It is bittersweet to encounter the end, but it is the most wonderful feeling in the world to see hard work through the finish line. The men's 2018 Cross Country season ended this weekend at the Regional race at Libertyville's Adler Park, and while no Zee Bees advanced, it was a hard-fought and well-raced competition that saw our final seven men take their best shots at greatness. While it was not the outcome we had hoped, we brought 100% effort to the line--and I could not be more proud of the pack that finished the day.
We stepped off the bus onto the picturesque course that had dried a bit since we last saw it this week. The morning sunshine and moderate breeze kept the temperatures in the mid 40s, while the colorful autumnal landscape lent a sense of change and purpose to the task our men and women committed to in this race. The hills were challenging, but it would be challenging for everyone. The race would be fast, but it was an opportunity to push with a fast pack. And like the leaves turning color, it was chance to turn a corner in our racing mindset and put a hungry pack into an engaging and trying race. And they had new colors too--they wore the Varsity yellow jerseys reserved for only the top races. Tristan, Miguel, Andrew, Jason, Mario, Marcos, and Victor took the line for the men's team.
Fortified with Breathe Right nasal strips and a very positive energy, the pack warmed up down the hill and surveyed the ongoing women's race. We were pleased to see that the course had drained a bit since we saw it earlier in the week, and cheered on the efforts of our women as they surged up the final hill toward the two mile mark. After a crisp dynamic warm-up, they pinned on numbers and worked their way over to the box for check-in and strides. Lance brought a new chant to pump up the pack, and it was wonderful to see the renewed sense of camaraderie in this team at this crucial moment.
The gun sounded and the pack surged off the line. Tristan leaped over an opponent who tripped before they had even exited the box, and the pack rolled hard down the opening hill. It was clear from the start that this was going to be a fast pace. In the opening 800m Victor took the lead for our pack in the top 20 of the race with Jason and Miguel not far behind. Andrew was working hard as our #4 and the next group was a solid pack: Mario, Marcos, and Tristan. They rolled well down the hill, and I was able to catch them as they headed toward the mile mark. Victor had slowed a little and Miguel had just overtaken Jason, and only three jerseys separated Jason from Andrew. Marcos led the trio he was rolling with. The Bees were racing well and it was clear that the hills were challenging the entire race.
It was at this time that we experienced a sudden shift in weather. The sunny morning suddenly changed with a cold front blowing in, and the sunlight was filtered through thick thunderhead clouds that pushed a very cold wind ahead of them. There were a couple scattered raindrops that would later turn to snow pellets!
At the midpoint of the race the Bees were fighting for position. Victor still led our pack and Miguel had solidified his role as the second, putting some distance on Jason. Tristan was just a few paces from Andrew's back and Mario was leading Marcos by a couple strides. The fatigue was hitting hard but they raced admirably down the hill and onto the final 400m stretch of the race. They charged up the hill in nice form and finished on empty. Victor rolled in had as our first man with a time of 17:31, taking 42nd place. Miguel kicked well as our second at 17:54, and Jason was behind him with a nice final surge for 18:30. Tristan finished well as our fourth man at 18:52, and Mario made a great move in the final 800m that saw him through a great finish as our fifth man--his first time as a scoring runner--with 18:59! Andrew was just behind him at 19:07, with Marcos kicking hard for 19:17 to round out the pack.
This was a fast Regional. The final individual qualifying runner to Sectionals was 26th and ran just under 17 minutes; none of the Bees were able to make it out. In comparison, last year it was the 40th runner that made it out and this year Victor was the 42nd. This wasn't the outcome we had hoped for, but it was a hard-fought race that saw this pack put all their skills on the line and test themselves. The aggressive mid-race moves and final kicks were more than admirable, and I could ask no more than the effort they showed this weekend. There wasn't one among them that had anything left in the tank. And thus, with snow pellets driving across what once was a sunny course, the 2018 season came to a conclusion for the men. We were able to celebrate the qualification of two women--Kelsey and Victoria--and vowed to push these two on as far as they could go. It's been a great run, Bees! I am so proud of you all.
We boarded the bus in high spirits as we returned to VHAC for a second crack at the course and a fresh day of racing in the NSC Championships. The weather had cooled during the latter half of the week, and we found a frosty ground that morning and temperatures that barely would crack fifty degrees. The nice racing day ahead was on our minds as we traveled to the course and set up the tent. We noticed that the flat course was thoroughly saturated with runny mud water, which oozed forth from the soft ground with every step.
The Varsity warmed up and took the line first. We were able to run ten men, and I was pleased to welcome Mario and Andrew J. to the Varsity squad for the first time this season! From the gun the pack got out in nice form. Victor took an early lead for the Zee Bee pack and was racing hard in the top twenty in the first mile. Jason maintained as our second man with Avedis not too far behind him with Miguel and Andrew F. on his heels at the mile mark. Marcos had our fifth position locked in with Mario and Tristan nearby; Lance and Andrew J. made up the balance of the pack. They looked very strong headed through the mile and into their second lap, but around the field the soggy ground was taking a heavy toll on their legs. Victor had slipped back a half dozen positions and Jason was working up on him; Miguel and Andrew F. were moving up well at the midpoint with Avedis slipping behind them. Tristan and Marcos found each other to race with, and Mario was within spitting distance at through the two mile.
Into the third mile much changed. Miguel surged up to pass both Victor and Jason to lead as our top man, and Andrew F. challenged himself well to power forward too. Tristan rolled up hard past Avedis, and Mario, Lance, and Andrew J. spread out along the path. Victor was still third and Jason fourth. They held these positions through the chute and kicked hard as they went in. Miguel kicked in as our first man at 17:32, with Andrew flying in second at 17:42. Victor (17:56), Jason (18:00), and Tristan (18:12) rounded out our scoring five. Avedis kicked in as our #6 (18:26), with Lance just behind him (18:29) in the top seven! Mario kicked in with a lifetime PR tie of 18:35 (tying his Warren race), with Marcos (18:39) and Andrew J. (18:53) rounding off the Varsity pack. Varsity placed 9th/10 teams, beating Waukegan.
The JV/Open race was our next one, and by this time the course was suffering from the traffic and turning long stretched into muddy runways with little traction! Jourdon launched out hard from the very start, with Brandon, Alexis, and Jack racing tall and Jaime tucked in closely behind a Stevenson runner. I saw a rival runner trying a sneaky ploy of stepping sharply in front of Brandon every time Brandon tried to go around him, but Brandon deftly gave up on the game and surged ahead to leave the offending runner in the dust. Our pack held their positions and gritted well through the second mile and into the third, and I could tell that the ground was taking its toll on their powerful strides. Jourdon surged in his signature kick, working past two runner in his final meters for a nice 19:19 finish! Brandon was our second man at 20:40, kicking in with Alexis at his side (20:41). Jaime ran 20:57 for a nice Season Best, and Jack rounded off the pack at 21:04. The JV men placed eighth.
The final men's race of the day was the Frosh/Soph men in the last race of their season. The weather had warmed up a bit but the wind was still quite cold. Nathan took an assertive stance and launched himself out hard. In the first mile he was running in the top ten of the race and looking great. Christopher was our second runner, leading a large pack at the mile mark. Isaac was racing well as our third man with Salvador 30m behind him. Alex looked to be running the race of his life, which was great to see considering the lingering knee pain he has been working through the last couple of weeks. Erwin and Jonathan were not far behind him, with Junior, Ardem, Durran, and Ian rounding off the pack. At the midpoint Nathan had faded back a bit and Chris was working up on him a bit. Erwin moved up on Isaac, and Junior passed up Alex at the two mile mark. Durran had found a great pace and was looking excellent with a mile left, and Ian had also set an aggressive pace.
Nathan kicked home as our lead man at 18:46, with Christopher kicking hard for a 19:29 finish. Erwin kept moving upward and was rewarded with a fantastic 20:11 lifetime PR as our third finisher! Isaac was just behind him for a 20:20 lifetime PR as well--and a perfect vindication for going the wrong way on this course last time we were here! Jonathan moved up on Salvador and they finished in close succession with Salvador at 21:20 and Jon at 20:26. Alex kicked hard for 21:59. In the third mile Durran kept up his pacing and rolled past Ardem, finishing with a monster kick for a huge 22:38 PR! Ardem logged 23:28 with a zesty finish, and Ian continued his fantastic progress with a nicely paced third lap. He kicked in for a lifetime PR 34:29 to round off our pack!
It was a challenging day with the mud, but we still raced well. There were five lifetime PRs today and great racing, especially from our younger guys who are just learning what it means to be at peak fitness. The Varsity made some nice moves and continued to shake things up--I am impressed by the mindset of not staying complacent and believing each man could achieve great potential. I look forward to seeing how this pack progresses over the course of the week as we head into Regionals this upcoming Saturday. Congratulations to all of the men who finished their Cross Country season today, and I hope to see your momentum push this team as far as it possibly can over the next couple of weeks!
We raced our final dual meet of the season tonight at the familiar Warren course. It was a cool day, consistent with the last few, with overcast skies and a temperatures in the low 60s. We have been nursing lots of soreness and injuries this week, and I had hoped for one great shot at PR times as we raced the course for the second time this season. Though a number of our runners held out, those who raced did so with great energy and focus as we took on Warren and Mundelein.
The weather was perfect for a race and the pack knew it. From the gun they went out competing with the sea of blue and red jerseys of the opponents. At the 800m mark there was a large top pack racing at the front, but not a single Bee in the mix. Victor was racing out in the open, with Avedis, Jason, and Miguel packed about 30m back. A large pack of Warren racers was punctuated by Andrew, Mario, and Lance, and Isaac was racing exceptionally strong just behind them; Chris was about 20m back. Jourdon started out racing with Brandon and at the mile mark made a nice move upward. Jack led the packed Erwin-Jonathan-Alexis trio and they worked incredibly well together. Ardem, Jaime, Junior, and Durran rounded off the pack and they looked great on the first two loops.
The third loop saw some nice moves made all-around. Victor had worked into the mix of the top back by the midpoint and Andrew J. and Mario had surged ahead of Lance, who was racing strong against a tenacious Warren opponent. Jourdon and Chris were matching each other stride-for-stride into the finishing loop, at which Jourdon applied his signature kick and surged ahead. It was at this point that Isaac realized that he had taken a wrong turn a ways back, and unfortunately had to remove himself from the race. Brandon was making great strides up toward Jack, and Alexis and Erwin had pulled away from Jonathan.
As they hit the final turn and the long straightaway into the chute, Victor was racing strong as our first man still. He finished strong at 17:01 for a 8s lifetime PR! Miguel was fighting through pain and charged home with a great kick as our second man at 17:18. There was a large gap until Jason rolled in as our third man at 17:51, followed by Avedis at 18:19. In quick succession Mario surged home for a huge 23s PR (18:35) with Andrew F. (18:36), Lance (18:37), and Andrew J. (18:40) racing strong as a great pack. For Andrew J. this was his first time breaking 19, racing himself a 31s PR over his time at Grant! For Mario, this was the first time he earned a spot as a scoring runner in our top five!
Jourdon was not far from this pack with a great kick that also earned him his first sub-19 race! He kicked to 18:59, dropping 27s from his time at Grant. Chris was just behind him at 19:17, cracking 20 for the first time for a huge 43s PR! And the successes kept coming! Alexis ran a season best and tied his lifetime PR from last season with 20:03--what progress! Erwin was just behind him at 20:18 and Jack at 20:23. For Erwin this was a huge 61s PR, and for Jack another in his great string of season bests, dropping 30s from his time at Grant. Brandon was next, fighting well through a bad side stitch but racing incredibly well for a season best 20:39--he dropped 72s from his time at Stevenson! Jonathan was just behind him at 20:49, with a huge 37s PR to break 21 for the first time in his life! Jaime kicked in for 21 flat and a Season Best as well. Junior surged home with an aggressive kick at 22:44, logging a lifetime PR by 15s! Durran also ran the race of his life, working well through his sore knees to race 22:53--dropping 57s for another big PR. Ardem kicked in as our final man, running a Season Best 23:16, dropping 74s from this time at Grant.
Wow! We totaled 9 lifetime PRs, 1 lifetime PR tie, and 5 Season Bests. Incredible.
Tonight is truly a testament to fitness and experience. The men, though battered by workouts, season-changing weather patterns, and occasional sickness, ran incredibly strong. They took the racing lessons learned on this course and the nine other races this season and raced strong. They took a small meet environment and turned it into a major opportunity. The course even measured long tonight--somewhere between 3.05 and 3.09--so they actually did these feats on a longer course than usual. Their in-race communication and teamwork carried the day. I am incredibly proud of this progress and cannot wait to see what the following weeks hold for this team! Great work tonight, Bees!
We headed down to the VHAC for the first time tonight to race Stevenson's home course for the first time since they switched over from Half Day Forest Preserve. We left in heat in the 80s but as we drove south felt the winds changing. As we arrived to the course we were greeted by an ominous storm front slowly moving across the sky and a flat course that ran along the outside of the playing fields. We smartly warmed up and the men sorted themselves out into their pace groups for the workout were had planned for today.
We took the line and the official promptly fired the gun. Lake Forest and Stevenson runners raced off and our men packed up in the first mile. Avedis, Jason, and Miguel packed up as the first Zee Bees with Victor settling in a few dozen paces back. Tristan led a smart pack with Nathan, Andrew F., and Lance, and our next pace group comprised Mario, Andrew J., and Jourdon--Isaac was racing up right behind them as well. Jack found himself surrounded by a Stevenson pack, and Alexis and Chris worked up close to him. Jonathan, Erwin, Brandon, and Hornilo were our next string of racers, with Ardem and Durran working well together through miles one and two. Ian made great progress as well and had a nice pace going.
As the runners finished their second loops I could see that they were generally missing their time targets and flagging. Whether it was the hydration or abbreviated warm-up, our top runners had settled a bit back, and the mid pack had strung out a bit. As soon as the first runners charged into the chute, the lightning warning across the field sounded and the storm front was suddenly upon us. The official permitted several minutes to pass as racers finished their last loop, and pulled Durran, Ian, and Ardem from the course. As we sprinted across the field to grab the gear and usher the runners to safety, the rain began with scattered massive droplets. Stevenson raced against the storm to gather their equipment and we hurriedly handed in our finishing cards and began scrambling toward the buses--over a quarter mile away.
It was at this point that the inexorable deluge commenced. With over 200m to go, the last runners and I were suddenly slammed the blasting wall of rain that reduced visibility and made the beckoning headlights of the distant bus seem ever farther away. We made the bus thoroughly soaked and begun the slow slog north through traffic.
In total we were not expecting much by way of PR races, as I was focusing tonight on the consistency of workout pacing. Isaac G., however, did run a lifetime best race! He dropped seven seconds from his time at Shiloh to log a fantastic 20:48 PR! Brandon also ran a season best time 22:51, dropping a lot of time from his season opener at Lake County. Nice work Isaac and Brandon! The rest of our times were as expected, but it was an experience we would not soon forget.
JT Invite 9.22.18
We returned for the second running of the JT Invite at the Bulldog Athletic Complex in Fox Lake this last weekend. Last year we were stymied by the intense heat and fought hard on the steep hill in the middle--there were some grumblings in the anticipation of this year as well, but our runners showed up ready to compete. It was an abnormally quiet ride out on the bus, but it appeared this was simply the runners saving energy for the competition.
We walked the course in the cool 60s morning, with the sun rising in a sky spotted with interesting clouds. The F/S women opened the day with some nice racing, and our F/S men were next. From the gun it was evident that their apparent lethargy of the morning was gone--they went out in great form! Salvador surged out to lead the Zee Bees in the first mile loop, and he was determined to keep the great pace. Chris was just behind him in the first mile, with Alex leading Isaac G. and Erwin. Junior was close behind, with Ardem a minute out and racing strong. And in just his second race of the season, Durran was racing at his best. The second loop saw the pack holding strong in their positions, and when they raced into the final 400m they began impressive kicks. Salvador continued to lead our men right into the chute, racing to 19:50 and breaking his PR from last year by 8s! Chris surged in just behind him at 20:00, earning a 29s PR (and fourth consecutive)! Isaac kicked hard to come hom at 21:18, with Erwin a second behind him for a 34s PR! Alex charged home with a mighty kick that earned him a huge 51s PR (and third consecutive) time of 21:30! Junior was next, crisply kicking past a number of opponents right into the chute for 23:25, a 2s Season Best! Seconds later Durran kicked hard right through the finish, racing 23:50--and dropping a MONSTER 5:34 PR over his time at Lakewood this season! Ardem rounded off the pack and earned his third consecutive SPR by 3s with 24:30. It was a fantastic first race of the men's team this morning!
The Varsity took the line next, seven strong. They pushed out with the gun, and in the first mile Victor took the lead of the ZeeBee pack in nice form. Avedis was rolling right behind him near the mile mark with Jason four men back, followed by Andrew, Marcos, Nathan, and Tristan. By the midpoint the Varsity spread out a bit, with Victor holding steady in the pack's lead slot--but Andrew put on the boosters and worked up in great form. Victor kicked home for a 25th place ribbon (17:16), and Andrew surged in as our second man at 17:35--a 33s PR! Jason was right on his back as he kicked home for 17:42 and a well-run second half. Avedis rolled in as our fourth man at 18:23, with Marcos moving up to an 18:27 finish just behind him. Nathan and Tristan rounded off the pack at 18:45 and 18:52 respectively, both catching opponents in the final 100m! Overall the Varsity placed 10th out of 19 teams and charted a 1-5 split of just 71 seconds.
The final race of the day was a monster Open race with both men and women! It was a great opportunity for the men to experience racing in a large race environment, and for the entire remaining ZBXC team to work together. From the gun I could tell that this would be no ordinary race. Miguel went out hard ready to seize a Varsity spot next week. He was in second place until the hill before the mile mark, at which point he kicked uphill past the LF leader and then proceeded to widen the gap. By the mile mark he had 30m on the nearest opponent, and at two mile he had over a commanding lead of over 150m on the rest of the field! I could not have been more proud of the effort. Lance and Mario were racing as our second and third men, with Andrew just tailing them as the three worked together. Jourdon settled as our fourth man in the first half, and then steadily moved upward. Jack was back racing after injury, and Alexis was pulling on him in the opening mile. Ian was racing strong in the fourth race of his season and was making great time!
Miguel dusted the competition and ran 17:41 to win handily! Lance, Mario, and Andrew continued their great upward progress and each came home with ribbons as well! Lance finished as our second man at 18:48 for 12th place, Mario ran 19:02 for 16th place, and Andrew took 18th place at 19:11--with a 15s PR! Jourdon just missed the ribbon table but threw down a tremendous kick for 19:26 and an 8s lifetime PR! Kevin wasn't far behind at 19:49, and Alexis and Jack kicked side-by-side into the chute not long after. Alexis edged jack for a 20:52 Season Best, and Jack earned his fourth Season Best with 20:53! Ian rounded off our pack with a great kick into the finish (amid a howling gauntlet of excited ZBXC runners!) for 34:58--a huge 2:35 PR!
It was a great race day, to say the least. The mindset shift they displayed in approaching the course based on last year's experience was positive, but the eager racing and mighty kicks were sights to behold. I was very impressed with the teamwork and spirit of the day. This week has seen a great culture shift in our program, and I look forward to seeing where this momentum will carry us. Great racing, Bees!
Dawson Invite 9.15.18
The second running of the Dawson Invite (formerly the Blue Devil Invite) at Warren began with a beautiful sunlit foggy morning, that quickly burned off to toasty sunshine. The flat course offered fast racing opportunities and our men were excited as they boarded the bus for the short trip to Gurnee. After a short walk of the three-loop course, we were ready to begin the series of races with our Frosh-Soph pack.
The pack got off to a fantastic start. Isaac W. led the Zee Bees and never relinquished his pack lead, counting off his first mile at 5:51. Chris pushed himself as our second man, and packs emerged in the crowded field. In the final lap Isaac surged home as our first man, running a monster 51s PR for 19:16. Chris was our second with a great kick for 20:29, dropping a 19s and third consecutive PR! Isaac G. (21:52) and Erwin (21:53) pushed into the stadium side-by-side and kicked hard. For Erwin this was a 4s PR from his time at Deerfield and a great racing breakthrough. Jon fought aching legs for a 22:18 finish, and right on his heels was Alex, who logged a monster 300m kick that achieved a 29s PR and second of the week! Salvador rolled in a 22:45 with a nice sprint, and our next two runners each threw down Season Bests-- Junior had a great finish at 23:27 and Ardem at 24:33. Junior kicked past no less than four runners in the final ten feet! Our F/S pack opened the day with great racing!
Varsity was next, and the day was steadily heating up. Our seven Varsity men included two F/S runners who had earned the opportunity to "run up:" Marcos and Nathan. I was proud to see their decision and looked forward to what they could accomplish. The packed field pounded their thighs in anticipation and with the gun they were off! In the first 800m Victor took the lead of the Zee Bees in the top quarter of the race field. Marcos and Nathan were working up behind him, with Miguel leading a pack containing Avedis, Jason, and Andrew. By the midpoint Marcos had moved up significantly and was closing on Victor. Andrew and Nathan were moving up as well, but our pack was visibly withering in the heat of the race. I was pleased to see that the Bees were running in close proximity, but could tell that the second half was becoming incredibly challenging as the men pushed in the heat.
Our first Varsity runner in the stadium was Marcos, followed closely by Victor--but Andrew flew past him as soon as he hit the turf! Jason, Nathan, and Avedis kicked in next, with Miguel not yet in sight. Marcos flew into the chute and promptly collapsed from the exertion. He was revived in a giant vat of water and celebrated his awesome achievement of finishing as the first of our Varsity pack at 18:02. He also earned a top 10 Sophomore spot on our all-time list for this course! Andrew finished next, his excellent kick earning him a lifetime PR of 18:08, dropping 2s from his time at Peoria and earning the sole PR in the Varsity race! Victor was right on his heels at 18:12, with Jason powering through at 18:18. Nathan and Avedis were next, with Nathan's aggressive kick pulling ahead of his teammate for 18:25 and 18:29. Miguel worked gamely through chest tightness for a 19:31 finish. Our 1-5 split today was worked all the way down to TWENTY-THREE SECONDS! Wow! While it was relatively not the best of team finishes, we saw great effort--particularly in the second half.
Our JV/Upperclassmen raced in the last race of the day, when the sun was at its zenith and the heat pushing somewhere in the mid 80s. The mood was reserved as they took the line, for this pack had just watched the beleaguered Varsity stumble back to the tent. They knew the conditions were not feeling favorable, yet I simply asked for their best racing efforts. I saw their mindset strengthen as they undertook a couple snappy strides, and then it was time to launch off. The gun sounded and the men took the field.
To say that this pack stayed outside their comfort zones would be a gross understatement. They pushed hard and did not let up. Tristan, his long locks unrestrained, immediately took an authoritative lead for the Zee Bee pack. Lance and Mario found each other after the 800m mark and raced hard together. Andrew was next with Jourdan pacing 20m behind him by the midpoint, and Jack was racing through the week's injuries with great strides. Alexis was just behind him and moving from pack to pack, with Jaime battling a group of four opponents. Ian set a fantastic pace in his second 3 mile race of the season--while there were runners lapping him, he was undeterred and ran his own determined race.
I hurried to to the stadium just in time to see Tristan surged in for a monster kick and 18:26 finish, that would have put him as the sixth Bee in the Varsity race. Lance and Mario pulled and pushed each other into the stadium, with Lance outkicking his teammate at 18:52 and Mario running a 72s lifetime PR for an 18:59 finish--he completely bypasses the 19 minute range with his achievement! Andrew completed a beautiful PR race with a zesty kick as well, running a 24s best and breaking twenty for the first time (19:25). Jourdon kicked hard for a finish just twenty seconds later (19:44) with his signature finishing kick that pushed ahead of at least four opponents in the final stretch! Jack finished next with a great season PR--and second of the week--for 21:28. Alexis was just behind him at 21:39 with a very competitive final 300m and great finish. Jaime found great strength for his finish as well (23:39) and worked well in the heat; Ian finished next with a 58s lifetime best over his time at Home this week! This was only his second 3 mile race, and fought with incredible strength. Overall this team finished with the highest Zion-Benton placement of the day, placing 9th out of 16 complete teams.
I was very proud to see the day end on such a positive note. We filed into the stadium to celebrate Kelsey's trophy finish in the Women's Varsity race and Zoe's medal finish, and headed for home. I quickly tallied up the stats: 8 lifetime PRs and 3 Season Bests. To do so on such a hot day is also a notable achievement. While some runners have had better races, the team pulled together with great effort and in their unity showed great strength that inspired many to run the best races of their life. We will need to work on our overall consistency in the conditions, but the race provided both great opportunity for success and great opportunity for racing lessons. Nice work today, Bees! We approach a fresh week with no dual meet and our next exciting racing opportunity at JT this next weekend.
We ran the sole home meet of the season on Tuesday, accompanied by a beautiful afternoon and sunshine over Shiloh. Though there were a lot of tense muscles from the workout back home and the great racing at Peoria, we took the line again in strength against Libertyville. There was a substantial delay due to their late arrival, but we had many fans and alumni present to support us.
From the gun, the Zee Bees raced out well. Libertyville put their top pack to the front within the first 1000m, with Victor wedging himself in between and the rest of our men packed up nicely in small groups. At the midpoint I was pleased to see Victor racing among the opponents' top seven, withe Avedis rolling hard two runners back. Miguel, Jason, and Marcos were about 100m back at the duck pond, with Tristan and Nathan racing stride-for-stride. Andrew F. was close behind, with a large gap until our next group. Isaac W. had a pack with Lance and Andrew J., fighting four Libertyville runners with Jourdon charging just behind them as they reentered the woods. We were more spread out from there, with Mario, Chris, Isaac, Jon, and Alexis each separated by a runner apiece. Ian was racing strong in his first 3 mile race of the season, and I was pleased to see each of our runners pushing themselves out of their comfort zones as they entered the last mile of the course. It was a more conservative first mile for most, but our runners had clearly found their strides and were racing hard at the midpoint.
At the two mile mark Marcos surged ahead of Miguel and Jourdon moved up significantly to pass Andrew, Isaac, and Lance. I rushed to the final 400m and saw some nice kicks into the last quarter mile. Victor crossed the as the first scoring Zee Bee and broke up the perfect score of Libertyville (17:20), with Avedis kicking in as our second at 18:14. Marcos showed the same racing grit as his last races and was right on Avedis's heels for 18:19. Andrew F. charged in as our fourth man, a new upper position as he showed strong racing for 18:27. Nathan had a killer finish too at 18:32, with a pack close behind bringing Jason (18:42), Miguel (18:48), and Tristan (18:53) home.
This point started an outstanding string of PR finishes! Jourdon surged home for a 32s PR, breaking 20 for the first time! Andrew J. also broke 20 for the first time, charging home for 19:50 (12s PR) with Lance behind him (19:57). Isaac W. earned an 11s PR for 20:06, flying in with Mario (20:11) who logged an outstanding PR of 46s! Chris ran a 52s PR over his time at Lakewood (20:47), finishing just ahead of a monster kick by Isaac G. (20:55) for a 40s lifetime record! Alexis rolled well into the chute for 21:07, followed soon after by stellar finishes by Salvador (21:25), Jonathan (21:26), and Jack (21:39). For Jonathan this was a 7s PR and Jack a 22s Season Best. A minute later Erwin surged in at 22:14, followed by Jaime (22:35) and Alex at 22:50--for Alex this was a monster 46s PR! Junior scored a season best 23:59, dropping a whopping 2:10 over his time at Lakewood; Ardem also earned a SPR with a 1:35 drop from his time at Lake County with his 25:30 finish. I am so proud to see Ian's 38:31 finish and strong kick in his first 3 mile race finish!
Overall it took most of us a mile to warm/wake up, but when our athletes were racing they raced with fire. The middle and final miles were great efforts, and the finishes predictably on point. I was particularly excited to see the willingness to make moves in the woods leading up to the second mile mark. This isn't an easy area for push, and they did so with strength. The movement of our younger runners to ranks and places yet unexplored shows the true racing spirit and hunger of this pack. We together achieved EIGHT LIFETIME PRs, THREE SEASON BESTS, and saw one first 3-mile race. We dropped a total of 8 minutes, 13s of PR time in this race. Marcos and Nathan made the Sophomore Top 10 for the course records as well! Some of our younger guys also earned Varsity spots in the upcoming invite this weekend through their risk-taking. I also was pleased to have the great efficiency of our pack in setting up and taking down the course--this made the night even sweeter! I am proud of the effort and cannot wait to see what they can achieve as we move forward!
First to the Finish 9.8.18
We embarked upon a great journey with the Varsity pack this weekend as we traveled to Peoria for our annual overnight trip and running of the elite First to the Finish race at Detweiller Park. I challenged the ten men to push themselves with ambitious goals for the race, both for their times and for cohesive racing as a pack. On the trip down the rain started up and pounded relentlessly for over a hundred miles. Arriving at the course in the evening, we found muddy ground and continuing rain and wind. It felt refreshing after the hot week, but did not bode well for predicting fast racing times. The men bounded out and ran the course with ease, grinning as they surveyed the turns and actually feeling cold, a feeling rarely shared this season. With a couple crisp strides on the soft ground we were off to our hotel and dinner that evening.
Over Italian food, we discussed the course and our team's potential. Late into the night our team meeting discussed individual and team goals. There was little need for me to facilitate the conversation--the runners bounced ideas and strategies off of each other, realistically setting out their expectations for each other the next day. They framed a group mindset of hard racing despite the conditions, promising to get out with a frosty first mile and find each other for pack racing. We discussed the great potential we had to set a new benchmark for the season, and to make this race an example for the rest of the team to follow.
The next morning brought overcast skies that periodically appeared to threaten rain, and temps in the mid 50s. There was an omnipresent breeze, which sometimes felt uncomfortable. But the ground was dry, and upon our arrival at the course we discovered that much of the mud had firmed up and that the course was allowing fast times. In short, it was a much better racing day than we could have predicted, and with a short shopping spree at the Nike tent, the men were ready to realize their goals on the field. There were nerves in the box as they ran out and surveyed the 600 man field, but from box #6 we had a perfect straight shot for the first 500m and the willpower to make the race great. It was time.
The pack surged out with the gun, but ran a little more conservative as they were enveloped in the horde. By the 1200m mark they were working firmly in the race's current, and came through in great form at the mile. Victor led our pack at 5:15, with Kevin the caboose at 5:44--this was a great start and pushing them well out of their comfort zones. They battled well into the back loop and passed the midpoint trying to hold positions. The second mile showed they had collectively slowed a little but were still pacing incredibly well. Avedis was our first man through at 11:05, with Miguel, Victor, and Jason logging between 11:12 and 11:13! Marcos had settled back behind Nathan and Tristan, and next came Lance and Andrew with a dozen men between them at 12:05-12:08. Kevin rolled past at 12:30, his calves giving him trouble but still racing strong.
The last mile for the Bees was great too. The final strides into the chute were aggressive and complete--just the way we do things. While Avedis has traditionally been our first runner, Miguel held right with him as they surged into the chute, side-by-side, though the official deemed Avedis the first of the two finishers. They both earned 16:51 PR times! Victor powered in next for a 17:09 PR, and a half step behind him was Jason with a 17:10 PR. Tristan and Nathan surged in together to earn PRs together at 17:48 and 17:49, and Marcos kicked hard to break 18 for a PR 17:57. Andrew scored a huge PR at 18:10, and Lance kicked for a season best 18:25. Kevin finished hard at 19:00 with a mighty kick as well. In total this was eight lifetime PRs and one season best time. Miguel dropped 47s, Andrew a whopping 89s, Tristan 6s, Marcos 53s, Victor 8s, Jason 7s, Nathan 72s, and Avedis 8s. Lance ran 22s faster than his time at Deerfield. And they did all of this on a muddy course.
I am very proud of the effort and the results. Many of these runners had lifetime PRs from their peak races last year, and they have not broken them in the first third of the season. Several have made huge leaps in their first year of racing! They followed through on their promises to each other, and indeed set the bar for the rest of the season. They worked through soreness and pain, and most importantly worked for each other. The close pack racing we have been practicing is paying off. I cannot wait to see how they take the lessons and successes back to the rest of the team this week and push them to be even greater as a whole. We have two good opportunities to do so--our home course on Tuesday and Warren on Saturday. This proved to be the most satisfying pack trip to Peoria that I have had the pleasure to coach, and these men have amazing potential in the months ahead.
LZ/Waukegan Dual 9.4.18
We loaded up the bus on an unseasonably hot Tuesday for the trip out to Lakewood Forest Preserve. The weather was sunny and humid, with the heat index pushed past 100 in Zion, but a little cooler out in the county. We had trained in this sort of heat last week, and knew that a challenging race lay ahead with that sort of atmosphere. Our pack remained in good spirits, and when we arrived quickly set to work on a speedy warm-up and dynamic. We had but thirty minutes before taking the line against Lake Zurich and Waukegan.
I had asked the Varsity to run this as a workout, with mile time targets and a decreasing pace. The rest of our pack went out hard to race the course. I was pleased to see our packs form up in the first 800m and stick well into the mile, but from there the heat caught up with them and the plans evolved from a workout to what appeared for many a race of survival. Into the mile we had a solid group of five behind LZ's top seven, with the rest of our men working well in pairs and trios. Andrew F., Alex, and Jaime were back racing after taking time to recuperate from injuries this weekend, and Christopher made his racing debut as well.
The first mile followed predictably where our men typically rank in practice, but from there many changes occurred. By the midpoint, many began to fall back while some of our others shook things up and advanced to new territory in our pack. At the front, Marcos worked up to be running right with Avedis. Jourdon and Mario worked hard up to overtake Andrew J. and Isaac W. Many others slowly strung out and dropped pace in the heat, but gamely worked toward the finish. At the 400m to finish mark, I was pleased to see a collective reset and firm strides into the chute, no matter how the race had been going to that point.
Avedis finished with strength as our first man (18:49), behind the top six of LZ. Marcos had a hard kick and solid push to finish just a second behind him as our second, and very exciting position for him to have taken (18:50)! This was also a solid PR! We had solid kicks from our next pack, with Victor (19:01) rolling in hard with Jason and Miguel finishing side-by-side at 19:14 and Kevin two paces behind at 19:19. Lance led our next group in with a solid kick and 20:17 finish, with Nathan (20:28) and Tristan (20:36) not far behind. A mighty kick and upward surge in the pack sent Jourdon in a 20:57, his kick matched by Andrew F for the same finishing time!
Andrew J. fought hard with Mario to finish at 21:26 and 21:29 respectively, taking down three opponents in the final 100m. Christopher finished his first XC race with a respectable 21:39, with Isaac W. a step behind him at 21:40. Alexis (23:38), Isaac G. (24:06), Salvador (24:15) were next, working very well to the finish despite the pain and heat. Erwin had a great kick as well for at 25:00 finish, with Alex (25:40) and Jonathan next at 25:54. Junior surged in with a great kick at 26:09, with Jaime (29:06) and Ardem finishing next (30:09) to round off the pack. For Junior this was a season best, as we dropped nearly 90s from his race at Parkside!
It was a very challenging race. The conditions were not ideal, and it was clear many were not properly hydrated. The work ethic was unmatched, however, and through the challenges the Bees ran hard. There was some nice movement in the pack as men took risks and took ranks they had not run in before, shaking things up. The finishing kicks were stellar, especially considering the great drain of the race. We have many races ahead still--in presumably better conditions--but the effort and sacrifices tonight will serve only to strengthen this pack for top level racing. Keep up the good work, Bees!
rebel invite 9.1.18
The thunderclouds moved in ominously this morning as we traveled to Kenosha, WI to the challenging yet renowned UW-Parkside cross country course for the Rebel Invite. This is just our second year running this race, and I feel we were more prepared this year for the steep elevations and grit needed in the second half of the trails. It started to sprinkle as we walked the first half of the course, and the decision was made to consolidate all the day's races into a single women's 4k and men's 5k race. This shifted our schedule but gave us the nice opportunity to race as a full pack! We had a few minutes to watch the leading ladies kick home as we took the line with the goal of beating the impending lightning.
The carbide cannon's boom sent the men across the wide field and up the green monster of a hill that dominates the start of the course. I did not see them again until they were at the midpoint, cruising past the course entrance on their way up the second hill. I was pleased to see a fantastic pack of Varsity men: Avedis, Jason, Victor, Tristan, Marcos, Miguel, Nathan, Lance, and KD were rolling very close together. I had asked them to stick together for the first mile, and they were doing very well with this strategy. Andrew and Isaac were again leading our next group with authority as Jourdon and Mario were working as a pair side-by-side. Jonathan was between this duo and Alexis and Isaac, as Salvador and Erwin made nice moves on the crowded field. Junior was in his first race of the season and clearly in pain, but working gamely to finish.
A lot happened on the trails of the second half that proved the shake things up for us. Jason and Miguel assertively worked up and passed Avedis and Victor, kicking hard to finish as our first and second men (18:46 & 18:56), with Victor surging (and nearly slipping off of his feet just shy of the 3.0 mark) in as our third man (19:01). Avedis rolled in at 19:21. Finishing next was a fantastic pack: Tristan, Marcos, and Nathan. These three worked down the trails together and kicked together for 19:25, 19:28, and 19:28, with just one runner wedging in between them and rounding off our top 7. KD had a nice kick to finish as our 8th man (19:45), with Lance 9th (20:04) with equally nice kicks!
The FS/JV pack again impressed me with their grit and finishing strides. There was also some good shake-ups here as well. Mario took a commanding lead of the next ZeeBee group and kicked hard for 21:09, actually beating his time from Lake County! Jourdon was on his heels at 21:15, passing numerous opponents in the final stretch. Andrew J (21:23) and Isaac W (21:29) were next after a beautiful kick together, and then there was a bit of a gap until Salvador rolled in hard for 22:21. Though suffering through knee pain all week, he looked better than he has in a while. Alexis put a little distance on Isaac G, though they would finish fairly close together with great finishes (22:33 & 23:05), but Isaac led a nice pack through! Jonathan (23:06) and Erwin (23:09) worked very well into the chute, passing several competitors along the way! Junior finished the race well despite his pain (27:42), and Ardem rounded off the pack with a nice kick too (28:03).
All told, the men of ZBXC finished 17th/24 teams, with our top 5 averaging 19:06 today. The course was 5k, not our normal 3.0 mile, which generally is a 30-second difference in time. Throw in the hills, it would be reasonable to expect slower times on average. Yet, many of our younger men ran quite close to their Lake County times (and Mario even beat his!). Some of our men felt a little too relaxed during the race, and it showed in some of the slower times logged. The kicks were just as nice as last race, which shows me they are willing to step out of their comfort zones for strong finishes. Overall, however, we are growing with each new racing experience and through the wild conditions we have been experiencing this last week. I am looking forward to their work over the next week to see how they grow in their racing.
Lake county 8.29.18
We had quite a challenging week leading up to Lake County. We shifted to 3pm practices and experienced two extremely hot and humid days of over 100 degree heat index. On Wednesday we took the bus to Waukegan Sports Park to see what the massive thunderstorms had done to the course. We found the first 800m and last 300m deeply saturated, with deep mud and standing water everywhere. Nonetheless, the heat had been cut by the storm and the temperatures were in the mid-70s. It was a good time to test our men against the area teams in a large competition and challenging course.
The Varsity men took the line first. I had asked them to get out hard in the first mile for good position on the trails, and they certainly looked good in doing so. Victor led our pack, with Avedis, Jason, Miguel, and Kevin in close proximity. By the mile mark, a second great pack had formed with Tristan leading Andrew, Marcos, Nathan, and Lance. At the 1.5 mark Avedis moved up past Victor, and together they worked down the hill. The long hill's exertion was clearly taxing, but the men did a great job making moves on the downhill switchbacks. Miguel used the downhill particularly well, moving up past Jason. Tristan and Marcos continued to work well together, putting a little distance on Nathan and Lance. Andrew brought up the back of our pack with his recurring knee pain clearly making an unwanted comeback.
Their finishing kicks brought them home in good form. Avedis rolled in in 45th place as our first man (17:45) with Victor in spitting distance (17:50) and Miguel surging in just behind him to cap off a fantastic race (18:04). Our next pack was close together: Jason (18:37), Kevin (18:52), Marcos (18:58), Tristan (19:00), and Nathan (19:03). Lance and Andrew finished close by each other at 19:31 and 19:42 respectfully. The Varsity placed 12th, averaging 18:14.
The remainder of the team ran in the last race of the day. By this time, three races had churned up the terrain and the light was starting to slowly dim. It did nothing to dampen their spirits, however, as they took the line and patiently completed strides until the official arrived and started the race. They also got out in great form, taking the first mile assertively and pushing hard up to the midpoint. Isaac W. and Andrew led the pack, with Jourdon, Mario and Alexis rounding off the top 5. I was very glad to see them working in packs and pairs throughout the course, and supporting each other through the line.
The kicks of this pack were nothing short of amazing. Without exception, each man caught at least two runners in the final 200m. And some caught far more! Isaac W. led the Zee Bees right through the finish for a strong 20:17 and the day's only PR! Andrew was next at 20:44 beating a group of three competitors right into the chute. Jourdon kicked hard just behind him (20:59), with Mario taking four opponents down with his incredible finishing surge (21:13). Alexis was right behind him at 21:28, followed by Jonathan (21:55), Salvador (21:57), and Isaac G (21:59)--a great trio pack! Erwin destroyed his opponents with a wide, muddy grin (22:14), with Jaime just behind him (22:24). Alex took down no less than eight runners with one of his best lifetime kicks (23:38), followed by Brandon (24:33) and Ardem (27:05). In total it was a great race that taught our younger men a great deal about competitive racing and challenging courses. They placed higher than the Varsity with a 9th place finish.
We improved greatly since our Deerfield opener. The kicks were particularly memorable, and show their finishing strength. The pack's willingness to work through pain and use each other to conquer the course are great takeaways. We will need these same qualities as we take on the UW-Parkside course this weekend!
Deerfield tri 8.23.18
The Bees opened the season with a well-run competition at Deerfield. The heat of the week had subsided slightly to cool to a comfortable 80 degrees at race time, and the flat, fast course led to some great times. For many this would be there first XC race and their efforts set a strong baseline for the rest of the season.
Ian took the line as the sole Zee Bee in the 2.0 mile race, and despite a last-minute course change, he got out smartly and raced hard. While the course configuration was confusing, he was in his element in the second mile and worked hard in the final loop for a finishing time of 24:17. Good first race, Ian!
The balance of the team took the line for the 3.0 mile race, and it was great to see the deep maroon line racing again after the summer months. I challenged the top pack to pace the first mile at a target of my choosing, then race the last two at their comfort level; for the rest of the men it would be a great trial of their fitness and strength. From the gun, the men got out with a fire I was not quite expecting. It is natural for many in their first race to err on the side of conservative pacing, but these young men flung themselves into the course and competition head-on.
Victor surged out as our lead man in the first 800m, followed by a great pack that included KD, Jason, Avedis, Tristan, and Miguel boxing in a group of Deerfield runners. Lance took a lead on a trio composed of Nathan, Marcos, and Jourdon, and the rest of our men bunched in twos and threes in their first loop of the sport fields. At the mile mark it was clear that the top pack had gone out too fast, and many were suddenly working to find their footing and a workable pace. I am impressed with the effort and know that as they sharpen their racing strides it will pay off with faster overall splits, though tonight this is where Deerfield packs made their moves and swarmed forward as we strung out. Lance worked in the second mile up to Marcos and Nathan and I could see the trio working together and making nice gains. Jourdon's first mile came out as one of his fastest this season, and Isaac W. and Jonathan weren't far behind him going into the midpoint. Mario and Isaac G. led a great pack that formed up with strength just after the mile: Jack anchored with Salvador, Erwin, Alexis, and Jaime packing in closely. It was a great show of teamwork as they attacked the second half.
I got around the field just in time to see the Bees begin to finish. Victor led the team with a 17:17 PR finish, though Deerfield put nine runners ahead of us. Avedis sailed in as our second at 17:32, leading Miguel in his first XC race (17:38) and Jason (17:42) as our third and fourth men. Kevin had a remarkable race--bouncing back from an injury that sidelined him for the latter half of last year's season and most of Track--to run 18:23 off of a lifetime best of 18:19! Tristan finished his race with a fantastic stride as our #6 (18:31), with Marcos (18:56), Lance (18:57), and Nathan (19:01) surging in together. For Marcos this was a nice PR from a summer workout and his first time breaking 19; for Nathan this was a monster PR as well. Our top 5 averaged 17:44 and 1-5 split was 66 seconds!
Andrew F. raced his first XC race but clearly was feeling recurring pain in his knees that impeded his progress; he still finished in good form at 19:39, but he has great potential to be breaking into the top 5 when he is well. Andrew J. finished not far behind him after a year's hiatus from the sport--it is great to see his return with greater strength with a 20:02 race to smash his 2016 PR by 42s. Jourdon was right behind him at 20:06 with a sharp stride into the chute for the first XC race of his life, with Salvador (20:53) and Mario (20:57) not far behind. For Mario this was also his first race and pushed himself very well in this race.
Our next ZeeBee pack surged in quickly: Alexis logged a nice 21 flat, pulling Isaac W. (21:25) to a great race after a summer of knee injury. Jonathan finished his first race in 21:33, right on pace with his goal of landing in the 21 minute zone! Isaac G. was right on his heels for an excellent debut as well at 21:35. Erwi, Jaime, and Jack matched each other stride-for-stride into the chute for 21:56, 21:57, and 22:01--for Erwin this was also his first race and a great finish. Alex and Ardem rounded off our pack at 23:36 and 28:53. Alex scored the largest PR of the night, dropping a whopping 84 seconds from his best last year!
While Deerfield beat us in points, I truly believe the effort and learning experience tonight is of far greater value than points. We had the top pack push harder than their objective and still figure out how to recover and still race the second half when outside their comfort zones. We have a field of runners hungry for competing, and we have packs naturally forming that pushes the men in them to compete and achieve. The teamwork and communication tonight are going to be key elements in defining the season ahead. I am especially proud of ten runners who ran their first XC race, as well of the five lifetime PRs! Keep up the momentum, Bees!
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1. 16:51 Avedis @Peoria
1. 16:51 Miguel @Peoria
2. 17:01 Victor @Warren
3. 17:10 Jason @Peoria
1. 17:35 Andrew F @JT
2. 18:35 Mario @Warren
3. 18:36 Lance @Warren
1. 17:49 Nathan @Peoria
2. 17:57 Marcos @Peoria
3. 19:16 Isaac W @Dawson