Saturday @ Warren--North Suburban Conference Meet:
The rain began on Thursday. And let up for a bit for us to practice on Friday morning. And then continued...all day and all night. And when we arrived at Warren? It wasn't exactly pouring, but the rain was blowing sideways in sheets. We nestled up in Warren's fieldhouse to wait. We could see there was standing water on the course, and we knew that with each race, the course would be churned up and become more complicated. But we also knew that we had some spots that would be great for go-zones: the turf field, the path in the woods, and the "downhill" by the shelter. And we also knew that we could embrace Peyton's mindset of racing hard despite the conditions. We learned that there would only be two races to preserve the course and get us home faster: Varsity and Open/FS combined.
The varsity boys kicked things off with the right mindset, pushing through gross conditions. Our varsity pack warmed up off the course to preserve it as much as possible. They completed dynamic out of the elements, then headed to the starting line. There seemed to be a brief break in the rain as we waited for the start, but while the official gave his final instructions, the "liquid sunshine" began again. Our pack got out SO WELL, looking fantastic in pink as they emerged from the woods for the first time. Lauren went out with the lead pack, looking strong and comfortable. Rachel and Fia looked so good within steps of each other. Bri could see them just ahead, looking powerful. Alivia had such an aggressive start, not far behind Bri. And Jana and Juju were within each other's vision, looking amazing! I was so excited to see us looking assertive for the first part of the race. I was stoked to see our 7 using the go-zones so well. While the group did a nice job of using go-zones in the second loop, we did our best work in the final loop. Lauren worked up to two girls, passing them in the final 1000. Rachel passed passed passed to get herself back into All-Conference contention. Brionne pulled up to Fia to help her move in the final loop, steel sharpening steel. Alivia caught some sleepy runners, as did Jana and Juju. And final kicks? Whew! WE FLEW. I was so happy to hear from Mr. Niemi that Lauren worked that final muddy section and stadium loop so hard. She finished in 6th, her best finish at Conference yet! And Rachel kicked so hard in that final stretch, securing All-Conference honors as just a sophomore! What a huge example of growth from last year! And Brionne? She had a heck of a day, stepping up to help Fia and the team. Not only did she have a great kick but like Rachel, she also had big growth compared to her stellar race at Conference last year. She was only ticks away from her LPR despite the conditions, too. Fia did a great job of fighting for her team, nabbing one girl in the final loop and finishing strong, holding off two girls who were charging toward her. Bravo, Fia! Alivia rounded out our scoring 5, looking so impressive despite running her first race in these conditions. Proud of you, freshie! Jana was pulling on Alivia the whole way and was only a few people beyond her. Her kick was so powerful, especially in that final stretch! Talk about an improvement over last year?! I know it's not the same course, but Jana ran in th 26s last year at Conference in the F/S race. She has just improved SO MUCH over the course of this season. Awesome work, JanaJana! And finally, Juju stepped up to run Varsity with our pack today after a great performance at Sterling the week before. Like Jana, she was in the F/S race last year, running in the 27s. She has run so well the past few weeks, displaying her consistency and strength. Proud of you for stepping up to help our Varsity squad today, Juju! As a group, we finished in 5th place, beating Stevenson for the first time all season. We have seen them at every weekday quad, and they beat us all three times. I am proud that when it counted, we stepped up to nab them! More importantly, my heart was FULL watching our pack wait for each member at the finish line. The pink sleeves popped in the gray conditions, and it was beautiful to witness that linked mindset. We are ready to do big things with that attitude!
Open and F/S Women:
After two races and six loops of churn, the course was in rough shape for our next squad, but you would never know by their mindsets. On the line this group kept it light, laughing and smiling, and striding while we waited for the officials to get the race in motion. The cool temps and wet conditions continued for this race, and the course was rough. But at the start, we got out well, and I was excited to see us being so aggressive. Liz led the charge for our group, looking fantastic as she emerged from the woods. Cheyenne and Anesa were working in tandem just a few people behind her, looking strong as they helped one another. Mary was not far behind, looking assertive and focused. Then Alisia, Eva, and Jazmin emerged, pulling on each other and looking so positive despite the conditions. Annie led our next pack with Tati and Mel only steps behind. Our final powerful pack of Cici, Candy and Dani rounded out our racers for the day. They popped out of the woods looking so strong together!
What I enjoyed next was watching our bees work so hard in go-zones. I knew Brionne was in the woods to push everyone, so I stood between the stadium and the woods, encouraging our bees to push hard before the muck of that turn before the path. Everyone did such an impressive job of pushing when the grass was good and picking a smart line once they were in the churned mess. No one had a look of pity for themselves; instead, all I saw was joy and determination. It was so cool to watch! I couldn't see everyone and make it all the way to the go-zone by the hill, but I could see us zooming down that hill, especially Liz, Chey, Anesa, Jazmin, Mel, and Tati! Nice work using the course to your advantage, bees! Coach Hamilton reported that everyone was so strong in the curve by the fieldhouse, especially Alisia plowing through puddles and mud while her competitors tried to stay dry. As our bees headed into the last loop, I knew it was going to be a day we would never forget. Despite being exhausted from the conditions, we had SUCH GREAT KICKS. Liz finished so powerfully, just missing a medal in the Open race. And then Mary came through with that sprinter speed, passing girls from Stevenson, Warren, and Libertyville. So impressive, Mary! And Cheyenne? She passed a girl from Libertyville, holding off her charge through the line. Anesa was only a click behind, courageously racing in these sloppy conditions despite her rude hip. Alisia was next, looking so strong through the final muck and sprinting in the stadium, inching past a girl from LZ. Jazmin pushed on the turn despite the crazy footing and zoomed to the finish. And Eva? She pressed SO HARD, fighting with a girl from Warren all the way to the line. Melanie was next, looking SO powerful as she has all year and pulling away from a Libertyville runner. And Tati? This was another example of Tati's perfect sprinter form. She went to the arms and dusting two Libertyville girls. Annie pulled away from a girl from Mundelein when she entered the stadium and nearly ran down a girl from Lake Forest. Candy had no one to race but herself when she entered the stadium, but that was enough. She was the lone person to PR today, despite these crazy conditions! She dropped 1:07 from Lakes the week before. Unreal! Awesome dedication, Candy! Cici worked through some serious leg pain to kick like a queen, too, finishing with ZB PRIDE! Dani rounded out our great kicks, opening up and finishing awfully close to her PR. Impressive run, Dani!
Overall, I was so impressed with this crew. In the worst conditions, they STEPPED UP to compete and show off their strength. I cannot say this enough: If you can run three miles in rain, cold, mud and wind, you can do ANYTHING. So proud of you all for leaning on your teammates and competing with ZB PRIDE.
One final note about today: Each season, all eight schools nominate a Sportsmanship Award Winner. The coaches and I take this award very seriously. Our sport is just so beautiful. I'm sure you vets and newbees would agree that it is so refreshing to hear other schools cheer everyone on, not just their own teams. If you continue running beyond high school, you will see that same energy at Turkey Trots, 10Ks and marathons. But this award is more than just cheering. It goes to someone who is selfless--someone who cares deeply about her team and does the little things that help make teams stick together. Aniya was an easy choice for us. Despite battling sickness for the latter half of the season and not feeling like her true running self, she never let that feeling disrupt her care for the team. She has always been this way, but I was particularly impressed to hear her check in with teammates after long runs, asking about how they felt in between her own chest-rattling coughs. She looks out for everyone and is the first to volunteer for shout outs and link nominations. Despite some jokes about her alleged side-eyes (lol), I never hear Aniya speak negatively around the team. Her grades are impeccable, and she is well-rounded outside of our sport. Aniya is the embodiment of ZB PRIDE and the linked spirit that I hope our whole team will continue to embrace! I am so proud that Aniya is our 2023 Sportsmanship Award Winner! We love you, Aniya!