Collin made school history this weekend with his second consecutive trip to the IHSA State Finals in Peoria. Last year he was the first ZBXC athlete in 40 years to make the journey, and now he is the only one to do it twice! Last year we were very we excite for the meet but approached it with a sense of expectation. This year Collin led our team as a very different runner--he raced with greater ease and pushed his nerves aside for very smart races. As we approached the State meet, this racing strategy was exactly what he planned on. He has years of experience at Detweiller and was ready to push himself to break the 15 minute barrier. This trip ended with the celebration of a successful four-year running career, of school history in the making, and of one of the most amazing athletes in Zion's history!
The trip began with great fanfare with a sendoff from our band, staff, and students. As we boarded the bus for the trip with the Varsity team and Coach Di Grazia, the sun broke through the clouds and we drove the four hours to Peoria. Upon our arrival, the team went out for a shakeout run on the course as the coaches checked in. The officials were very nervous with the raining forecast for Saturday, but on Friday the course was firm and inviting. Finishing with a couple crisp strides and finishes, Collin was ready and as prepared as he has ever been. We spent the afternoon at a running store in downtown Peoria before heading off to the Barnes & Noble. Olympian and Cross Country great Craig Virgin was there to sign copies of his biography, and we had the opportunity to meet him and talk about the sport for a few minutes. The team was clearly thrilled!
We spend the night in Bloomington some distance away due to the lack of suitable accommodations, but this proved a blessing in that it removed us from the urgency and bustle of Peoria and let us relax for the evening. After a great Italian dinner and team strategy meeting, we turned in. The next morning we awoke to a heavy fog and cool mist but warmer temperatures than that day before. The mist turned to rain as we approached Peoria, and upon arrival at the course we found the conditions to be far muddier than the day before, albeit still relatively stable. The best part of our arrival was meeting up with the many families, fans, alumni, and teammates who had made the trek to support Collin!
The next hour was a blur. Collin went out to warm up with his teammates and the coaches checked out the course. We cheered on the 3A women as they raced, and we were pleased to see that, despite the muddy conditions, the course was allowing some fast times. Collin went to the line for check-in and dynamic and appeared very composed. While there were nerves, he displayed great confidence as he regarded the course and calculated his racing strategy. He was in the best shape he has ever been, and he has been working hard on his final stride. The mist gave way to a high fog that hovered just over the treetops as he went out for his strides. His fans assured him of a great race and then went out to position themselves around the course. He was ready. With the long whistle the long line of 3A men leaned across the line for a moment all was still and quiet. Then the gunshot broke the silence and the race began!
Collin did exactly what he needed to do. He surged out hard from box 26 and punched to the top echelon of the field by the time he reached the first turn. He was racing hard in the top twenty when he came up the first uphill stretch, easy to spot in his bright yellow uniform but almost completely enveloped by the top pack. He reached the top of the course in great shape, his eyes up and competing hard. Coming through the first mile he logged 4:34--this fastest this season--and showed no signs of slowing down! He entered the back field still with a mid 20s position, and when he emerged a few minutes later he had maintained well through the race's midpoint. He was racing tall and with strength.
He raced through the two-mile mark at 9:34--a 3200m PR! The fast pace was clearly not bothering him. He went through the top turns again in great shape, and on the final downhill parallel to the highway he made a fantastic move and surged past a handful on competitors. He was still a sub-15 pace and looking great. He slashed across the field still right around 30th place but surrounded by competitors. He took the final turns in good shape and entered the final 400m. Then he began to kick.
Collin's final kick has been the area that he has been working hardest on these past weeks. It all paid off right here. He surged up the hill to match the kicks of his competitors and finished the course to cement it as the best race of his life--and he crossed at 14:59.88, his first sub-15 of his life! He took 40th place in the state of Illinois--far better than his 67th place from last year! While the final posted results on the website would round the posted time to 15:00, there is no denying the importance of what Collin had just done.
Collin had raced the best race of his life. He grinned as we met his teammates and slowly walked down towards the bus and his gear. As I watched him depart with his team I could not help but reflect on the gravity and depth of his achievements that culminated with today. Over the past years he has broke records, won many races, and been the only runner to make it to State twice! It was bittersweet to think that his four years on the team, and his high school XC career, had just ended moments before when he has such great potential to realize his talents; it was incredibly fulfilling to be standing there at Detweiller and see a young man finish such an amazing great four years--and to have had the honor to coach him. He proved that hard work and dedication will lead to greatness. He led the team to unbelievable heights this season and pushed to be the best he could be. He opened the door for State to be a ZBXC tradition for the men and women who would come after him. And he is inspiring the lofty aspirations of those coming after him.
The bus ride home was one of jubilation and excitement. The team framed their goals for next year and relaxed at the end of a truly great season. Collin's last challenge to the team is a fitting conclusion to this trip:
"Next year it's you."
Avedis and Collin led our team to the Sectional course at Busse Woods in Schaumburg today. With a full bus to cheer them on and two women also competing, the mood was optimistic as we boarded the bus and drove southward. On a crisp, cloudy morning the temperature leveled in the high 30s with intermittent gusts of wind. On the way down we drove through rain, snow, and sunshine, and this alternating weather pattern would punctuate our morning. We had practiced on the course on Wednesday evening and experienced deep mud and soft turns, and while conditions had not improved to any great degree, the runners felt positive, yet nervous, as they surveyed the chilly landscape.
We were able to cheer on the ladies before heading out for our warmup down the trail. The driving ice pellets gave way to sun then quickly waxed back to rain, but Avedis and Collin readied themselves nonetheless and did their dynamic stretching at the line. I urged both to race as they have been these past few meets: go out assertively and then work up in the second half. Both are great at holding pace no matter the elevation, turns, and depth of competition. We were shooting for a top ten finish to lock in a return to State, and hard races to gain invaluable experience for their racing careers. Against the cold gusts of wind, the gun fired at 11:15 and the race was off!
Collin went out in great form, latching on with the top pack of six in the first mile. They were going out conservatively at 4:50 pace, which would greatly surprise Collin as he plotted his strategy. Avedis worked very well in the mid pack at the mile mark and it was clear that he was finding his stride and moving on his competition. At the midpoint the front runners increased their pace, leaving Collin solidly in 6th place with a gap ahead to Waukegan's Garcia and a long gap behind him to Stevenson's Smyrnov. He held this past the second mile mark and both up and down the hill. Nearing 800m left, though, the pack behind him began accelerating and closing in the distance. Collin did a good reset of his form with 450m left but the encroaching pack enveloped him and he fought to stay in the mix. Four runners passed him as they battled for positions, and he fought a Palatine and Lake Forest runner right into the chute. The Palatine runner narrowly edged him out, but Collin beat the LF runner to finish in 12th place at 15:21--a great time and great finish for a great race on this course! Avedis surged in with a fantastic kick as well, narrowly holding off his LF competitor and finishing with a great time of 17:19! Both were spent from their hard racing, and then began the agonizing wait and mental calculation and recalculation of the placing and finishing teams as we waited for official results to name the State finalists!
After what seemed like hours and mixed emotions that changed akin to the weather, the results were posted on the side of the nearest bus. In twelfth place Collin had secured the final State berth! This achievement was both exciting and huge relief from the anxiety for the entire team and our legion of supporters. At the news we celebrated in joyous relief and reeled at what he had done. His hard work is truly historic--he was our first State qualifier in forty years last year (second one every), and with his second qualification he has continued to make school history and honor both himself and his program. He is now the only runner to be a repeat qualifier and he has enormous potential to place highly next week with his work ethic and the way he competes. Most importantly, he has seen his hard work and countless miles pay off again. His team, fans, and coaches are proud and excited beyond words. No matter the outcome from here, his accomplishments will be an inspiration for generations of ZBXC runners to come!
Congratulations to all four of our runners this morning! And the good work continues...
ON TO STATE!
The State Series began to day with the Regional Competition at Lake Forest. With seven Varsity men taking the line today, I was very pleased to pack the bus with most of the remaining team for the competition. The weather was mild and cool, with the temperature slowly climbing throughout the morning to a comfortable racing temperature. Our goal today was to get a team to Sectionals--to do this we would need to place in the top six of nine teams. The top five individuals not on the top six teams would also qualify to move on to the next level.
After a survey of the course, the Bees were ready on the line. The strategy was simple--pack together and use our experience on this flat course and knowledge of the "twilight zone" to make moves. From the gun, it was apparent that the men were doing just that. The first mile flew by with the Bees going by well under their goals. Collin held strong with his Libertyville and Stevenson rivals, and he placed himself solidly in second by the midpoint. Alex and Victor paired together and were well ahead of Avedis, who was holding down our fourth position with Jason just steps behind. T-Bone was clearly stepping up, as he was just seconds off of Jason going into the woods, and Lance found himself racing hard against a Waukegan opponent in our seventh position.
Through the close field loop the Bees were racing in great position. Collin was racing well with Tam, T-Bone had caught up to Jason and they were working together and Victory had pulled ahead of Alex. They held in great position as they went into the far "twilight zone" loop on the other side of the campus, from which they would emerge with a bit over 400m to go. Collin shot out, still in second, but by now Tam had begun his kick and had a substantial lead. In the final 300, though, Collin was out-kicked by two other runners but finished with a great sprint and 4th place, 15:07 finish that sealed his entry to Sectionals. Avedis had a great second half, moving up with a progressive stride. As he emerged out of the woods I saw him tripped up by another runner and nearly fall, but he regained his footing and sprinted hard to the finish--he finished in the middle of two other opponents at 16:59 for a lifetime PR! Alex surged in as our third man at 17:32 for a lifetime PR, his third in as many meets! Steps behind him the rest of our pack rolled in hard. Victor finished at 18:00, Tristan at 18:04, Jason at 18:11, and Lance at 18:12. These were great finishes!
Unfortunately the Bees did not place in the top six teams, and we actually narrowly lost to Round Lake though we beat Waukegan. The next question, though, was if anyone other than Collin made the Sectional as an individual. When the results were posted, the individual qualifiers were not circled. But in further review, I saw that the fifth slot was between Avedis and a Round Lake runner, both clocked at 16:59.7! In the chute, though, the official had ruled that Avedis crossed a split second before the other runner and was given the 40th position, with the RL runner designated 41st! This split second and Avedis's hard finish sent him to Sectionals!
It was wonderful to celebrate Collin and Avedis going to Sectionals, the hard race by the Varsity, and the PRs of Alex and Avedis! It was a great season for the Varsity pack, and they have incredible potential to go even farther next year! Great job, Bees--on to Sectionals!
This was a wild weekend! We drove to the College of Lake Country for the NSC Conference meet on Saturday morning, which we had moved up an hour to try to hit the morning window of good weather in what was predicted to be a stormy day. Unfortunately, though, the skies opened with driving rain and and lightning storm sent everyone scattering about and seeking shelter inside the fieldhouse. With the course thoroughly inundated with flowing water and no predicted respite from the electrical storm until late afternoon, we made the decision to postpone the races. Soggy but nonetheless in good spirits, the Zee Bees went home for two more days of rest until we traveled out to Warren on Monday afternoon for the rescheduled meet.
This proved to be an unforeseen blessing. Our runners are very well acquainted with the Warren course and welcomed its flat, fast potential. The weather had dried considerably, though the ground was still soggy and required a little extra effort in racing. The Varsity took the line first tonight and went out hard from the gun. Collin latched on to Libertyville's Tam for the first two miles, racing very well at 4:45 and 5:10 for the first two miles. Victor, Alex, and Jason took a huge risk in the first half as they packed up and raced together, coming through the midpoint in great form with Avedis trailing by a fair stretch. Avedis found another gear after a conservative start and, going into his third mile, surged ahead of the trio and would kick hard all the way into the finish. Lance and T-Bone rounded off the pack, with Lance pacing off outside his comfort zone and T-Bone falling a little farther back with obvious stomach cramps. He did a great job finishing despite the pain, but it was evident that he felt hindered the whole way.
Collin surged into the final 400 in 2nd place but could not fight off the kicks of three other competitors. Still, he finished hard at 15:07 with All-Conference honors for 6th place! This is his third consecutive All-Conference finish and I am very proud! Avedis held strong in his third mile to finish as our second man, running a lifetime PR 17:11! Jason, Alex, and Victory were next at 17:35, 17:36, and 17:37 respectively, taking their pack right into the chute. For Alex this is a huge lifetime PR! Lance followed soon after for a lifetime PR 17:59, breaking 18 for the first time and setting his first PR of since his sophomore year...and he narrowly beat a Waukegan runner into the chute by a split second! T-Bone rolled in as our last Zee Bee of the race with a gutsy finish at 18:42. Overall the Bees placed 7th out of 8 conference teams.
The Frosh/Soph and JV races were combined and this was ideal to place all of our remaining runners together. Knowing this would be their last race, this pack was eager for this final race. I expected nothing but a continuation of the greatness they have been showing this season and I was very impressed to see them roll out hard and punch out of their comfort zones. Anthony went out to lead our pack, with Jack and Brandon rolling hard out front as well! Brandon was in pain with a recurring back injury, but was rolling gamely along and supporting Jack--who was racing with the same strength he showed at Lake Forest this last week. Jaime had found and exploited a gap to distance ahead of Mark, with Nathan and Alexis in hot pursuit. Salvador was racing hard at the midpoint and Jonathan was carefully following his race strategy of conserving in the first mile. While Adrian and Alex were customarily racing at toward the back of the pack, I was ecstatic when I saw both running a hard first half with a first mile at least 30s faster than their usual race paces! It was evolving into a great race.
The finishes were simply spectacular! Anthony raced in as our first Zee Bee, dropping over a full minute for a PR 18:16 time...WOW! Brandon surged past Jack to finish hard as our second runner for 18:57, with Jack not far behind at 19:11. Mark had a nice 19:22 finish through his knee pain to beat a Stevenson and Libertyville runner in the final steps. Jaime surged in for a 24s PR, 19:27, followed by Alexis at 20:03 for a 45s lifetime best! Nathan was just steps behind for a lifetime PR 20:05 with Salvador (20:16) and Jonathan (20:36) just behind. For Jonathan this is a huge PR in the final race of his ZBXC career, dropping 24 seconds from our home meet on 9/5. Ardem was just seconds off of his best at 22:26, followed by a fantastic finish by Junior at 23:33.
What followed next was one of the best and most satisfying finishes I have ever seen. Alex and Adrian were sprinting hard down the final stretch in the likes that I have never before seen. Both have been developing great fitness and fast kicks in practice, and have made such immense progress already this season. This race, however, surpassed all of their good work and showed embodied the pinnacle of willpower and the rewards that hard work can reap. They sprinted hard on the final stretch, split around a hapless Libertyville runner, and surged into the chute side-by-side. Adrian was clocked at 24:59 and Alex at 25:00 to finish their season with big lifetime PRs--Adrian by 63s and Alex by 93s! Great work, men! What a way to go out this season!
The JV/Open team placed 7th/8 as well. But what really stood out tonight was not the conditions, but the way this whole team raced. We charted 11 lifetime PRs--more than in any other race this season. We packed together and raced as a team harder than ever before. And despite all the aches and pains that inexorably come with this time of the season, the grit and perseverance displayed overcame all the obstacles and led to fast times and wide grins at the finish.
At the awards ceremony at the end, we were pleased to recognize Alex Garcia as the NSC Sportsmanship Award winner for the Bees. Alex has served as a captain and solid leader this season, every day putting others ahead of him and ensuring that men and women on the team are connected, held accountable, and pushing themselves to success. The integral role he performs has led directly to the team successes we witnessed here tonight. Congratulations Alex!
Though the forecast called for rain today, we left Zion with sunny skies that brilliantly illuminated the jagged patches of clouds and promised a morning of great racing conditions. We traveled back to Heritage Park for the third year at this course. This course has more hills than most others we run--though nothing compared to Parkside--and is always a welcomed challenge at this point in the season. With the Varsity women at Sterling and the Varsity men taking a rest day, we also had a smaller team competing today, which put our younger runners in the spotlight.
All the ZB men raced in the Open race. By this time, they had plenty of time to learn the course, rest, and warm up. The temperatures settled comfortably in the low 60s as the sky grew increasingly grayer. Tristan opted out of the Varsity rest and chose to race, and Kevin, Jonathan, and Jack were sidelined with injuries. We put a large pack on the line and it was time to race!
From the gun, Tristan went out hard and found a nice pace in the first loop. This was a big race, but I was happy to see many of our men find each other in the field and were working hard leading out to the hills across the lake. Brandon and Anthony were right behind T-Bone, both taking a nice risk early on. Alexis was fighting a pack of Libertyville runners with Jaime not far behind. Junior and Alex were racing strong side-by-side, and Adrian had latched on to a New Trier racer and was matching his stride. The Bees looked good!
At the halfway point the field was through the first of two rounds on the hills. It is here that the challenge really begins, however, as one needs to both recover and race the flat fields to prepare for the next loop into the hills. Nathan and Salvador both had good form coming off the hill loop, and Anthony and Brandon had worked right up to Tristan to form a great racing pack! Several of our runners were visibly tiring as the hills sapped their strength, but they responded well to keeping their eyes up and focused on the competitors ahead of them.
The finishing 500m saw some fantastic kicks. Brandon and Anthony had overtaken T-Bone and were racing together into the chute. Brandon surged in powerfully as our first runner at 19:21, with Anthony a second behind him at 19:22 for a huge PR! Anthony has a knack for setting records on tough courses, and this is his third consecutive PR. T-Bone was our third runner at 20:06, with Jaime closing in for a nice finish at 20:25. Alexis dropped four seconds from his previous best for a PR 20:28, with Nathan closing in right behind him at 20:51. Salvador did a nice reset in his final 400m to race in at 21:46, followed by Junior at 25:07, Adrian at 27:05, and Alex at 27:56.
Two PR races was a huge feat today. Typically I tell the runners that if they are within 45 seconds of their PR, they are racing consistently. But many of the men were much closer than that, and two running their best here clearly shows the fitness and tenacity that this team is building this season. They are reaching their peak and will undoubtedly have great races as we emerge into Conference week after the weekend. The Varsity is resting up and should be looking sharp as well, and if we can holistically stay healthy and focus on wellness this week we should be able to achieve some great things. Today saw some impressive racing. Their greatness is just beginning!
Lake forest 10.2.17
It was been two years since we last stepped foot on the course at Lake Forest (West), a generally flat, grassy plain that has transitionally served to allow for excellent times. Tonight, in a small dual meet against LF, the Bees showed how well they can bounce back from a tough week of work to race hard. Tonight also would prove to be a wonderful mark of progress as we would see eight lifetime PRs and one SPR achieved before the day was done!
The Bees were quite hungry for success as they took the line. I had asked them to set a first mile goal, then race hard in the second and third miles with a progressive final 400m finish. I had held Collin back to run a tempo pace, but the rest of the pack surged in and would make some great gains. Going into the mile mark, Alex and Victor led the Varsity pack with Avedis and Jason racing much stronger than last week just meters behind him. Brandon was working hard with Lance and Anthony was taking an incredible risk to work up to Jack in the mid field! Jaime, Salvador, Nathan, Alexis, and Ardem were strung out over 100m, with Junior fighting hard to reel in his opponents. Alex and Adrian rounded off the pack and were racing tall. At the halfway point they looked good, and Avedis had begun his signature second-half surge to the front of the Varsity pack.
Collin took two wrong turns at the front of the race and ended with a respectable finish to his workout. Avedis surged in for a fantastic finish at 17:17, only one second off of his PR and looking stronger than he ever has! Victor was our second man at 17:29, running a nice PR by 6s from his time at Peoria! Jason was just behind him at 17:38, with Alex surging in on his heels for a PR of three seconds (17:44). T-Bone finished hard at 18:13 and Lance ran a huge Season Best 18:31! Brandon had the race of his life, breaking 19 for the first time and in a big way--he ran a 31s PR for 18:40! Jack matched it with a 33s PR of his own, racing 19:01! Anthony then surged in to break 20 for the first time in his life, racing 19:27, followed by Jaime at 20:07. Salvador had a great finish at 20:46, with Nathan (21:00) and Alexis (21:03) just behind him with excellent sprints. Ardem surged in at 22:21, racing for an outstanding lifetime PR achievement that dropped 27s from his time at Warren. Junior finished strong at 22:59, with Alex then coming in for a 10s lifetime PR at 26:32! Adrian raced 28:13 to round off the ZeeBee pack.
While we lost in points to LF, we had one of the strongest races of our season tonight. I am very proud of the many PRs, and those who didn't still ran close to theirs and showed remarkable effort. I have taxed them in the last two weeks with long distance runs, a big workout on Saturday, and high temperatures throughout; they emerged strong from this and are going to be in peak shape for Conference! Great job Bees!
Our final home meet of the year arrived tonight on a hot, humid Tuesday afternoon. Temperatures have continued to be high since the weekend, but gathering clouds and a high haze tempted us with an offer of cooler respite. Mundelein and Stevenson arrived at the course that still looked impeccably painted from the last meet two weeks ago, and we send the ladies to the line. While the men warmed up, a cooler breeze began to gather and the temperature began slowly dropping to pleasant levels.
As the men took the line, I could tell that they were ready to race hard. They seemed at ease with the conditions and hungry for a final shot at the home course. We packed to the far left of the line against two far bigger teams, and with the gun the men took off. I had asked that they race all out tonight and own their course. With Collin far out front and unchallenged, the pack surged forward.
The first mile was a great one for risk-taking. The Varsity men were close, with Alex and Victory taking particularly bold approaches with Avedis and Jason just behind them. Mark was closely followed by Brandon, with Salvador getting out hard. Everywhere the Bees were fighting packs of red or white jerseys. Junior was swarmed by a pack of five Mundelein runners, and Nathan and Alexis were working hard together to gain positions going into the woods. It was a great start, and as the race neared the midpoint it began to rain hard. While the rain didn't last more than a couple of minutes, it cooled everyone off and set the stage for a strong second half for our runners.
Collin continued to lead the field and raced hard right into the chute for a finishing time of 15:30--a 5-second ZeeBee course record! Avedis made very positive gains in his second half to lead the next pack of ZB runners, coming in second at 17:46, followed by a great finish by Victory (18:05), Alex (18:21), and T-Bone (18:26). Jason rolled in hard in obvious pain at 18:38, and it was here that a major error occurred in the timing system. Due to an unfortunate mix-up, the order numbers got muddled and the results skewed. We were still able to score the meet, but unfortunately it nullified the official times of the remainder of the field.
We are, fortunately, able to report a couple of big PRs on this course! Salvador broke 20 for the first time in his life at 19:58, running a truly stellar race and looking very aggressive. Adrian shaved off over a minute and a half to run 26:02. I am very proud of these two! The rest of our times were unofficial, but what truly shone was the hard work the team displayed in this race. Though overwhelmed by the numbers of the teams, they raced hard and found each other in the woods to work together. Their progressive finishes were among the best they have done this season! And finally, their efficient setup and take-down of the course is very much appreciated!
JT invite 9.23.17
We had one of our most challenging meets at the new JT Invite course today, primarily due to the intense heat this weekend. The meet directors made the wise decision to move the races up to 8am instead of the customary 9, and shuffled the order to run the Varsity first. Our team showed up for the early bus hydrated and ready to race, and their great mindset would make for some great races during the day. This new course and location presented a short but steep hill that had to be charged three times, along with generally uneven trail terrain. It was a great cross country course.
Jack moved up to join the Varsity squad today, and we put seven men on the line. With the last of the dew quickly evaporating from the grass and the sun beginning to glare, the Varsity men charged off with the gun and into the first loop. At the 1200m mark Collin emerged from the woods in the lead of the race, followed closely with Crystal Lake South's Becker, the same runner he battled last week. Both charged the hill stride-for-stride and worked hard to edge each other around each of the turns. Victor, Jason, Avedis, and T-Bone were packed very well through the mile mark; while quite visibly feeling the heat, they were racing strong and supporting each other very well. Jack and Lance were in very close proximity not far behind, and racing strong as they entered the woods for the second time. On the hill leading to the third mile, Becker edged Collin and gained a 15m lead that he would maintain throughout the rest of the race, yet Collin kept on pace and refused to roll over. Victor was pushing just ahead of Jason and Avedis, with T-Bone falling back and Lance making some nice gains on the corners. Becker won the race and Collin hung on for a nice 15:37 finish and 2nd place medal! Jason emerged ahead of his pack and finished as our second man (18:07), with Victor (18:18) and Avedis (18:21) not far behind. Lance had a tremendous kick and finished at 19:32, with T-Bone (19:43) and Jack (19:51) rounding off the ZB pack. The Bees placed 12th/19 teams.
An hour later it was time for the F/S pack to take the line. By this time it was in the mid 80s and the runners were sweating just standing at the line. The pack offered no complaint, however, as they soaked their hair and kept their strides sharp. At the gun they surged forward in great form and the race had begun! When they came out of their first loop the first ZeeBee was Mark, who was racing well in the top 15, with Brandon, Jaime, and Anthony not far behind. Anthony was clearly taking a big risk today, and he looked even and relaxed. Nathan was fighting hard, while Ardem was running with a huge smile on his face, clearly enjoying the competition. Salvador and Junior went through the mile in close proximity, and Alex and Adrian were racing strong a bit farther back. Into the third mile the entire field looked deflated and HOT, but the Bees were fighting hard and giving everything they had. When they came into the finishing field, I was proud to see that each man kicked hard as they rounded the field and surged into the chute. Mark closed in hard and caught a runner in the final steps to early a 19th place ribbon (19:29)! Brandon closed his race admirably at 20:16, with Anthony keeping his pace and finishing for a full 90s PR (our only one of the day!) for 20:23! Jaime beat out two runners in the final steps for 20:52, and Nathan caught four runners in the final meters for a fine finish (22:03). Ardem caught a Waukegan competitor in the final steps for 23:58, and Salvador rolled in at 24:14. Junior had an astonishing kick as well, punching through a wall of runners to break into their pack right in the final steps for 25:00. Adrian (30:00) and Alex (30:17) rounded off our pack for the day as the Bees took 7th/14 teams.
It was a very challenging day. The heat took a toll on the team, but they pushed well through the pain and heat. Congratulations to Mark and Collin for their race awards, and particular recognition needs to be awarded the F/S pack for their finishing moves today. These kicks were, without a doubt, the strongest I have seen from them this season. They represent the epitome of stepping outside the comfort zone and pushing aggressively to the finish--no matter the conditions. They had the toughest racing weather of the meet, and still made the most of their race. In addition, Anthony's PR today (by a minute and a half!!!) showed that a committed athlete can still take advantage of the conditions and racing opportunity to find success.
This coming week we have our final shot at the home course on Tuesday! I anticipate great racing as we prepare for another warm meet and great competition!
Dawson invite 9.16.17
It was with great excitement that we set out for Warren's course today for the Blue Devil Invite...soon to be renamed in honor of Coach Dawson. While we have enjoyed moderate temperatures all week, today we saw a significant spike in temperatures that rose to nearly 90 by midday. Still, we had encouraged the runners to hydrate and we showed up ready to compete hard on the flat course. There was a new design this year that eliminated the tennis court hill and put the finish line in the stadium. When we arrived and walked the loop, the runners showed visible enthusiasm and energy for this great opportunity. By the day's end we would see their hard work pay off with many nice PR achievements!
The Frosh-Soph pack took the line first, with a box dead center in the line and in good position for the open start. From the gun, the men worked hard and by the 800m mark they were racing in great shape. Jaime was pushing to lead our pack, and behind him Nathan and Alexis were pushing hard together against the large field. Adrian, Ardem, Alex, and Junior were rolling hard and by the time they reached the third mile I could see them taking advantage of every corner with hard steps. Jaime rolled hard into the stadium as our first man and earned his fourth consecutive PR with 19:53, breaking 20 for the first time! Nathan was just behind him with a finishing kick that made a spectator curse in glee; he surged in for a huge PR at 20:13! Across the stadium Alexis was surging to a big PR finish as well for 20:52, with Salvador just behind him at 20:57, racing his fastest since Deerfield. Ardem dropped nearly a minute for his PR 22:48 finish, with Junior punching over a minute as well for his 23:19 PR! Alex dropped over a minute for his PR 26:42, with Adrian rounding off the pack with a strong finish and 28:21 time. Great job, F/S pack! Six PRs!
The Varsity took the line next as the heat intensified. They looked a little restless and were visibly sweating even before the gun. But they surged forward in nice form with the pack and were racing strong in the first mile. Collin took an early lead and fought off a Warren competitor in the first mile, until it became evident that his only true competitor of the day would be Crystal Lake South's Becker. With the pack racing hard behind him, Collin fought Becker through mile 2, each alternatively taking the lead of the race until Becker pulled away in the last mile. Collin gamely kept his pace, which was set up well in the first two laps for a remarkable finish and PR time of 15:05! Victor led the rest of the pack for the second mile, but Avedis tucked in for a great third mile and finished as our second man with a nice kick and 17:17 finish (just one second off of his PR!), with Victor (17:46), Jason (17:58), Alex (18:04), T-Bone (18:24), and Mark (18:54) packed pretty closely. The Zee Bees placed 12th out of 18 teams this year.
With the sun increasing in intensity, the decision was made to amend the distance of the final Open race to two miles instead of three. This was unfortunate for Kevin, Lance and Jonathan--they were all looking forward to the opportunity for a PR in the standard distance. It may have been, however, a wise decision for the health of the runners competing this late in the day. With only two miles, these three men launched in with remarkable intensity and raced really well. Kevin and Lance worked well in the top third of the race for 12:15 and 12:33 finishes, with Jonathan running a great race at 13:36. They both had great finishes and worked well despite the heat.
Seven PRs today made for a nice day, and Collin took home a nice award for his achievement. I am proud of how well the pack worked in the intense heat, and especially how the F/S pack is improving. We will need to continue this hard work as we move forward.
Lake Zurich 9.12.17
The ladies and men of ZBXC journeyed back to the Lakewood Forest Preserve tonight for the second time this season and squared off against Lake Zurich and Waukegan. The warm evening air slowly cooled as the men warmed up, but a persistent sickness was taking its toll on our team. While only one of our runners sat out due to sickness, the rest were more or less affected in some way. Still, they went out ready to make what gains they could on this familiar course.
I changed up our strategy for the top runners today. Correctly predicting that LZ would run its top men in a workout, and feeling the strain of the week already, I had the top men go out consistently for two miles at a pace I had determined, and then hammer the third. The majority of the team ran it as a race, and looked good doing it. Collin took out lead, behind Burns of LZ and Garcia of Waukegan, and held his pacing exactly. There was pack of over a dozen LZ runners before our pack of five: Victor, Jason, Alex, T-Bone, and Avedis. These five worked really well together, and at the mile mark Kevin, Mark, Jack, and Brandon weren't far behind. Kevin and Jaime were both enveloped in packs of Waukegan runners, and I was happy to see Anthony racing tall in his second meet of the season. Nathan and Alexis closed in to pack up on Jonathan, with Salvador hanging back a ways--Ardem and Junior took nice risks to work up to him by the midpoint. Adrian tacked onto a LZ runner and would spend the race competing hard with him.
With a mile left, Jason and Victor had fallen off a bit and Avedis was leading the pack with strength. Collin paced off very well to hit the chute at 15:57, right around where he had intended. Mark, Lance, and Kevin were in close proximity as well, which was nice to see as they worked hard on the second half. Avedis proved to be our second man in with a kick of perfect form for 17:57, followed by Tristan (18:12), Alex right by his side (18:13), Victor (18:38), Jason (18:42), and Mark (18:49) to round off our top seven. Kevin sprinted hard in at 19:26 with Lance just behind him (19:31). Jack had a solid finish at 19:54 with Brandon just a couple dozen meters behind him at 20:08.
Jaime drove in hard for a fantastic PR time, 20:30, lengthening his PR streak to three consecutive races! Jonathan rolled in hard at 21:26, with Anthony (22:16), Nathan (22:36), Alexis (22:37) not far behind. Salvador finished at 22:59, with Arden (24:41), Junior (25:16), and Adrian (27:44) rounding off the Zee Bee pack. For Adrian this was a particularly nice race--he dropped over three minutes from his past PR at our home course! Congratulations to both Jaime and Adrian for their PR races tonight!
We beat Waukegan and lost to LZ in points, but still had a nice evening. Though for some of the men it was a workout and not a true race, they all responded well to conditions and held fast in what I had asked them to do. This was a heavy week: bump up in long run mileage, a hot meet the next day, a longer workout planned for Thursday, and two morning practices. This is a constructive week for us as we train for the end of the season successes. We also are excited for the prospect of the flat Warren course this coming weekend. Hopefully we can shake the sickness and set new milestones this week in the evolving and exciting journey this season. Keep up the good work, men!
We had a fantastic trip to the annual First to the Finish Invite in Peoria. Leaving the rain behind, we enjoyed beautiful weather the night before for a quick run of the course, and the nine Varsity men looked in great form for their starts and finishes. We upheld the tradition of going out for an Italian meal and an evening shopping expedition before hashing out team goals later in the hotel. The next day began with a crisp, cloudless morning and a hearty waffle breakfast as the men prepared for their race. With a schedule change from last year, the Open races moved to earlier in the day and the AAA levels would run last. We arrived at the course and as the weather warmed and we prepared for our 1:40 race time.
We had spent quality time setting goals the night before, with the simple focus of stepping up and making a solid team improvement this season. We found ourselves in box #1 to the far left of the line and with the run-outs completed the men looked ready to go. The temps had spiked to a hot 78 with little breeze, and a haze of dust hung over the course from the races before. At the gun, the pack shot forward with a straight aim toward the first turn. In the first 400, Collin got out in great position with the rest of the pack melting together. As per their intention, the ZeeBees were able to group their pack together in the first 800 and were racing hard into the mile. Collin rolled at the 1000 meter mark tied for fourth place.
Collin held himself at 13th at the mile, splitting a respectable 4:40 and settling into a nice pace. The next pack came through in the mid 5's, with Victor, Alex, Jason, and Avedis holding in close proximity. T-Bone, Kevin, Lance, and Mark were close behind and strung back amid the crowd. They showed great form as they opened up down the hill at the mile and race into the back acres toward the halfway point. Collin was still in the top 20 at the two mile, splitting 5:01. When he reached the final 800m he was tiring a little, and finished with a consistent kick into the chute for 20th place and a 15:12 medal finish! This is his second medal finish and the highest placement by a ZeeBee at this meet. It also was a nice season best and is only 2s off of his PR from last year.
Jason out-kicked Victor and had a nice finish for 17:33, but Victor was just behind him at 17:35 and it earned him a 5s PR! Alex and Avedis were next, with Alex dropping 2s for a lifetime PR 17:47 and Avedis rolling in at 17:50. This was a nice close grouping for these four men, and our next four were also quite close together. T-Bone had a nice kick for 18:34 with Lance right behind him at 18:40, his tremendous kick gaining him ten positions in the final 30m for an 8s season best. Kevin was just three seconds behind at 18:43 and Mark rounded off the pack at 19:04. Overall we took 36th out of 47 teams.
Two PRs and two Season Bests was nice, but overall the entire field didn't seem to race to particularly fast times. I know that our pack has much work to do and faster times to attain, but their raced smartly and held together much better today than in any meet we have run so far this year. The speed will come as we hone our kicks and slowly bring down the second and third mile times, but their racing strategy is sound and we posted some nicer times than in the past few meets. Their time for greatness is fast approaching and this group is really coming together well. It was a nice reset and I look forward to the upcoming race week as we take on LZ and Waukegan and then head out to Blue Devil next Saturday.
The Bees had a great surprise home meet Tuesday, as our original plan to run at Warren's course was thwarted with residual flood damage. We hosted Libertyville and Warren under gray skies with a chilly breeze atypical of the first week in September. But the course was in wonderful shape and the day itself shaped up into one of growth and progress.
We knew going in that our numbers hardly stacked against the sea of blue and orange jerseys, but I urged the men to own the home advantage and race to break up their packs. The start was gutsy and exciting, with Collin pushing hard at Tamm's heals. Warren and Libertyville both inserted packs in front of our varsity, but our guys held on gamely. The original plan was the stick together for the first mile, but by the 1200m mark they had spread out with Victor leading the charge and Jason, Avedis, Alex, and T-Bone trailing but running strong. I was particularly excited to see our younger runners taking risks and stepping outside their comfort zones. Jonathan, Salvador, and Alexis were racing tall and with particular strength and this point, Lance and Brandon had packed together (which they would maintain for over two miles), and our freshmen were competing hard!
At the two mile mark Collin rolled through, still in second, at 10:25. Our upper pack was visibly tiring as well, but still had nice finishing miles. Collin came through at 15:45, and Jason led the next pack in for 13th place and 17:35. Victor (17:44), Avedis (17:52), Alex (17:55), T-Bone (18:06), and Mark (18:48) rounded off the top seven. For Mark this was a huge PR, by nearly 50 seconds!
Lance was next at 19:02, breaking away from Brandon (19:17) in the final mile; both had really solid kicks into the chute. Jack surged in for a PR 19:34, and most of those following him would earn personal bests today as well! Jonathan ran three seconds faster than his Deerfield time for 20:50 and surged in just ahead of a Libertyville competitor. Alexis dropped over 30s for a huge 21:17, with Jaime finishing right next to him (21:17) for over a minute over his previous best on Saturday! Nathan dropped seven seconds from Deerfield with a mighty kick and 21:28 finish, and Salvador was close behind at 21:49. Ardem had a particularly aggressive last mile for a PR 23:36. Junior finished in great for at 25:56, with Alex (28:19) and Adrian (30:52) both running monster PR times as well!
Overall we did lose in points to both teams, but the reset and energy shown tonight showed nice progress. The growth on the younger side of the team is indicative of their hard work and the great potential they have if they continue to hold true with their training. The Varsity raced a little flatter than we had planned, and will need to close some gaps as they hone their strategy and look for a higher point value moving forward. They did help push the younger guys to some excellent racing successes tonight, and as a team this was a solid race.
I need to give a huge shout out to the many alumni who showed up tonight to support us! Gunnar, Josh, Michael, Kenneth, Freddy, Jackie, David, Jaime--you all ROCK! Jackie, Michael, and Freddy are also preparing for their own post-high school race season as they run for CLC this fall! Thank you to all parents and fans who came to support this great team!
rebel invite 9.2.17
We entered the Rebel Invite for the first time in recent memory, traveling just north to the renowned UW-Parkside XC course today. This is a picturesque and very hilly course, but one that our men have come to really enjoy. On a beautiful Saturday morning the team showed great progress in their races and a solid reset from our experience on Wednesday at Lake County. This course is 5K, not 3.0 miles, which does not lend itself to good timing comparisons, but the Bees ran excellent races and looked good doing it!
The Varsity was limited to eight, and Lance ran in the JV race. I chose, also, to race our F-S men in the JV 5K instead of in the F-S 4K. The Varsity set goals of pack work and on a strong first half on the long uphill start, and I challenged them to find advantages in the secluded wooded third mile and to launch hard into their finishes. They did just that. From the outset, Collin tacked alongside Libertyville's Tam, a solid competitor, and they were racing side-by-side as they neared the second mile. Jason, Victor, and Avedis packed very closely, with Alex and T-Bone in close proximity. Tristan really pushed himself to make it into this pack, and I was very impressed. KD and Mark rounded off the Zee Bee pack, with all racing in the top half of the field at the halfway point.
In the woods, Collin took a lead on Tam but fell back in the final 800m to take a respectable third place medal finish (16:10). Jason surged in as our second man (18:03), with Victor (18:39) and Avedis (18:51) as our third and fourth. Alex and T-Bone raced stride-for-stride for fantastic finishes at 18:56 and 18:59 respectively, with Kevin (19:33) and Mark (19:44) rounding off the pack. The Bees placed 16th/23 teams.
In the JV race, Lance and Brandon went out together and raced hard as the two top Bees. They were together at the halfway point, but Lance turned on the afterburners in the third mile and surged in with a beautiful 300m kick to finish as our first man (19:34), placing 44th out of a field of 302 men. Brandon was close behind at 19:57 and he had a nice sprint as well. Jack had a great race and ran with particular strength on the hills for 20:30, and Salvador donned his new spikes and raced in great form again as our first freshman for 21:22. Jaime, Jonathan, Nathan, and Alexis paired up as a great racing quartet, finishing at 22:20, 22:22, 22:28, and 22:30--a wonderfully close spread! For Jaime, this was also a big PR from his time at Lake County! Ardem rolled in hard at 24:58 with Junior close behind at 25:31. Alex finished with strength at 29:48 and Adrian ran his first high school race at 33:32! The Bees finished overall 12th/18 teams.
I had told the team that the times didn't matter today. We don't race the same distance, and even without hills it would be safe to assume we'd be ~30s slower on a 3.1 than a 3.0. What I asked was effort and competition. The men responded very well and competed hard today. They worked the hills with strength and showed immense growth from earlier in the week. We turned over a new leaf and revealed that we can make changes when we need to. Most importantly, the teamwork today was notable. Whether racing, stretching, warming up, or just cheering on the other races, the men worked together and motivated each other. The mentality will be crucial as we move forward to a home meet Tuesday and Varsity trip to Peoria on Saturday. Keep up the good work, Bees!
Lake county 8.30.17
Our second meet of the year, and our first major competition, took place at the Lakewood Forest Preserve in Wauconda on a warm, humid Thursday night. The combination of heat and humidity made this a challenging course for us today, though the Bees went out and competed well. It would, however, prove to be a meet that we chose to put behind us as a learning opportunity as we look forward to the weekend.
The Varsity raced first tonight. The temperature edged 80 with a dusty filtered sunshine. The course was in good shape, and we put nine men in the race. I urged them to pack together and push hard in the middle mile, but they proved quickly worn down as they fought for solidarity and control of the second half of the race. Collin went out well with the lead pack, though Barrington's Laning and Libertyville's Tam took control early on and led the entire way. The rest of our pack worked to find each other in the first mile, but the volume of runners and the narrow trail near the mile mark stymied this plan. In the second half I was pleased to see Victor make a bold move and race as our second man, with Jason and Alex not far behind. Avedis faded back toward Kevin and T-Bone, with Lance bringing up the back of our crew. Collin gamely held on for a ninth place medal finish (15:53), and Victor did finish as our second runner (17:56). Jason rolled in at 18:22 and Alex was right behind him at 18:28, with Avedis holding on to our fifth spot (19:07), followed by KD (19:22), Mark in his first season race (19:37), T-Bone (19:38), and Lance (19:56). It was a challenging race and we saw some nice scoring from our local competitors. Mundelein easily won with five runners in the top ten; Libertyville, Lake Forest, and Stevenson also topped us tonight. The Bees took 11th/15 teams.
The environment had cooled substantially for the Open/JV race later on, and our young pack looked good in the warm-up. This was a massive race, and it was neat to see how they reacted to the pace and intensity. Brandon went out with gusto and went on to finish as the first Zee Bee at 37th/226 runners (19:52). Jack was our second man with a fantastic kick, which put him ahead of a group of four just as he crossed the timing mats (20:34). We had a long gap before our third man, which was Jonathan on his birthday with a great final sprint (21:38). Salvador was next as our first frosh-soph runner (21:45), followed by Anthony in the first race of his high school career (21:57). Alexis and Jaime surged in together at 22:31, with Nathan just ten seconds behind (22:41). Ardem and Junior both had tremendous, gutsy kicks for 24:15 and 24:27 respectively--for Ardem this was a 1s PR over his time at Deerfield! Alex (29:56) was our final man in for the day, bringing home a 9th place finish out of 11 teams in this race.
In sum, this wasn't our finest racing day but it was a very important one. We discussed in great detail how we fell short of our goals, and left some racing opportunities on the field. I was please to listen to the men dissect their performances and frame their goals for Saturday. Races like this one happen, and a team that can move on with a renewed frame of reference and hunger can certainly grow and make positive gains--I am certain this team has what it takes to do just that!
The Bees opened the season in great form at Deerfield on Thursday night. Temperatures dipped to very comfortable mid 70s with the setting sun and the flat, open course facilitated a positive racing environment as the men of ZBXC squared off against the Deerfield squad. Though outnumbered as usual in the 3 mile race, the men ran very well and set some fantastic times!
With Deerfield's top runner doing a tempo for injury relief, I asked Collin to do the same thing. He held back nicely on his pacing but his passion pushed him to open his stride and exceed his split goals; however, he led the field by a healthy distance with a 5:10 average and 15:29 finishing time. This is quite a bit faster than his 15:48 here last year. On Collin's finishing lap, a large buck found itself trapped in the open field and grew increasingly agitated. The deer then charged toward the treeline, seemingly on a collision course with our runner, but thankfully the buck narrowly avoided Collin and passed safely into the woods. That was close!
I asked the Junior pack to pace off at 5:45 as a pack in the first mile and then see what they can do individually from there. Deerfield put a pack ahead and a pack behind them in the first mile, which urged them to push outside their comfort zones. They work very well together, and this solidarity shone through in the race. Avedis and Jason pulled ahead by the halfway point, with Victor and T-Bone not far behind. Kevin was swarmed early on by a large group of Deerfield runners that he would fight for the first two miles, and our pack spread out from there. I was very pleased to see maroon jerseys in pairs and threes instead of alone, and then to see our runners push with extra strength in the second half of the race. Collectively, the team had great kicks into the finish.
With Collin in first, Deerfield put runners in ranks 2-7 and effectively won the meet. Avedis and Jason pressed hard together to the finish as our second and third men, sprinting hard for huge PRs. Avedis was clocked at 17:16, breaking 18 for the first time in his life and earning a 47s PR! Jason was a half step behind at 17:17, also running a monster PR of 35s. Victor finished not far behind in the first XC race of his life at 17:40 (!). Alex and T-Bone pressed hard together and both had amazing kicks to also go sub-18 for the first time in their lives! Alex's 17:49 is a 28s PR, and Tristan's is one by 41s. Kevin surged in next for a 10s PR (18:19), with Lance working hard for a nice 18:48 finish despite a leg injury. Brandon kicked in at 19:11 for a 35s PR and Jack followed at 19:37 for a 41s PR. Jack's achievement is especially notable, since he has finally broken the PR that stood since 2015!
Jonathan and Salvador had a great race supporting each other, and pushed together right into the chute as our 11th and 12th men at 20:53. The tie went to Jonathan, who beat his 21:43 best from Blue Devil last year by 50s! This was Salvador's first race and a great first time. Nathan (21:35) and Alexis (21:49) ran strong first races as well, with Ardem (24:16), Junior (24:21), and Alex (29:27) rounding off the pack.
I am very proud of the growth shown tonight. Of those who have raced before eight ran PR times! This was also the first XC race ever run by seven of our runners. What struck me most is the common hunger for racing. There are years when teams develop this late in the season, or never at all, but this passion for pushing outside comfort zones is present and has already led to some nice breakthroughs. We have a top pack pushing into the mid 17s and continuing to evolve. We have a solid mid-pack that is evolving faster than I could have imagined. And our frosh-soph runners are taking racing seriously. In our post race debrief, the growth mindset evident in their discussion has made their coach very proud. This team can achieve great things this season, and they are off to an amazing start. Well done, Bees!
Check out our race photos on Instagram below!
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1. 14:59 Collin @State
2. 16.59 Avedis @Regionals
3. 17:17 Jason @Deerfield
1. 19:01 Jack @Lake Forest
2. 20:36 Jonathan @Conf.
1. 18:16 Anthony @Conf.
2. 18:40 Brandon @Lk. Forest
3. 19:01 Salvador @Lk. Forest