Kenneth and Jaime ended their Cross Country careers on a high note today at Sectionals. We found the Busse Woods course in Schaumburg in great shape but with high winds and temperatures hovering just over freezing. All said, this was perfect conditions for runners who thrive in cold conditions! We were joined by ten other men from the team who came to push these two and cheer around the course. Many of our alumni runners sent letters of encouragement as well! I encourage both runners to run free of all stress and expectations, for this race was a reward for their hard work this season; their racing would prove that they took these words to heart. We arrived early and cheered on Mary and Ana as they ran in the girls race at 10:00.
After an extended warm-up to ward off the cold, Kenneth and Jaime took to the line. With their box being dead-center, they were in good position to shoot for the first turn without having to battle inwards against the pack. As the gun went off, they both got out smartly and the pack closed around them--I did not see it, but apparently a number of runners fell in front of them in what Kenneth described as "trying out all the scorpion positions," but the official did not call them back and the race was on.
They got through the mile in good time. Kenneth had an edge on Jaime by 8 people, swinging through at 5:20 and Jaime at 5:24 as both worked in the back third of the pack. On the second loop I had cautioned both to "stay awake" due to the repetition, and they did a pretty good job here as well. Passing the second mile mark, Jaime had taken a 10-second lead on Kenneth and was moving steadily up; Kenneth gamely reset and rolled forward as well. Coming out of the trees at the top of the course, Jaime had a particularly nice downhill sprint that took him to the outside of the lane to pass a number of competitors with an open downhill stride. He worked hard right into the chute, blasting past both a small squad of competitors and his standing PR of 16:53 from Conference to finish with a 17-second PR time of 16:36! Kenneth rolled hard into the chute as well, logging a nice 16:58 finish. Kenneth ran 17:48 on this same course last year--what growth over the past year! Great work gentlemen!
This was a great race for both. I am incredibly proud of their hard work and in their progress making it to Sectionals to continue the tradition of ZB representation at this competition. Both Jaime and Kenneth showed today that logging in countless miles and running without restraint in races can lead to great successes for those committed to bettering their team and their person. I am equally proud of the team that has continue to support them, though their season did not include this race. This team has grown immensely. Continued dedication to their craft this winter will set them up for a promising track season this spring!
Zee Bees-- thank you for a wonderful Cross Country season! In the words of Winston Churchill, "this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning." There are great heights to be yet achieved, and through hard work we can get there as a team this year. Stay hungry, continue to forge the pack, and train to take our competition to the highest level!
The Bees traveled to Libertyville's Adler Park today for the Regional competition. In this race we could only compete as a Varsity team, but there was again this year the excellent opportunity for an Open race after it was done. John, Desmond, Kenneth, Sergio, Jaime, Collin, and Joseph represented ZBXC against seven other teams. We needed to place in the top six to make it to Sectionals as a team, but unfortunately fell short of our goal of beating Mundelein and Round Lake. We did, however, celebrate two individuals qualifying for Sectionals: Jaime and Kenneth!
It was a rare warm late October day with temperatures soaring to the low 70s and the atmosphere energizing and sunny. The Varsity took to the line in good form. We had talked strategy previously and run on the course this week. I had advised taking the second mile particularly seriously, being especially aggressive in the upper woods. We drew a good box and got out well through the first turn 150m down the hill. Desmond, Kenneth, and Jaime took positions in the mid-pack, Collin a few seconds behind them, and our final three packing it up near the back. Through the first mile Kenneth and Desmond had put some distance on their teammates but still retained mid-pack status. In the upper woods on their first loop our top three reordered, with Kenneth leading, followed by Jaime and Desmond. Collin began to move up at this time, with John and Joseph working together just behind Sergio. At the two mile mark our positions were consistent but were not moving on our two target opponents; Mundelein's top 6 were ahead of ours, as were two Round Lake runners. Our runners had nice kicks in the final 400m, especially Kenneth and Jaime. Kenneth emerged as our first man, neck-in-neck with a Libertyville and Mundelein runner right into the chute--he beat the latter by less than a half of a second (17:20). Jaime surged in a half second behind Bryce Richards of Mundelein (17:29) as our second man, followed by Desmond at 17:52. Collin had a particularly aggressive finish as well, narrowly beating a Libertyville jersey in the final 10m (18:06). Sergio (18:30), John (18:35), and Joseph (18:58) rounded off our pack.
As the results would reveal, five individuals were able to advance to Sectionals. Round Lake took three of these slots, while the other two went to Kenneth and Jaime for their finishing positions. The season, unfortunately, was over for the rest of our squad.
Immediately following the Regional race we had an Open race, another fantastic racing opportunity for the rest of our guys. Rod, Warren, Zack, Austin, Delown, and K-Man represented ZBXC in this race, and all took off relaxed and focused. Delown took the lead for our pack, finding a nice pace. Warren moved aggressively as our 2nd man, followed by Zack and Rod as a packed duo and immediately trailed by Kenneth and Austin. Around the course these six runners looked good. They seemed relieved of pressure and relaxed in their form. Delown surged into a great finish to beat a pack of three opponents, and Warren locked in our #2, followed closely by Rod. Zack had quite a finish too, his stride overtaking two Round Lake runners right at the line. Austin rounded off our pack with a nice uphill stride and solid finish.
This wasn't the day we were hoping for when we took to the line, yet it was the race we ran today. We simply could not get enough positions ahead of Mundelein and Round Lake to qualify our team--both other teams had a similar plan and were able to get the majority of their packs ahead of ours. It was a mix of emotions for our team seeing the outcome, but on the positive side we have seen a great uptick in team spirit and support that will mean more in the long run than any individual points or scoring ever will. Moving into this next week, we will work hard to get these two the energy and vision they need to reach new heights of greatness!
Race Car 10.21
We traveled to Buffalo Grove for the annual Frosh-Soph Race Car Invite today. The weather was chillier than normal with cold winds, but the mood in the bus was great and the boys took to the line ready to fight around the flat 2.0 mile course against eleven other schools. Though this was a short course and we did not have data to really compare it against, it was a great opportunity to run hard and see what they could do. Coming off of our Conference successes, they had a lot of energy and excitement for this race, less the pressure of racing against upperclassmen.
The freshmen pack ran first. Collin had told me before the race that he wanted to earn a race car award, and he went out looking to bring it home. He led our pack on the first mile, dodging between 15th and 20th place as the pack surged on the turns. He led with a strong 11th place overall finish (11:12), and did indeed win his race car! Zack ran as our second man, pushing hard for a nice 12:08 finish and very even splits. Joel and Jalan ran in very close proximity, with both making a final 250m kick that outpaced several opponents and earned them 12:26 and 12:27 finishes respectively. Trysten was our fifth and final runner, with his kick outpacing a Niles West runner and earning him a 13:28 finish.
Our sophomores ran next, having seen the race run once and commenting on how fast and flat the course appeared. They got out in excellent fashion, with Joseph taking an early lead of the ZB pack and Sergio trailing close behind. Mikey and Rod packed up as well and looked aggressive on their first mile. In the second mile, Sergio moved up with a nice display of energy to pass Joseph and start working himself up toward the top 25. He cracked the top 30 but finished in 29th place, tying Collin's earlier finish at 11:12 but not quite earning a car. Joseph was our second man at 11:40 with a kick that narrowly overtook a Downer's Grove and Wheaton North duo. Mikey ran for an excellent finish as well (12:31) that narrowly beat a Naperville North runner, and Rod finished hard at 13:01. Rod had a particularly noteworthy move with .5 mile left, running a little extra distance outside of a huge pack to pass every one of his nearby opponents!
Overall, this was a good, fast race for our young pack. These men are the future of our team, and their hard work now and in the coming years is going to pay off handsomely. They have come together and charted excellent progress over the course of this season, and have seen a great many successes achieve between them. Their aggressive starts, knowledge of course strategy ("running smart"), and fighting finishes distinguish this group as one that is always motivated to run for each other and run better each day. With this outlook there are no limits to what this group can achieve!
Today was truly the best race day we have had this entire season. And best of all, it happened at one of the most crucial races of the season: Conference. We trekked to Lake Forest and met with twelve other teams on a relatively flat course with cool temperatures. It had rained hard this week, casting doubt on the likelihood of firm racing conditions. This was the last opportunity for all runners to compete, however, and our men rose to this opportunity with a palpable hunger for competition.
Varsity raced first today. Our top seven broke out the brilliant yellow Varsity jerseys for the first time today--and they raced like a new team. They got out in good position with the funneling 200m out of the start, and by the mile all were running in great form. Desmond and Kenneth were together in the low 5s at this point, with Jaime and Collin trailing by a narrow margin and John, Sergio, and Joseph packed together well. Their first lap around the infield stretched the race field out a little, but all looked to be in good form. On the final 600m out of the woods and to the finish, Desmond had locked in a spot in the top 30, with Kenneth a dozen positions behind him. Desmond surged in with a fantastic kick and great form for a PR 16:06 time, 24th place finish, and All-Conference Honors! Kenneth rolled hard for 16:47 and our second finishing position, followed closely by Jaime--Jaime turned on a mind-blowing sprint in the final 150 that blew past four competitors right into the chute and earned himself a nice PR 16:53 and his first sub-17 break! Collin sprinted in soon after for his third consecutive PR as well, running 17:07 and 28 seconds better than last Wheeling. John and Sergio stuck together and worked hard to finish together, passing several competitors together in the final stretch and finishing at 17:23 and 17:24 respectively. Both earned PR times, John by thirty seconds and Sergio finally achieving a major breakthrough over his 2013 time set at Peoria. Joseph ran in as our 7th man with a strong kick as well and 17:34 finish.
Zion finished 10/13 today with a 16:52 average and 77-second split. This 16:52 is our best average so far this season!
Our Frosh-Soph team ran next with six runners taking the line. Their competitive spirit was contagious at the line, and they would all run nice races. Zack took the lead for the ZB pack by the mile mark, followed closely by Mikey and Rod. Zack maintained his strong race fora full 37-second PR finish and outstanding kick that broke him into the 18s for the first time this season (18:44)! Mikey finished as our #2 with better form that showed a positive recovery from his ankle injury two weeks ago (18:52). Rod was immediately behind him, surging forward with Joel. Rod (18:55) ran just one second shy of his PR, while Joel earned one by four seconds (19:02)! Jalan ran a great race, his determination smashing past the 20:00 PR (and a Mundelein runner right at the chute!) to run 19:29 and his third consecutive PR! Trysten rounded out our squad with a 21:35 finish. This also marked his third consecutive PR and 17-second PR!
We had our final four runners in the Open race. With four races already run, the course was quickly turning muddy with several patches heavily churned from the strides of 600 previous runners. Delown got out really fast, which he needed to with no less than a horde of 100 Libertyville runners crowding our box, and was closely followed by Warren and K-Man at the mile mark. Austin worked really hard with a great stride and form unlike any he has had all season. By the time Delown had launched out of the woods into the final stretch I could tell he was on the road to a nice PR. He kicked well into the chute for what did prove to be a nice PR 17:37, his first sub-18 finish, and a 25th place finish that earned him a ribbon! Congratulations Delown! Warren rolled in next with another great finish and 31-second PR for a breakthrough 18:19! He was followed by K-Man's season best 19:37 finish and a kick that overtook and narrowly beat two Libertyville and one Lake Forest runner in the last strides of the race! Austin had the best race of his life. His stride and kick were the best I have seen him run all season, and he dropped 1:04 for a 25:15 PR finish!
At the awards later on that evening, Desmond received All-Conference honors for his finish among the top 30 in the Conference! Delown also received a ribbon for his race. The Sportsmanship Award was earned by David Duarte this year, and I had the honor of presenting it to him tonight. David has experienced a number of injury setbacks this year that resulted in him not being able to run in any races. Despite this, he came to every practice determined to help his team, went to the meets to time and push on the packs, and demonstrated selfless support for his teammates. He has truly embodied the ideals of the Sportsmanship Award and I am very proud of how he has defined his senior year!
It was truly a great day. The numbers themselves are nice: our best Varsity average and no less than 13 PRs out of 17 runners. But most importantly, our packs pulled together in a TEAM EFFORT that truly embodies our #irunforthem mantra. They ran hard but found ways to support each other in every way, both from the sidelines and in the races. Today epitomizes the strong reinvention of ZBXC that we have seen in the past weeks, with the team running in sync and with great personal and team successes. I am very proud of what we accomplished today. I am certain that in one week we will take the field at Regionals ready for a shot at Sectionals!
Wheeling Invitational 10.11
While unfortunately I was not able to be at this meet with the boys, Coach Shorey took the boys down to the Allstate Campus in Northbook for this nice Saturday race. With temperatures in the mid 50s and sunny conditions, they found a rather soggy low course along the highway, which inevitably proved challenging for our race. Our team had, however, a great outlook going into the race and had put much thought into the way they wanted the season to progress after these last few races.
I made the decision not to run our freshmen in the sub-3 mile race, instead having them run together with the sophomore/JV pack in the 3.0 mile Open Race. This is training them better for the remaining 3-mile races this season, and gives them the opportunity to work together. Thus, the Varsity ran first today.
A summation of the race can best be described as one of good effort. I challenged the boys before the meet to run hard on the areas where the other runners might feel comfortable, and lengthen their kicks on the final loop of the large field. Kenneth ran a nice second half, gaining solid ground as he moved up to Desmond in the mid-field positions. Kenneth would race hard to finish as our first man today (16:48), narrowly edging Desmond by one second (16:49) for 73rd and 74th finishing positions. Jaime ran solidly as our #3 (17:33), followed by Collin two seconds later (17:35). Collin's time proved to be a 1-second PR over his best just recently set at Stevenson. John ran a nice race to finish at 17:53, matching his PR at Blue Devil! This is no easy feat on a course so different from the flat Warren course--well done John! Joseph and Sergio rounded off our Varsity pack at 18:04 and 18:06 respectively. These two have learned to run together and share the work in races. Varsity finished #17/20 teams with a 64-second split and 17:20 average--our second-best average this season!
We saw some very solid successes in the Open race today as well! Delown got out in great position and worked aggressively up the pack, finishing as our lead runner with a time of 18:19. Warren locked in a nice race as our 2nd man, running a PR 18:50! Our third proved to be Zack, who beat his Blue Devil PR by five seconds to finish with a fantastic 19:30! Rod (19:45) and Jalan (20:00) came in next, Jalan running a 2-second PR over his best set at Stevenson; he is certainly poised to break into the 19s this next week. K-Man ran a season best 20:44, followed by Trysten's major break into the 21s to run a PR 21:52! Our final runner, and another notable achievement, was Austin. He ran 26:19, a full 1:16 PR over his best set at Blue Devil! Congratulations to these guys on all these PRs!
I was very happy to hear about the personal bests set at Wheeling, and the collective team mindset that drove these men to these heights. We run Conference this next week and will need to bring this same hunger and mindset to run even greater races. Anything is possible this next week!
Stevenson Dual 10.6
We approached the last dual meet of the season with cautious optimism. After a nice week of hard work and a notable workout on Saturday, I felt that we were ready to give Stevenson a run for their money at their home course at Half Day Forest Preserve. The weather was comfortable in the 60s as we placed fifteen ZeeBees against more than twice as many Stevenson runners. We didn't have much time to assess the windy, wooded trails, but instead warmed up and discussed our plan to go out with their top pack and run the race with them. Each runner knew that he needed to make each place count.
As the gun went off our runners got off to a nice start. In the first 800m we had a fantastic top pack of six running with Stevenson's top nine. Our middle guys were pulling together and jostling for position on a trail where three could easily run abreast. I saw them again at the 1.5, at which time the top pack had separated over 50-60m and Stevenson had three right with Desmond, with Kenneth trailing by 10' and Jaime locking in our #3 30m distant, followed closely by Sergio, Collin, Joseph, and Warren. Our middle consolidated into a beautiful pack: Delown led, with Zack and Rod at his shoulders and Joel and Jalan immediately behind them with two Stevenson runners in between. Both Trysten and Austin were dueling with rivals at this point.
I saw them again in the final 400m approach to the finish. At this point it had become apparent that Stevenson was not taking the race as seriously as we were. Their top runners were talking and rolling comfortably, and were in good shape to accelerate the last 800m to lock down the race. Our guys were holding together admirably but simply were our of fuel by the time Stevenson decided to kick. Stevenson put their top three 15:55-16:30, with Desmond kicking hard to be our first man and fourth overall with a time of 16:43. Kenneth and Jaime both ran nice second halves too, finish at #7 and 8 respectively (17:08 and 17:10), with Jaime earning a 9 second PR! Collin kicked nicely for a PR as well as our 4th man, besting his Blue Devil time by 2 seconds for a finish of 17:36! Joseph finished as our 5th (17:53, 14th overall), followed a second later by John (17:54, one second off his PR!) and then by Sergio as our 7th man (17:59).
After a minute gap, our next pack approached the finish with a vengeance. Their kicks were nice in the final 250m. Warren led this group with a 19:10 finish, followed closely by Delown (19:12), Rod (19:17), and Zack's 5-second PR 19:21! Joel fought hard for a 20:00 finish, with Jalan mustering an admirable kick to finish right on his heels at 20:02 for a fantastic 28 second PR! Trysten then displayed one of the best kicks we have seen him perform this season. He was narrowly beat in the last dual at Wauconda right at the chute, and I could see in his expression today that he was not going to let Nai of Stevenson gain the edge on him as they sprinted stride-for-stride. Trysten punched it in hard to narrowly beat this competitor and earn a PR of 19 seconds (22:10)! Austin finished next with a 27:51 and nice final stride as well.
Overall, we came away with mixed emotions and several take-aways from this racing experience. We celebrated five nice PRs, but the men articulated that they feel they could have performed better. They were disappointed in the evident lack of serious racing, even though we still did not win the dual. We showed growth and promise in our tighter packs and teammate support. I saw some nice, aggressive moves as our guys pushed themselves out of their comfort zones. I believe, though, that we used our energy both mentally and physically engaging in "holding with them" rather than looking for a competitive edge. We will need to practice smart running, especially with stamina and striding in the final mile of races. We can certainly go out with them--we will be facing some fast teams, and Stevenson again, in the near future. Our boys are eager for a re-match, and they will get the opportunity as we moved toward our final season meets.
Varsity Avg (Top 5)
1.) 16:52 @ Conference 10.18
2. )17:15 @ Peoria 9.13
2.) 17:20 @ Wheeling 10.11
4.) 17:29 @ Blue Devil 9.20
1.) Desmond Washington
16:06 @ Conference
2.) Jaime Cantu
16:36 @ Sectionals
3.) Kenneth Caples
16:37 @ Peoria
1.) John Cruz
17:23 @ Conference
2.) Warren Strickland
18:19 @ Conference
3.) Bradley Omorogieva
19:08 @ Wauconda Invite
1.) Joseph Norrish
17:19 @ Peoria
2.) Sergio Vargas
17:24 @ Conference
3.) Mikey Izquierdo
18:17 @ Blue Devil
1.) Collin Luell
17:07 @ Conference
2.) Zack Vandreese
18:44 @ Conference
3.) Joel Douglas
19:02 @ Conference