling bus-sick and managing a sore throat, to see Lauren's smile as she headed into the woods the last time, fighting for her team, it was just breathtaking! Such poise from the sophomore! Not only did she run 24 seconds faster than at the JT Invite on the same course (despite the warm temps), she also was 11 places faster than her regional race last year. SO proud of you, Ginger Snap!
Rachel just keeps running hard for this team. Every time I saw her, she reacted to my suggestions. She embodied the idea of 10 hard steps! She had the same locked-in look that she has had for the past several Saturdays, and the outcome was a great finish for our team. She beat Grant's #3-7; she was only seconds behind the winner Warren's #5; she beat Highland Park's #3-7 as well as LZ's; she was only a few clicks behind Libertyville's and Stevenson's#4; she dusted McHenry's #4 as well as Mundelein's; and she beat all of Round Lake. As a freshie. Awesome work, Rose! SO proud of your grit today--more than you know!
Fia stepped back into the #5 role today, and that was clutch for us to place second. Not only did she run an impressive 39 seconds faster than her performance at JT, she also had a great mindset today. On the line, she was calm and ready. During the race, I never saw her doubt herself. She simply fought for her girls, and I am proud of her effort! While her race effort was impressive, I really appreciate that she is trying to do the little things to help her feel right for the race. After the pasta party, she was really worried about the race. Rather than hide that, she talked about it to get it out of her head! She came in early on Saturday to ice that rude ankle and get taped. Little things matter--proud of your dedication, Fia!
Like Riley and Lauren, Brionne and Kate were a powerful duo today. These two put in some serious work last week. They did full-volume of the Tuesday workout, and then they did not back off for the recovery on Wednesday. I should have monitored that day more closely; forgive me for that mistake, chicas. Thursday was more up-tempo for them and was not as restorative as it was for our top runners. Although they backed off on Friday, they were still feeling the effects Saturday. While I don't want to intentionally make you all run through heavy legs, I also need to balance making sure you are all ready for this coming Sectional race and not peaking too soon. These two raced through some heavy legs and fought so hard for their team.
I could see that Brionne was fighting hard the whole way. Despite not feeling her best, she attacked the hill, and she still found that sprinter speed for the final stretch, pulling away from a Grant runner. She has come SUCH a long way from modified miles this summer. The fact that she was able to push so hard today makes me really excited for what she will do at Busse's course with fresh legs. More importantly, she gave Kate a visual the whole race, helping her stay locked in to help the team. Proud of your grit today, Bri-Bri!
Like Bri, Kate looked SO TOUGH on the hill. She also did a great job of using 10 hard steps to push closer to Bri every time I saw her. Her poise on the line and her fight through this race makes me SUPER excited to see what she will do at Busse. Honestly, she is a different runner than she ever has been. The fact that she was able to push through some hip to knee pain in order to help our team speaks volumes about her grit and mindset. Proud of you, Kate!
When the race was over, I was confident that we had advanced. I figured that we were sitting around 4th place. When Anderson put the results in front of me, I gasped out loud. Never have we ever placed 2nd at a Regional--not in my time at least. I asked some ZBXC veterans from before my time, and they do not have a recollection of a finish this strong. We can safely say that we have never done it in the last three decades; that I know for sure. All seven of you helped make that happen. When I revealed that we had advanced, you all seemed...well, disappointed. I think it has to do with the fact that many of you expressed that you think you have more to give. The good news is that my plan for this week is to help you feel confident through our routine, some work on Tuesday, and lots of recovery. The other good news is that on a day when you did not feel like you were able to give an A-effort, you still came together to TAKE SECOND.
Shout out to all of the bees, past and present who shared their love today on that course. It was awesome to hear the cheers from Aniya, Estrella, Liz, Chey, Melanie, Sheila, Ashley, Noah C., Andrew, Jimmy, and Orion everywhere on the course. It was equally awesome to have alums Illyana, Natalie, and Ixa there, sharing their wisdom, love, cookies, and hair ties! All of you represent what it means to be truly linked, and I am so thankful that our seven performed in equal measure to your love. THANK YOU for your time and energy. It matters, and I am grateful!
Here is what I am hoping you will commit to this week: