After a week of no meets but impressive workouts (don't forget how awesome you all did at the hills of Wadsworth), we headed into a home meet and Warren. What a great week of competition!
Tuesday, September 12th--Senior Night @ Home with Lake Forest, Lake Zurich, and Stevenson:
Before I talk about the actual racing, special thanks to Brionne, Lauren, and Adam for giving up their study hall to help the coaches load up all the gear for our course. And thank you to Brionne and Lauren for reversing the same process after the meet was over. I appreciate you all! Thank you to you all for helping get the course set up, too. The coaches cannot do it alone, and we appreciate all of your energy. Special shout out to the guys for taking down the course--they handled most of it, and I am appreciative! Finally, thank you all for making such great signs to honor our seniors. This tradition was born out of our Covid season, and I'm glad you all helped to keep it alive! I also give thanks to Estrella, class of 2023, for continuing to support our bees. Not only did she show up to wish everyone luck, but she also brought flowers for the seniors! <3 What a great example of being linked for life! Thanks, Estrella!
I truly enjoyed watching you all race today. Here's what stood out the most:
First, I was really impressed by our collective risk-taking, especially in the first 800. As you are all getting more fit, it's cool to watch you believe in your fitness and race accordingly. By getting out well, it makes it easier to be pulled along by people who are slightly faster than you. Once you are there, you start to believe that you belong! I was particularly taken by the aggressive starts by Jana, Alivia, Dani, Alisia, and Crystal. Nice job trusting yourselves!
Second, I was so happy to see EVERYONE use the course to their advantage. I was able to see everyone after the first 800 in what I like to call the "Sectional Loop," named thus due to its similar configuration as the small loop behind the Busse Sectional starting line and bus parking. The Busse Loop is hard because it's a rare quiet spot on the course where it's easy to fall asleep as well as being too far out, featuring too many tight turns to begin a serious kick. Our Sectional Loop is tricky for similar reasons. The first time you hit it, your adrenaline from the start is gone, and you are hit with a tight turn, a hill, and this year, a tree branch right in your face (sorry everyone...). The two tight turns are away from the eyes of fans, too. What I loved was watching you all charge the uphill coming off the turn. You looked assertive and locked in! The best part was watching you all come out of this loop. You used the downhill to fuel you into the senior sign alley. I really noticed that Mary, Tyla, Joi, Norah, and Fia used this section to their advantage. Awesome work, bees!
Third, I caught most of you either entering Shiloh Woods, coming off the volleyball court, or exiting Shiloh Woods. This section of the course is tough because it is generally devoid of fans. Everyone I saw looked SO GOOD in this section, especially the turn going back to the trees after the volleyball court. In particular, Juliana, Rachel, Lauren, and Sasha did a great job of whipping around that turn and changing up their cadences. Proud of you all!
Finally, our last 400 was SO STRONG. Honestly, this team has to be the best group of finishers I have ever seen, and that's not hyperbole! So many of you used the Sectional Loop downhill to whip to the 400 mark, and then kept that momentum! I didn't see every finish, but Aniya, Cici, Eva, Jasmin, Norah (especially when she threw her sunglasses!), Brionne, Tati, and Crystal looked great!
Overall, I was so happy by the way we raced as a collective. We had 24 finishers today, and 21 either earned a lifetime or season PR. The other three were very close and raced hard! PRs don't happen by fixating on times. They happen by racing hard and staying focused in the most difficult moments. Congrats to the following earners of LPRs: Crys, Alisia, Jana, Sasha, Mary, Jazmin, Eva, Melanie, Joi, Dani, Tyla, Tati, Annie, Alivia, Norah, Cheyenne, Liz, and Brionne! And congrats to Aniya, Cici, and Lauren for earning SPRs. Breaking through these boundaries feels GREAT, but don't forget what got you there--racing with confidence!
Finally, shout out to Lauren for moving up on the Top Ten Board. She is now in the #4 spot, unseating her sister Kelsey, with a time of 19:14. Lauren made this happen by using her energy wisely in the first half of the race, staying focused in the woods, and finishing strong. Awesome work, Lauren!
Overall, I am so stoked about the energy from this meet. We were not ready to beat Lake Forest, Lake Zurich, or Stevenson YET, but I like our odds when we meet at the end of the season! There were a lot of important breakthroughs today, and it was fun to watch.
Before I sign off for this meet, I want to give our three seniors a shout out, too. Brionne has been a dedicated member of our team for three seasons now. Her growth since her first season is remarkable. Although she was dedicated from the start, her race today was an important moment. She closed the last mile so impressively by letting herself be in the moment and just embracing her three years of strength and knowledge. It was awesome to see! Congrats on a great race, Bri! This is Liz's second year of XC. When she started, she was in the 29s/30s at Waukegan's course, but she made some important breakthroughs since then. Today was no different. Over the summer, she said she hoped to break 24 before the end of the season, and I promptly informed her she would do it near the start of the season. Today, she did just that! Congrats on a gritty race, Liz! Finally, Anesa only saw the light this summer, but she has been an important addition to our team. Not only has she been practicing and racing like a senior, she also has the positive energy we need to keep fighting throughout the season. Although she was too sick to race today, she was here to share her support. We know she will be back to racing strong soon! Thank you to all three of you for your dedication to the sport and team and willingness to lead us to greatness! Love you all, seniors!
Saturday, September 16th @ Bill Dawson Invite--Warren:
I knew that we were ready to run fast, and Bill Dawson smiled upon us with some great weather; however, I am still stunned by how great these races went, even 24 hours after the fact. Before we celebrate, let me take a moment to honor my friend Bill Dawson. Coach Dawson was the leader of both the XC and Track & Field teams for decades at Warren. I distinctly remember the first time I met him, our boys' coach at the time (Coach Davis) simply said, "Di Grazia, let me introduce you to Dawson. He's one of the good ones." Davis was so right. Over the years, Coach Dawson offered me advice from workout plans to managing personalities to life advice. He genuinely cared about runners becoming great humans, and I found that guiding principle so important. In the fall prior to Covid, COach Dawson found out that he had cancer. He tried everything, but the cancer unfortunately won out shortly after the XC season started in the fall of 2020. His team wore "Do it for Dawson" shirts all season, and they narrowly missed making it to State, despite racing so well all season long. I'll never forget the last thing he told me while we were at the Deerfield meet only days before he died, "Di Grazia...I don't have much longer, but I'm really proud of how I lived my life." What a thing to be able to say about one's own life. This meet is a way for me to take some time to remember my good friend and to celebrate something he loved: the purity of our sport.
Frosh/Soph Women: This race was DEEP. Several new schools have joined this meet, and when I looked at my watch after the first 800, I was in shock. The leaders were running FAST. And then I saw that we were running fast, too! I can honestly say that ALL TEN women in this race embraced the go zones. In particular, I loved the way Juliana, Jazmin, Mary, and Alisia zoomed down the mini-hill by the shelter. Coach Hamilton reported to me that Eva, Joi, and Tyla really embraced the go zones right before the gravel trail. Honestly, this continuous zooming is why our bees did so well! I also was just floored by the kicks in this race. Norah was FLYING in the last straightaway; Mary nabbed at least two girls in the final 300; Alisia was in flight the whole last section; Tyla's arms were so impressive in the final stretch; Jazmin worked the first straight so hard, and then doubled down in the last straight; Joi and Annie worked so well together at the finish to push one another, with Annie nabbing a girl in the final meters; Eva's open stride was so impressive; and Sasha's speediness showed in the WHOLE 300! Whew...it was so much fun to watch this race! EIGHT out of the ten women in this race ran LIFETIME PRs: Juliana, Mary, ALisia, Tyla, Joi, Eva, Annie, and Jazmin--congrats! Norah and Sasha weren't far off and still had great races. I was SO PUMPED after this race, and I know that our other racers were, too!
Varsity Women: Our six were quiet at the start. Maybe it was because the Wisconsin girl kept puking right next to them. Maybe it was because they were thinking about the table that the F/S women set. Or maybe they were just locked in. I'll take that kind of quiet if it is going to produce the races that these six unleashed! Like the F/S women, our six got out HARD and didn't flinch at the time. It is easy to see a time that is near your season mile PR and think, "Oh, snap, I need to slow down." NONE of these bees did that. Instead, they leaned into their go zones and stepped UP. I loved that Lauren went out hard with the lead pack, putting herself in a position to let the top girls push her to a lifetime PR and a 10th place medal--huge growth over last year's 20th place! Awesome work, Lauren! Rachel did the same thing, getting out strong and racing GRITTY in the middle of the race. She did such a great job of embracing the downhill go zone EVERY TIME. It was great to see! What impressed me most was her kick. She has talked about improving it, and honestly, she was IN FLIGHT at the end of her race. Congrats on a big breakthrough into the 19s, Rach! Fia's race was the best I have ever seen. Period. She got out hard, running only seconds off her mile TT from Thursday, then pushing hard in the go zones in the second mile. Her last mile was the most impressive, though. She knew that Brionne needed help, and she STEPPED UP. So many times in the past, she was scared to break out of her comfort zone, but she did it in a huge way today. She caught Brionne and gave her a visual to pull on in the last half mile of the race. Her kick was outstanding, too! All of this combined into a huge PR for her! So proud of your grit, Fia! Speaking of grit, Brionne's race was just that. She reported that she felt good in the first mile, and it showed, with her leading Fia at first, and then only two clicks behind her at the mile. Mile 2 was when her stomach started messing with her, but she fought through that pain for her team. I'm not sure how she brought her time back down in the last mile, but she did, finishing with an impressive kick that left several competitors in the dust! Running a lifetime when you feel good is far easier than when you are struggling with a distraction; Brionne did just that, smashing her LPR from last year at Conference. So proud of you for fighting for your girls, Bri! Liz was our fifth bee today. Prior to the race, she told me that she felt intimidated to run Varsity, and that she wanted to feel what it was like in the front of the race. She set those fears aside and let herself show off her fitness today, smashing her LPR from Tuesday! Like her teammates, she got out hard and did a great job of pushing the go zones. She looked really strong on the second downhill, working to reconnect with a pack that was just ahead of her. Her finish was also fantastic! Great work, and congrats on the new LPR! Finally, Anesa just floored me today. After catching the plague that hit so many of us in the last few weeks, Anesa rebounded with a great workout on Thursday, and an even greater performance in this meet. Like Liz, she was wary of racing Varsity when I proposed it, but she stepped up to the challenge, letting her competitive nature take hold. She kept pulling on Liz's lead to guide her. Like Liz, she also ZOOMED the downhill go zone, working to pass sleepy racers. Her kick was beautiful--tall and speedy! Congrats on a new LPR, Anesa!
Overall, these six raced so crazy-good that it brought tears to our eyes after the race. If you can surprise yourselves after such a heavy week (big emotional race at home plus a challenging workout on Thursday), I simply cannot wait to see what you do later in the season. Keep remembering what got you here: beelieving in your fitness despite going to scary, new places! SO PROUD OF YOU ALL!
Open Women: Our last four bees got the chance to soak up all that good energy from the prior two races as well as the men's. They didn't have a choice but to PR, too! Chey was our leader in this race, getting out so hard and ignoring her knee issue. She looked so strong on the downhill go zone (I know--a repeating theme in this blog). The first pic I took of her sums up her race: she looks confident, tall, and strong! I loved watching her looking so powerful. She has come such a long way since her freshie season! Her finish was fantastic, and she earned herself a big LPR. Awesome work, Chey! Aniya was our second finisher, and her picture is much like Cheyenne's--she looks powerful! Aniya has the distinction of running her last mile the fastest today, which is impressive. It shows how mentally tough she has become over the seasons! She ran a significant season PR today, and it was great to see her looking more like her self in a race. So proud of your grit today, Aniya! Tati was our next bee with a HUGE RACE. Since joining last year, Tati has been quietly getting stronger, thinking about how this sport could help her with track. Today, she became a true XC racer. Not only did she smash the 30 minute boundary, but she did it despite tight hip muscles that plagued her all week. Like her teammates in this race, she got out hard, running significantly faster than her mile time trial best of season! She worked hard through the middle of the race, and fought to bring down her last mile time. Her kick was glorious, too. Congrats on the new LPR, Tati! That was so fun to watch! Finally, Melanie had a huge day, too! She got out harder than she ever has, running a lifetime PR in the first mile! What? From there, she fought hard to work through a sleepy foot, and finished with an impressive kick that had the Warren coach turning his head! This is Mel's first time under 30, although she came close on Tuesday. I love that she smashed this number obstacle, and I love that she did it with gritty racing. Out of everyone, she really listened every time I saw her in a go zone. Awesome work, Mel! Overall, these four looked SO GOOD from gun to chute. They really embraced the energy of the day and rose to the challenge! Proud of you all!
In closing, one last shout out to Candy and Crys for getting splits for us today. You can see them if you click here! Your goal is to run as evenly as possible while being competitive. That's a tricky balance, and some courses (like this one) lend themselves more to consistency! We want these two racing with us ASAP, but it was great that they were able to contribute in a different way today. Overall, the energy today was so GOOD. I loved how you cheered for each other, and I love that the bus was quiet after shout outs. You spent all your energy at the meet, and I appreciate that! Let's stay focused on that same mindset as we head to Stevenson's course and back to Grant!
Saturday @ Parkside (Rebel Invite)
I'll take the blame that the energy didn't feel quite right when we were at the starting box doing dynamic. By putting everyone in the same race and worrying about the heat later in the day, I unintentionally sent the message that the meet was not as important as it is! And honestly, a 4K race is a weird distance, too. BUT, every race is a chance to grow, a chance to bank miles and hills, a chance to learn how to race. I give you all credit that when the gun sounded, you all took care of business! Coach Hamilton stationed herself at the top of the hill, and reported that you all looked SO STRONG at the top. Everyone did a nice job resetting and using the next part of the course as a reset. By the time I saw you all again, you were over halfway through the race (I don't like this course for this reason only: I hate that it's hard to see you all more than once!)
I was happy to see Rachel and then Fia so close to the front. Both of them expressed UNFOUNDED doubts pre-race, and I was pleased that they set those doubts aside and just raced according to their abilities. It's a good experience to run with the front pack, and I'm glad that these two did just that! They both looked poised and powerful as they zoomed by me, using the slight downhill. They finished 3rd and 5th respectively, earning medals in the JV race. Nice work you two! Our third finisher was Jana with a really nice breakthrough. If Lauren & Brionne had been healthy and racing, Jana would have been our 5th. She was much closer to Sofia (1:42 gap) than she was to Brionne on Wednesday (2:59 gap). That's a huge improvement! This growth means that she got out harder and is starting to truly trust her fitness that she earned this summer. Keep reaching for your teammates, Jana! Speaking of reaching for a teammate, Alivia had another nice race today. She was not far behind Jana, and she looked professional in her spikes! Quick side note: Spikes are not required, but there is something about taking off your training shoes and putting on those sleek, light, aggressive shoes that signals to your brain that it is RACE TIME. Ok, back to Alivia. She did a great job of using the course to her advantage. Bravo! When the timers separated out the freshies, she ended up 5th and took home a medal. Nice work! Liz was our 5th finisher overal (4th for the open race). She is looking stronger and stronger as the week moves on. I know she is still ridding her body of that nasty cold bug, but today she looked more like herself. She was assertive early on and did a nice job of pulling Anesa along when I saw the two of them at the 1.5 mark. This race shows how much Liz has improved since last year: she ran nearly 3:30 faster than last fall! Take that knowledge and keep taking risks, Liz! Anesa did a great job of pulling on Liz's experience. She had a great day on this hilly course. I hear that she had a fantastic kick, too. Nice work, Anesa! :) Although Juliana was not satisfied with her race today, I am here to report that I am! She was our 7th finisher overall, and she looked GREAT on the hills, and she gave Aniya a visual to pull on. Proud of you, Juliana! Aniya had a strong effort today, too. She did a nice job of using others to help her push in the middle of the race. She was also smart about the course, using the downhill by me to push herself out of her comfort zone. Proud of you, Aniya! Alisia was our next finisher, not much behind Aniya. Not only did she have a great, open stride kick, but she also worked well on the downhills! Nice work, Freshie! Cheyenne was not far behind Alisia. Although her knee has been bothering her, she soldiered up and looked FANTASTIC on the small hill I was near. I know it can be frustrating to compete when not at 100%, but getting that hill work in now will pay off HUGE in the coming weeks! Like Liz, Cheyenne's strength gains have been HUGE in the last year. She ran nearly 2:00 faster than last year on the same course. Impressive growth, Chey! Proud of you! Mary looked strong today! She was cruising through the woods when I saw her, and her kick was impressive. Nice work, Mary! Tyla was our next bee with an impressive performance. Like Mary, she was working the woods and challenging herself. I caught the tail end of her kick, and it was pretty to watch! Nice work, Ty! In the woods, Joi and Eva were working so well in tandem. Once past me, Joi made the move to catch the next pack, and she did it while encouraging Eva to pull with! She had a great kick at the end, and is really starting to learn how to challenge herself mid-race. Nice work, Joi! Tati was our next finisher, and man did she look good in the woods! The pic I took of her is the best one of the bunch. Her eyes are open...but more importantly, her stride looks so strong. She improved by 2:32 compared to her race at Parkside last year, and it shows in the pic. Her confidence is so obvious now! Proud of your growth, Tati! Keep it up! Eva finished after Tati. Although she didn't feel well in the second half of the race, Eva pushed herself so hard! Like Tati, she had BIG growth compared to last year: she ran nearly 3:00 faster! I hope these stats are showing veterans and newbees alike the power of showing up, day after day. Those cumulative steps matter! Proud of your grit today, Eva! Sasha was the next finisher, and did she look good today! Sasha ZOOMED down the hill I was near, using that momentum to propel her up the small hill on the other side. This is what I mean about using the course--awesome job, Sasha! And tremendous kick! Cici was our next finisher. Like her fellow veterans, she showed SO MUCH GROWTH today. She knocked 3:09 off her time from last year. So impressive! She did it with an open stride and an open mind. Nice work, Cici! Dani was our next finisher. Not only did she do a nice job with the hill when she zoomed by me, but she also let the crowd fuel her kick. She looked so powerful with her quick turnover in the final stretch. Awesome work, Dani! Our final racer today was Crys. Not only did she push herself on the hills, but she also had a tremendous kick, too. She did a great job of using Coach Hamilton's inspiration to open up and fly down the final stretch. Great work!
Overall, we placed 4th as a team for the Open Race, and 4th for the Freshman Race. That's a nice outcome considering how many people are recovering from illness or did not race today. We will use the momentum from today to propel us into some work this week.
Please note the schedule on the front page of the website. I am going to try to move our picture day, but if I can't please plan to be at school at 3:35 in uniform (just the singlet and black shorts) on Wednesday in the South Commons. We should be done within 30 minutes. More importantly, Friday is our Second Annual ZBXC Jamboree! The weather should be beautiful! Please plan to run a bit, then enjoy some food and bonding! Please make sure you fill out the form that Anderson sent out via Remind so that we can plan food. We ask that you bring something to share to make the event even yummier. We had a great time last year, so please make time to join us!
LAST NOTE: It is important that we take good care of ourselves this week. I want you all feeling great for our one and only home meet on the 12th. Please make sure you are washing your hands before eating, getting 8 hours or more of sleep per night, and fueling/hydrating for success!
Wednesday @ Lake County Invite, hosted by Grant
This invite has been at Waukegan for quite some time, which is a delightfully short drive of 10 minutes from ZB. I was admittedly caught off guard by how long it took us to get to Grant's Athletic Complex on Wednesday, and my mistake led to our Varsity Crew having a rushed warm up. I'm sorry, women! Thanks to the teammates who grabbed their bags from the bus so that they could maximize their warm up time, though! As we huddled up before the race, I could feel the tension from these bees, and I asked them to let it go and just race. When the gun sounded, the temperatures were definitely warmer than what we enjoyed in Zion before we boarded the bus, but I'm proud to report that our crew handled that, the rushed warm up, and the competition with bravery.
Lauren was our leader today, and she did a great job of getting out strong. She moved around the mid-teens all race, looking great up the hill each time. She finished disappointed with how she felt in the last part of the race. I have had the luxury of time and some perspective, though. On this hot day, she matched her time from last season at the JT Invite on the same course. That meet is three weeks away! Additionally, Lauren had really kind conditions that day: we didn't run a full team, so there was no team pressure; the weather was absolutely perfect (go back and look at the Week 5 Race Blog from last year); and she didn't have a rushed warm up. To match that time from last year is really exciting, considering she didn't feel great in the race this time. On Thursday at the end of practice, we had a good talk about the race, but I'm hoping that this added perspective will allow Lauren to use this race as a jumping off point for our upcoming races! Proud of your grit, Lauren! Rachel was our second bee today, and she looked gutsy! She got out well, pushed the hills like a champ, and had a great finish! I can't remember why she did not compete at JT last year (were you sick, Rose?) but I know she went crazy at the Regional at the end of the season. She was only 24 seconds off that Regional time--impressive! More importantly, I like how she simply raced today despite the aforementioned obstacles. Keep up that gritty racing, Rach! Fia was our 3rd bee, and she showed us so much growth in this second race. She is starting to let go of the "I'm afraid to make a move, so I'm going to stay competitively comfortable" mindset and replacing it with confidence in her training. She told me last week that she wanted to beat freshman Fia, and she is doing just that each week! For this race, it came in the shape of pushing the hill, catching people in the last 800, and pulling on Rachel in the latter half of the race. Proud of your newfound gutsiness, Fia-Fia! Brionne was not far behind, looking happier and healthier than at Deerfield. She posted a season PR by racing hard and working to catch Fia. Each time I saw her, she looked locked into the race. Proud of your finish, too, Bri! Nice work! Last year at this time, Jana--our 5th and final scoring runner--wasn't even eligible to race yet because she had not added up enough practices yet. To see how she raced today compared to last season is just impressive! Such growth! Liz was our next bee, and it's clear that this respiratory junk is just that: junk. Although Liz has been feeling better, our sport is ALL about oxygen, and I could tell that she is just not processing oxygen at 100% yet. That being said, I was really impressed by Liz's racing today. She looked great after the first 800, and her effort on the hill was fantastic every time. I think it was her last time up that she did such a great job accelerating around the turn onto the flat. Despite being sick, her time beats all of last year up until the Lakes Sunset Invite, which is in October. She is well ahead of last year (as I predicted to her when we talked in Oshkosh...). Proud of your growth, Liz! Cheyenne was our 7th finisher for the day. Like Liz, she has grown SO MUCH since last year. Despite a sore knee, Cheyenne fought hard today. She looked strong after the first 800, and her hill work was so powerful! I like how she worked the down hill heading into the woods in the last loop. Like Liz, her time is VAST improvement from last year, and she did not run close to this fast until the Lakes Sunset Invite. That growth is important--proud of your commitment to breaking out of your comfort zone, Chey! Aniya was our final bee today. I know she was not satisfied with her race, but I am proud of her gritty racing. She did not roll over in this race, despite not feeling like herself. She kept pushing to catch people, and she looked so strong on the hills (a recurring theme today for our team!). We are going to figure out what's going on with her health, but in the meantime, proud of your fight, Aniya! Overall, our varsity squad took 10th out of 15 teams. I am confident that some of the teams who got us today will not be able to hang with us later in the season when we are healthier! We also need to start working on our 1-5 split. Check it out here. Look at the graph on the right. If you roll your mouse over each bar, you can see the time difference between each teams' 1st and 5th runners. We are green in the middle. You can see that we were close to Lakes points-wise, despite one of their runners winning the race, because their 1-5 split was not great. That's an area that can help our team score this season! I am confident that we will improve here--I just wanted to make you all aware of that stat!
Our bees in the open race had cooler temperatures and the luxury of seeing their teammates attack the course. At the 800, Anesa was our leader, looking so strong! She is really starting to figure out racing, and she did a great job at the longer distance today. Her hill-form was absolutely on point! She looked like a sprinter for sure! Her third time up, she did a great job of extending her push past the hill, passing even more runners as she made the turn! Excellent work, Senior/Freshie! Speaking of freshies, Alivia ended up being our first finisher. I love that she is growing as a racer; she trusted herself in the second half to to catch people! I love even more what Anesa said about it on the bus: Anesa shouted out Alivia for the second half of her race. I want to underscore that message: NEVER EVER stay behind someone because she has beaten you before. EVER. Your job is to run as fast as you can on the given day, regardless of what your competitors or teammates are doing. You should NEVER EVER think that there has to be a special order! Ok, rant over. Nice work, Alivia! Norah had a similar race strategy: she got out well, and then she picked people off in the second half of the race. She did a nice job up the hills, and she had a great kick, too! Proud of you, Norah! Great work in your first 3-miler, Norah! Juliana was our fourth finisher today, and she looked great! She and Norah (aka "Sunglasses Crew") worked so well together in the first half of the race. Juliana did a great job of working the hills, too! Proud of you, Juliana! Alisia and Mary finished within a second of each other as our 5th and 6th finishers. Mary did a great job of working up to Alisia's spot so that they could finish in sync! On the last hill, Alisia had a slight lead, and Mary charged up and worked the loop to catch her! Despite being a more challenging course, Mary ran a new PR by over 20 seconds from last week at Deerfield! Impressive growth, Mary! Alisia did a fantastic job of using her long stride to attack the hill and zoom her finish! Proud of this duo! Tyla was our next finisher. She was within seconds of her time at Deerfield--nice work! More importantly, she did a great job of using people in the race to push her in the latter stages. Great kick, too! You've got some speed, Tyla! Proud of you! At the start of the race, Jazmin and Annie worked together for the first 800. Jazmin kept a super-even pace, working up on competitors and looking so speedy on the hill. Jaz also had a sweet kick--nice work today, Freshie! Joi moved up in the race, using Jazmin as a key! She did a fantastic job of calling on her summer strength to zoom up the hill. She also did a great job of opening up her stride for the final kick. Her mile pace today was FASTER than it was at Deerfield when she only ran 2 miles. Impressive, Joi! Annie was our next finisher. Like Joi, her pace per mile was FASTER than at Deerfield. Both of these freshies are showing how trusting your training and showing up each day will allow you to grow as the season goes on. Awesome kick today, too, Annie! Proud of you! Like the freshies before her, Sasha also ran FASTER per mile than she did at Deerfield. She also had such power on the hill! I can't wait for her to really see how powerful she can be! Impressive kick at the end, too, Sasha. Keep it up! Cici was our next bee...talk about growth! She ran 3 MINUTES FASTER than she did on the same course (but 3 weeks later) last year, despite getting over being sick this week. Cici's race shows that running is cumulative! Every step she has taken has brought her to this point and made her stronger as a runner and teammate! Proud of your racing debut as a sophomore, Cici! Dani was our next bee, and she handled her first 3-miler with grit! She looked SO STRONG on the hills, and she did a fantastic job of using the downhill heading into the woods. As her fitness grows, I know she will start trusting herself even more! Proud of your race today, Dani! Our final bee was Crys(tal). I don't want to call her Patient Zero for this back-to-school plague we have all been experiencing, but she certainly was an early adopter. Despite hanging onto a cough, she did a great job of working through her first race of her high school career! I know it was intimidating to start with a hilly 3-mile race. She handled the challenge so well! She used her teammates to motivate her, and she used her gritty mindset to get her to the finish line with a zooming-fast kick. Awesome work for your debut, Crys!
Overall, this group placed 9th as a team. How do they figure out the scores, you ask? Well, if you look on athletic.net here, you can see that each of you have a place next to your name. They take the first FIVE Zee-Bee finishers, and add up their places. That creates the team score. For an official XC race, the first seven racers are the official team. The first five create the team score, and 6 & 7 act as "pushers." They can push up an opposing team's score by finishing ahead of one of their scoring 5. They also act as alternates in case something happens to one of the scoring 5. Let me know if you have any questions about team scoring!
Overall, I came home super-happy about this meet. The racing was great, but more importantly, the vibe was right. You were all encouraging one another, and the shout outs on the bus were fantastic: you focused on growth and grit! I feel like we are starting to come together as a team. Let's keep that bond growing by leaning on each other in future races and workouts. We will be back at this course again later in September. I cannot wait to see the growth when we return! In the meantime, know that you have some proud coaches!
Rescheduled on Friday @ Deerfield with Hersey, Mather, & Warren:
After a weird week of HOT weather and concussion testing, we finally had the opportunity to test ourselves against other teams. I was SO excited to see how we would stack up after a really impressive summer of training and a particularly strong week this week (I'm still smiling about everyone's effort on the grass 800 loop on Monday).
When we left ZB, the weather was cool and the skies were overcast. Although it was humid, I was optimistic because it was nowhere near as hot as the previous two days, and the lack of sun would feel good! As we drove south, the skies became more and more blue, and the temperature crept up. Our 2-mile girls had the toughest conditions of the day, but they handled the newness of racing and the warmth of the sun with grit and grace. During the warm up, I could feel the good vibes from this group, and their races continued that trend.
Highlights: To quote some of the guys during shout outs, Anesa just looked STRONG. In her first XC race ever, Anesa was the ZB leader from gun to chute. She did a nice job of testing her summer fitness and setting an assertive tone for our crew. Alivia was our second finisher, and she did a fantastic job of "growing" in the race. She went out more conservatively and picked off people in the second half, finishing only 12 seconds behind Anesa. I would love to see these two work together in our next meet! Despite missing much of the week due to illness, Liz looked like her senior self as our third finisher. She was still battling congestion, but her summer strength took over to help her take 3rd for our team. I look forward to seeing her race at full-strength if this is what sick-Liz can do! Norah was our 4th finisher and looked great despite starting late due to competing with the Razzle Dazzles in England only two weeks ago! Her middle school experience kicked in today, and her actual kick was fantastic, too! As she becomes more racing-fit, it will be fun to see what Norah can do with her teammates! Cheyenne was our next bee, managing some rude knee pain that came on this week. We will get to the bottom of it so that she can show off her Oshkosh and summer fitness! That being said, she was instrumental in helping our newbees manage their pre-race nerves and learn the course. Abby was our next bee, smiling the whole way! This kind of energy is important for our team. She showed everyone that racing is fun, and she worked hard in the second half to catch people. Nice job, Abby! Alisia was our next finisher, looking fantastic throughout the race. She did a great job of using the crowd to fuel some mid-race surges, and her kick was fantastic! Jazmin was only seconds behind looking SO STRONG. During shout outs, several people mentioned her even pacing and strong look--nice work, Jaz! She also wins best moment of the race when she high-fived the official who was trying to direct her to the finish! Joi and Annie worked so well together today, finishing only seconds apart. Joi's strength from the summer helped Annie who was managing some heel pain this week. These two freshies fed off each other throughout the race--nice work! Sasha and Deisy were our other duo. The finished within hundreths of a second of each other, challenging each other throughout the finish straightaway. These two helped each other in the last mile, too. I love their energy and look forward to seeing what they can do over 3 miles! Our final bee was Dani, who showed off her positive mindset today. With 300 to go, she opened her stride, feeding off the cheers of her teammates. She also had a great kick in the final stretch. She has come so far in the past two weeks, and I cannot wait to see how she looks in another two weeks! Overall, this VERY young group promised they would work hard an not walk today. While other teams did not live up to that mindset, ALL of these women did, despite the hot temps! While I am very proud of their races today, I am really excited to see how they supported their teammates during the 3-mile race. That kind of energy matters, and it fuelled our women and men to great performances. NICE WORK, WOMEN!
Our 3-milers really stepped up today, too. The weather was not much different for this race, but these bees did not let the rude sun deter them from their goals. Lauren got out hard and looked fantastic today. Not only did she do a great job of challenging herself, she also worked on other runners without the help of her XC buddy Riley. She was gutsy, and it paid off with a huge jump from last year's performance, running 47 seconds faster! That growth is despite having dance lessons four days this week. I am proud of her courageous start and gutsy finish. Nice job, junior! Rachel had a big performance as our second bee. Like Lauren, she showed off tremendous growth since last year--66 seconds faster! More importantly, Rachel really took some risks. Although she was by herself, she kept her composure and worked to catch people in the second half (once she figured out where she was in the race!). I am really pleased with her effort and cannot wait to see her race again! Nice work, Rose! In a big moment as a racer, Fia was our third bee! Not only was she significantly faster than last year (she was not in town for Deerfield, but she ran 81 seconds faster than her first race from last year!), but she more importantly LOOKED GUTSY. She told me she wanted to beat freshman Fia, and that she did. Freshman Fia was preoccupied with time and worried about looking bad when taking risks. Junior Fia went after other runners in the final 400, passing several and helping her team. On the bus, she was outspoken about shout-outs, too. This new fire is what I have been waiting for! Awesome work, Fia-Fia! Brionne was our next finisher, and she followed the same pattern as her teammates: She ran 61 seconds faster than her 3-mile opener from last year (she only raced the 2-mile at Deerfield last year after coming back from injury). For perspective, her Deerfield 2022 pace for 2 miles was 7:45; her Deerfield 2023 for 3 miles was 7:18. That shows how much work she put in this summer and how strong she is! She was also battling a rude stomach while accomplishing this improved time! Proud of you, Bri! Speaking of growth, Jana rounded out our scoring 5 today. Last year, she wasn't even ready to race at Deerfield. Her first race was at home where she ran 26:58. Today, she ran 3:05 faster, finishing in 23:53! That drop is a testament to her hard work this summer! What an impressive effort, Janalise! Proud of you! Sporting big shades, Juliana was our next finisher. During track, something clicked for Juliana, and it definitely showed today. Last XC season, Juliana just didn't get what it took to be great, but she gets it now. She stepped up to the 3-mile race and ran a HUGE LPR! She ran 1:48 faster than she did at the end of last season. I cannot wait to see what she can do this season with this locked-in mindset! Proud of you, J! Speaking of proud, what a day Aniya had! She ran 20 seconds faster than her effort last year at Deerfield. What a testament to all the hard work she put in during the summer! I loved watching her kick, too. Form looked great, and her turnover was speedy. Awesome effort, Aniya! When Mary joined us on the first day of XC, I was excited to see her smiling face. She was a curious, hard working member of our track team last year, and I had no idea that she planned to run XC. She has been such an amazing addition to our team in just two short weeks. Her positivity and desire to improve shows every day, but it was showcased in this first race. I love that she wanted to run the 3-mile "to get used to what we will race all season." I love it more that she helped Tyla so much during the race! These two worked together so well, challenging each other to NOT settle. Proud of you, Mary! And Tyla? What a difference a year makes. Tyla didn't make it in XC last year, but she is a different athlete this year. She is feeding off of Joi's experience from the summer and Mary's energy in order to compete like a veteran! SO proud of your growth, Tyla! Keep it up! These two finished only milliseconds apart, and I can't wait to see what they do in the next race. Eva worked with these two for much of the race, and I'm so proud of her for stepping up to the 3-mile. Not only did she run significantly faster than at Bee Linked (over 4:00 minutes faster!), she also ran much faster than her 3-mile opener from last year (5:29 faster!). Like Juliana, she has a different mindset than last year, and I am here for it! After managing a sore toe all week, she rocked this race. Proud of you, Eva! Tati is a returning runner, too. Mid-week, she messaged me asking if she could switch from the 2-mile to the 3-mile. I love that mindset. She knew that she could handle the longer race, and she took on the challenge! Last year, she averaged 10:50 pace for 2-miles. This year, she ran 2 seconds faster per mile for 3 miles! That is GROWTH! So proud of Tati's calm presence on the starting line and tenacity during the race. Keep it up, Tati! Overall, this group was just plain gritty.
Overall, we competed well with these tough teams. I like our odds when we see them again. You can check out how we stacked up on athletic.net. Click here for this meet's results. This website is a tremendous resource. Click on your own name to see how you progress throughout the season.
A quick note about beeing linked: This weekend we basked in the concept of beeing linked. On Friday, Class of '23 grad Estrella came to support us in our first meet of the year. Not only did she lend her voice of encouragement, but she also brought treats for post-race! It was so good to feel her calm presence and positivity. Thanks for your support, Estrella! On Saturday morning, former Coach Lorie Wynn (Reid) from the class of '11 surprised us with a visit before we headed up to Parkside for practice! As I mentioned on Saturday, Coach Wynn started out as a person who wanted a t-shirt and grew into such an important leader and contributing Varsity member; she did so through consistent hard work. After college graduation, she gave back to the program by volunteering for several years before she moved out east. We miss her knowledge and drive but were overjoyed by her visit! Finally, at Parkside, I saw a familiar face run by--it was no other than Chris Rojas, Class of 2011. She was a co-captain with Coach Wynn, and was an important backbone to our team over her four years of running. What a great surprise to literally run in to her at practice! That's a lot of linked energy in one weekend, and I'm all for it! When you get to a tough spot in your race, remember that GENERATIONS of ZBXCers have felt that same doubt or discomfort, and they are sending you all their good energy and faith so that you can bee your best. #linkedforlife
This week, let's build on this great start. Let's take some new risks on Wednesday at Lake County on this fun course! Please take care of yourselves: consistent sleep, consistent fueling and hydrating, and consistent positive mindset! Plan ahead homework-wise for Wednesday. We will likely get back at 8:30, and the meet is NOT an excuse. So talk with your teachers on Monday so that you can take care of business this week! We also have TWO meets, which means you need to take care of your bodies and minds twice as much.
Don't forget to order your ZBXC 2023 Team Gear! The seniors believe in that slogan: Work today & thrive tomorrow!