Home v. StevensoN 9.16.20
It was a gorgeous afternoon to return to Shiloh for the third time this year--and certainly not the last! We approached the course at 3pm with temperatures hovering in the low 80s, but these rapidly cooled with a steady breeze and gathering cloud cover throughout the afternoon. The men had discovered a new collaborative video game on their phones, and, upon their arrival, were a little distracted from the task at hand. This began to change as we prepared for our race, welcoming fifty runners from Stevenson to compete against us today.
We had great starts coming off the line in our 15s staggered approach, something I was excited to see. Several men asked to change their rank in the lineup as they plotted out their strategy--a great sign of their mental preparation for racing. Issac led the team off the line, with Chris our second man (he led last week). We had six men sitting due to injuries, but hopefully they will be able to return this next week--still, sixteen flew off the line and onto the field. At the midpoint, our top five were working well in close proximity to each other, with the rest of the pack in pairs throughout the field. The first mile looked remarkably positive, but emerging from the woods and back into the last mile our team was visibly tiring and lulling toward a complacent final lap. This is incredibly tough with just our team on the field running a time trial, but we are constantly training to challenge ourselves and close the second half.
Eric surged in as our first man at 17:00, with a nice kick across the line. Chris had made a nice move and advanced to finish as our second man (18:20), with Tony (18:31), Issac (18:40), and Alex R (18:54) rounding out the top five. Junior was sixth, throwing down a really nice progressive kick in the final 400, at 19:26, and Aleman was seventh at 20:17 to finish an aggressive race.
Salvador had an excellent final lap, placing eighth on the team and finishing at 20:56--Jonathan and Swole-A were just behind him, both running 21:30. For Alex this was a 41s Season Best over his time at Grant! Jarek threw down a zesty kick as well, flying his final 100 in great form at 23:02. Cullen had a great race at 25:42, with Fernando finishing at 25:52 on his heels (and with a very impressive stride). Davion was next, dropping 1:19 from his time at Grant for a Season Best 26:47! Allen was next, racing taller than I have ever seen him, and finishing with a decisive kick at 31:24--and a 7s Lifetime PR! Sebastian rounded off the pack, running the first XC race of his life tonight and establishing his PR at 38:48. Nice work, men!
When we finished and began to process, it was with a mix of feelings that we dissected the night. We brought less energy to the second half than we usually see, and most came away less than satisfied with the overall feeling of the meet. We left some opportunities on the field--and while we all know that not every race will be perfection, we can tweak a couple minor areas to retake the home field advantage we should feel at Shiloh. A few hard steps here and there, a "go zone" in each mile, and a little more work on the last mile are all in the cards for the next race out here. I am happy with the first half, and the gravitation of the men toward packing with each other. This is a tough crew, and I know they will use this as a learning experience as we move forward.
It wasn't until later that night that I sat down with the numbers and scored the meet. The ZeeBee men ran 1-5 against Stevenson, effectively shutting them out tonight. Awesome job, Bees!
I don't know what it is about the weekend we run at Grant each year, but it is never "normal" fall weather. Whether it was the rain-swept course of 2020, the muddy mess of 2019, of the heat of 2018, the climate never fails to be an interesting factor. We faced alternating drizzle and hard rain this last weekend when we journeyed out to the Bulldog Athletic Complex for a small Invite, though the course was arguably in wonderful shape at the start of the meet (it did get chewed up pretty well by the last race). Regardless, it was a fine day for Cross Country.
We stayed largely on the buses when we arrived, since shelter was scarce and we were not permitted to walk the course. The large hill looked remarkably firm, which was a huge improvement over last year. Our Varsity warmed up first and did a snappy dynamic, looking good together at nine men strong. They took the line against small teams from Highland Park and Grant, giving us the rare opportunity to race a real Cross Country race today. At the gun, they launched off on an excellent start...and the race was on!
Eric stuck right next to the lead Grant runner into the mile mark, with our pack getting through the first mile in good form. The racing field wasn't particularly large (and HP didn't run their Varsity), but the conditions clearly tired us out as we approached the second half of the course. Alex R was racing hard as our second man, with Issac and Chris just behind him; Junior trailed Aleman by a couple paces. Salvador, Jonathan, and Mauricio raced in close proximity as well, working against the red and blue shirted opponents. We spread out much further in the last mile, the third hike up the hill clearly a factor here, but overall rated strong finishes in the final 400m around the field in and into the chute. Eric surged in third overall and first on our team (17:45), with three Grant runners ahead of Alex R, who finished with a great kick for 18:45--just behind him was Issac and Chris for 18:56 and 19:02 finishes respectively. Our fifth, scoring man was AA at 20:30, locking in our victory over HP in the meet. Salvador was just ten seconds back, finishing at 20:40; Junior was right on his heels at 20:46. Jonathan threw down a nice kick for a Season Best 21:06 today, with Mauricio surging in as our final man at 23:37. We lost in points to Grant, but beat Highland Park!
Our next (and the last) race of the day was the FS/JV pack, racing a small competition of only 21 men. They were rather disorganized as they got ready for the race--we even missed the breakdown--but showed much greater time management once the gun went off. The race of the day today indisputably goes to Alex "Swole-A" for the fortitude he threw down. He went out hard with the leading two HP runners, and never let them go for the entire race! He led the pack through each mile, and it was so great to see his return to racing this season in such great form! Durran took the same attitude, working through persistent injury pain to embrace the conditions and truly fly. In the first mile, Jarek left the Zee Bee pack and surged upward, taking a nice risk and putting himself in a good position for the second half. Fernando, Jonathan, Davion, Zach, and Allen packed up nicely here as well.
Just like the first race, the pack spread out to a great extent in the second half. Swole-A and Durran lead beautifully, kicking mightily for Season Best times 22:11 and 22:31 respectively! Jarek's first half move paid off handsomely with a 23:17 race, and Fernando unleashed a great kick for the day's sole Lifetime PR, 24:32--dropping 24 seconds from his time at Home last week! Davion completed his first season race at 28:06, as did Jonathan just behind him at 28:21--and he stayed on his feet this year! (he fell hard on a slick corner in 2019) Zach finished his first season race for 33:30, with Allen just behind him at 33:59. In the JV race we beat Grant in points, and placed second to Highland Park.
It was a tough racing day for sure, and some men truly rose today and fought. We need to make sure we are embracing the few--and far between--opportunities to RACE. Usually we are running individual time trials, and this race today was a welcomed change of pace. As team, we need to work on rising and tearing it up--which will bee built through experience. Our pack work and support of each other was nice, and I look forward to these groups moving upward and continuing to challenge themselves. I recently compiled our times from our history of racing this course (2017-present) and have posted the top times on their own page!
We move forward to our third of four home meets this upcoming week against Stevenson, and I cannot wait to see where we take it. Go Bees!
Home v. Lake Zurich 9.9.20
I was smiling all the way home from the meet last night as I ran through in my mind all the good things that had happened. It was the story of turning a challenge into an opportunity, something the team wholly embraced. The heavy rainfall on Tuesday was a factor that usually flooded and significantly softened the Shiloh course, and I admit I had a little trepidation as to what the conditions would be like. We had thrown down such a positive, formative workout on the course on Saturday--and I hoped the conditions would be on our side to translate that into success. Upon arrival at the course, I was pleased to find that the grass was dry, the puddles weren't particularly deep, the ground was still generally firm, and--most importantly--the men were in high spirits!
We took the line immediately after the ladies finished, and lined up in our 15s intervals. We had only fourteen racers, with ten men out today. I switched up the strategy a little, placing the men into groups based on pace, rather than giving targets to pass on the course--the hope being that we could save some steps. The starts were one of our objectives today, with our goal being to shave seconds at the beginning by getting out harder than last week. And the men did just that, springing out in great form today!
As the starter I had little chance to see the men at the midpoint where I usually post up, but instead I was able to see them rolling in toward the 2 mile mark. Eric was leading and looked at ease with his pace, and Christopher--who I had lead off--was rocking the second spot by a large margin! Alex and Issac were battling each other only meters apart, racing very well. Salvador was clutching his side, but most the men coming through looked great--and poised for an excellent third mile. The cool temperature and cool, tactical approaches I was seeing were definitely working in our favor.
Eric surged across the line as our first man, charting a Season Best 16:11 and landing himself firmly on the Top 10 Board, taking the 7th slot and bumping alum Lucas Unze from the list--CONGRATULATIONS ERIC! Chris kept his 2nd place position and closed at 17:56, a 21-second Season Best. Alex R and Issac were just behind him, battling for position and to out-kick each other in the final stretch! Alex ran 17:58, just one second from his PR at Deerfield (!) and Issac kicked to 18:15, a 32s SPR. Tony was next at 19:07, with Junior hot on his heels at 19:10--a 37s Season Best! AA rounded off the top 7 with a time of 19:40, a 42s Season Best!
There was a short gap before our next pack, but they were nicely grouped. Salvador led it in at 21:32, followed by Mauricio (22:02) and Jarek (22:24)--for Jarek this nice race earned a 25s Lifetime PR! Fernando closed at 24:56, a 13s Lifetime PR as well, leading our final three men in to lifetime top times as well! Cullen closed 25:08, dropping 1:40 from his PR in the workout Saturday! Jared was just behind him, finishing at 25:34 and also dropping 53s from his PR in the same workout! Allen had the biggest race of the day by far. He looked hungry the entire way, the fire clearly evident in his strides. He finished at 31:30, dropping a whopping 7:12 from his first race on this course last week!
I'm so proud of the progress in this meet. We identified areas to improve from last week, and put in the work to do it. 5 Season Bests and 5 Lifetime PRs, along with one Top 10 entry, made for a sweet night of progress. Best yet, the team looks hungry for more. I cannot wait to see then race this Saturday at Grant, then return twice more to the Home course. If they can continue this upward momentum, they can be a formidable team. The teeth are growing, and we are sharpening nicely. Congratulations on the great work, Bees, and keep racing strong!
Home v. Lake Forest 9.2.20
We raced our first dual meet, and the first of four home meets, last night at Shiloh. The course has honestly never looked better--double lines and perfect mowing throughout--but the temperatures were at their zenith, with a slight breeze doing little to temper the 85 degree afternoon. This was our first time racing in the new format, with 15s delays between runners. The ZeeBee women ran first, and our men took the line immediately after.
The energy on the line was palpable, and the men looked hungry. They worked progressively off the line (we are going to work on our individual starts) and into the field. I stacked the faster pack toward the end, and we strategically hoped to give each man an opportunity to use each other's energy as they passed by to give a boost to their stride. It felt so odd to be running a time trial in this fashion, and it is clear that this is coming down to building the mental strength to push successfully in these conditions.
After starting the staggered racers, I ran to the midpoint to see the runners behind the pool. AA was leading the pack in great form, pushing hard to keep the long line behind him from passing. Jonathan and Durran were packed next, but encountered a bunch of geese that marched purposefully into their path, causing a significant delay as they navigated the intrusion. Our other runners were working up, with our last starters just catching up with the front runners here. They worked well through the second mile, but I could tell they were starting to flag in the conditions. Eric was leading our pack into the second mile, and we were quite spread out through the field at this point. I was having a very hard time of keeping track who ran when, and subtracting starting times--a strange byproduct of this year!
Eric swept in first at 17:20, dropping 19 seconds from his time at Deerfield for a nice Season Best! Alex R and Tony nearly matched the same time from different starts, with Alex racing 18:42 and Tony 18:49 and both throwing down great kicks across the finish line. Chris was fast on their heels at 19:03, with Issac and Chase racing in as our fourth and fifth runners (19:30 & 19:40). AA raced in next for a Season Best 20:22, and Junior was just behind him at 20:26. Salvador was right on his heels with a great kick and 20:33 finishing time. Jonathan rounded off the first pack at 21:39, with a gap that was closed by Mauricio at 23:40.
Durran finished his first race of the season in nice form, rolling through at 24:26, followed by Jarek and Fernando (26:20 and 26:55 respectively)--these two worked well together around the course. Our final three racers must be congratulated for running the first XC races of their careers! Jared (28:02), Cullen (29:48), and Allen (38:42) set their lifetime best times and also a very nice baseline from which to launch into the season. I am very proud!
At the end of the day, the Zee-Bees scored a WIN OVER LAKE FOREST! This is our sixth win against them in a dual since 2008! It was certainly a challenging evening, but we are making gains. The more we can acclimate to the temperature, the better we are going to feel. We need to also shift focus from pack racing mentality to individual running, digging for the mental toughness to make moves alone. We are also going to work on our starts, as aggressive sprints from the line will undoubtedly shave precious seconds in the race. We have three more shots at this course, and I want to show great improvement each time. Keep racing well, Bees, and train like champions!
The 2020 Cross Country season finally arrived Saturday with our season-opening race at Deerfield. Though originally scheduled to race our first dual on Wednesday, the excessive heat had other plans for us. This has been a turbulent week and even crazier season in this era of COVID and protest, but we have been putting in the work to safely put our men on the field. I woke up Saturday morning excited, and stepping onto the Deerfield campus I felt completely energized as the invigoration of the sport set in. After starting the summer with no season in sight, it was finally real. It had begun!
We have a fantastic team of men committed to hard work and racing their best in the evolving conditions we are facing. Today we had fifteen men eligible to race, and Deerfield had split the day into races by level, allowing us to distantly race against Warren and Deerfield at the same time (our duals are structured differently). Our Varsity men ran first, on a cool morning, at 0830. Though the heat of the week had hit our training pretty hard, the mindset for racing was there, and the energy positive at the line. The horn tooted, and we were off!
It was clear from the start that the stacked opposition were out for best times, with several 15-minute runners vying for control of the race. Our men went out hard and packed up very well on the course. Eric surged ahead as our first man, with Alex R racing ahead of our next pack, which at the mile included Tony, Chris, and Issac. Chase and Junior paired off, with our next pack consisting of AA, Jonathan, Salvador, and Mauricio. They were racing strong at the midpoint, and looked quite good in their form as they started to chip away at the second half. Eric found it difficult to close into the top pack, which pulled away in their own race today. Alex R moved steadily forward, making moves on the long straightaways that slowly closed gaps. Issac found himself separated with a Warren runner that matched every move he made on the course, and our last pack worked well together. Into the finishing loop I was very pleased to see progressive kicks into the finish. Eric finished first at 17:39, with Alex (17:57) and Tony (18:11) surging in not far behind to earn lifetime PRS--Alex breaking 18 for the first time! Chris was just behind at 18:17, and Issac was narrowly edged out at finish line by the Warren adversary, but he fought for a fantastic finish (18:47). This was a 68 second 1-5 split, which is a nice start for the season. Chase (19:34) and Junior (19:47) were our next two, with Salvador throwing down a monster race finish at 19:53--just seconds from his lifetime best. AA (20:38), Jonathan (21:17), and Mauricio (21:22) rounded off the pack, with Mauricio earning a huge lifetime PR as well!
Our Frosh-Soph pack raced next, with Fernando and Jarek representing! This was a small race, but these two had been training well together for weeks--they were quite ready for their first race of their high school careers. It is normal to feel nervous, but as soon as they raced off the line they were in their element. They worked well together in the first 800m, and then Jarek pulled ahead and started hunting the pack ahead. Fernando held a strong position, and both eventually found themselves paired off and fighting against Warren runners. This was a back-and-forth race, each making nice moves in the second half to work on gaining the upper hand. Their kicks were both fantastic, with Jarek narrowly passed in the chute (the finish line was at the end, not the beginning)--but he still ran a huge time of 22:59--a lifetime best! Fernando beat his opponent in the final steps, clocking his PR 25:09! Well done, Freshmen! What a great start to your XC careers!
Our final race of the day was the Open 2.0 mile, which Zacary was competing in. Fighting a back injury all summer, I was glad he felt ready to begin competing. From the start, he launched in with purpose. He worked into the front of the race in the opening 400m, firmly planting himself in the mix for the first mile. In the latter part, however, it was evident that he was tightening up--he still fought gamely through, pushing for a 15:08 finish. This is huge progress, and his willingness to race solo showed great fortitude. His passion energized his teammates, who began to converge on the course to share their energy (but had to bee reminded to retreat!).
We had our first team debrief after--this is usually done on the bus, but being split for social distancing, it is a tradition that, sadly, we have had to put on hold. Our captains and seniors spoke with purpose, highlighting the successes seen this day. We have established a starting point and I cannot wait to see what we can do from here, and with a little less heat in the forecast! I am very proud of the FIVE lifetime PRs, the risks taken, and the camaraderie displayed. This team is ready to move up! We take to our home course on Wednesday this week. See you then!
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1. Alex R 17:57 @Deerfield
2. Tony 18:11 @Deerfield
3. Issac 18:45 @Home
1. Chris 17:54 @Home
2. Durran 24:26 @Home
1. Eric 16:11 @Home
2. Chase 19:34 @Deerfield
3. Jarek 22:24 @Home