Quick note--don't forget to check out your results on athletic.net. Just type in your name or Zion-Benton to see your growth for the season. It's a great tool! :)
Wednesday, September 3rd @ Lake County Invite: I have been cautiously optimistic all summer; our "top" group has grown tremendously--we have worked on the mental game, the physical weaknesses, and spiritual connectedness of the team. Sure, there have been some bumps in the road, but I have been pleased to see this group, especially the seniors, grow into the role of leaders. So as we headed into the first Varsity competition of the year, I decided to keep quiet and see what the seven would do. In our post-race discussion, the girls identified all the good they had done, and where they needed to improve for next time. The positives included the best kicks I have seen from any ZB team ever. Ana, Alexis, Asia, and Karyn had the best of the whole group. If we can continue to finish this way all season, I will be a happy coach. Karyn ran a PR (compared to Bee Linked in July) in her first official XC race. Asia and Mary ran in tandem for a good part of the race, which is what most of our pack has been doing all summer. We also agreed on growth areas: throw out the timid starts and just get after it in the first mile. This will be important on Monday against the tough Mundelein and Lake Forest teams. Stop pity parties early and run into the pain. Most importantly, keep being honest like we did in the debriefing. Compared to our effort at Lake County last year, our pack was in a better within the race this year, and our split of 1:49 from 1-5 was stronger too. Let's capitalize on our strengths and work on a better race at Mundelein!
In the open race, there was much to be happy about. Violette got out strong and seemed determined to run a great race from the gun. Olivia and Tiara were not far off her pace and seemed to feed off her leadership within the race. Although all three need to work on their second mile, their races were strong. Violette finished with a lifetime PR of 24:37--no doubt earned by her hard work and increased mileage this summer. Her nearly 20 second PR smashed her previous best from last year's race at Warren (a known fast course). This bodes well for the rest of her season. :) Tiara also ran a lifetime PR--six seconds faster than her break-through performance at Conference last year. Tiara is showing the strength of multiple seasons of miles and conditioning. I know she will continue to improve this season as she works on her speed! Although Olivia's time did not reflect her hard work this summer, I know that the times will come soon enough.
Thursday @ Deerfield Triangular: I still have chills from this meet! After getting to watch the Varsity race on Wednesday, the women of Thursday put the lessons into action. Although it was even hotter than Wednesday, our runners looked strong and focused in each race. Our first group raced 2.25 miles. After 1/4 mile, Justine and Jackie decided that the pace was too slow and asserted themselves at the front of the race. I loved this gutsy risk--not only did it show that they believe in their training, but it also helped their overall times. Jackie ended up moving ahead in the second mile and finished as our first bee with an outstanding kick. Justine was not far behind, looking strong despite her shins. Sarah was our third bee in the race, taking a page out of Jackie's book with an outstanding kick. Not only was her speed good, but she challenged a girl all the way to the last minute of the chute. That kind of fight is what makes great runners! Jennifer had a great race, too, despite an irritated knee; not only did she challenge herself and others throughout the race, she also provided the pack of Takyra, Janelle, Ashley and Alicia with a great goal. Speaking of this group...they did a great job of feeding off one another a different points in the race. A special shout out goes to Takyra for letting a walker know about herself, and another goes to Alicia for having great positive self-talk during the race: "C'mon Alicia--let's go!" All of these women also had nice kicks. Kealy was not far off this group and looked great in light of the fact that she spent much of the week on the bike due to shin problems. Alexia, in her first race every, looked confident throughout her race and ran well-under her goal time for the day. :) Vanessa and Julissa worked well together for much of the race; Vanessa broke away in the final loop and looked strong doing so. Julissa did a great job of changing her stride with 300 to go; she also scared the spectators with the intense look on her face! :) Destiney was our final bee in this race; much like many of her teammates, she completed her FIRST race every as a ZBXCer. She looked strong throughout and finished with a great kick! Overall, this group looked gutsy! Nice work bees!
The remainder of our women competed in the 3-mile race. I think the 2.25-milers inspired them because they all looked great! From the start, Shayla and Taylor worked together in the front of the pack. Shayla's summer miles and Oshkosh experience surely helped as she battled the girl from Grayslake. Although the GL girl bested her in the final loop, Shayla finished with an impressive time of 23:02--a 1:38 drop from her Bee Linked time. This was her first official XC race, and it was a great one! Time aside, I liked her confidence and risk-taking. Taylor finished her first XC race ever, too...running an impressive time and finishing with a GREAT kick. I look forward to seeing these two continue to challenge themselves and each other in practice and meets. Our next bee was Tiffany. Talk about GROWTH. Last season, she finished in over 33 minutes at this course. Her time this year is a LIFETIME PR by almost three minutes. Tiffany's race is an excellent example of how hard work and a great mentality pay off! Lainey, Melanie and Karli were our next bees. They worked together for most of the race and looked phenomenal the whole way. Lainey ran 18 seconds faster than at Bee Linked and looked great in her first official XC race. Melanie, a super-newbee, looked mentally tough the entire time and finished with an outstanding kick. Karli surprised me with her performance; still dealing with a bum hip, she looked focused and aggressive throughout the race. Syra was our next bee. Her post-run talk with her brother sums up her race; although she was disappointed that her knee problem affected her ability to compete, I know that she will come back stronger in our next competition. Monica, another runner battling injury, looked fabulous in her first race of the season, finishing three minutes faster than her performance at Bee Linked. More importantly, her ankles and knees cooperated the whole way! :) Chandell finished her first official XC race just moments after Monica. And just like Monica, she improved greatly over Bee Linked--nearly two minutes! I know that she will continue to peel off time throughout this season! In an act of courage, Sam decided to race 3 miles rather than 2.25, despite being sick all week. In her XC debut, she looked strong and finished with a good kick. I know when she is feeling healthier, she will drop some significant time! Sabrina, one of the few veterans of this group, accepted my pre-race challenge of going outside of her comfort zone. She had a strong first mile and kept that pace rolling throughout the race! With her teammates cheering her on, she kicked hard to the finish. The women in this race should be extremely proud of their 2014 debut. Not only did I see risk-taking and teamwork, I also saw HEART. If we can keep that up all season, I know that we will achieve great things! :)
On Saturday, we met at the beach to run and to help out with Run with the Boyces--a 5K fundraiser for research into possible treatments for Sanfilippo Syndrome. Justin Boyce, ZBXC class of 1998, and his wife have two children who are afflicted with Sanfilippo. I was so impressed with our team--they enthusiastically cheered for and directed runners throughout the course. Several racers came up to me afterwards to compliment the team's positivity. Justin and his wife were thrilled to have us there and said the race would not have been a success without us. Bees--great job showing your true character! I'm so proud of you all :)