2021 Cross Country
IHSA Sectional 10.30.21
It was a week of heavy rain throughout northern Illinois leading up to the Sectional on Saturday at Schaumburg’s Busse Woods. Temperatures dipped a bit, too, but not quite into the realm of freezing. We drove down on Tuesday night to practice on the course. All teams were asked to not run on the lane itself in order to preserve the terrain for Saturday. While we certainly respected it and ran outside the lines, it was with dismay that we observed a half dozen teams shredding the delicate grass of the course. The heavy rain Wednesday-Friday this week would significantly soften it for our Saturday arrival.
Saturday arrived with blue skies, sunshine, and temperatures in the low 50s. In short, it was perfect racing weather! The team was particularly grateful for the huge fleet of port-o-potties that were there so they didn’t have to use the bombastically-toxic bathroom. We walked the course in soaking shoes upon our arrival and found it was actually in better condition than we had expected. We have certainly run some muddy races here, and today it felt rather firm considering the deluge of the last couple days. We rescued a crawdad from the course that was in danger of being run over during the day’s races. The women took the line first at 10am and had an incredible race. From our first to our seventh runner, each woman competed hard. After a nail-biting thirty minutes, we were overjoyed to learn that Audrey had qualified for State! This hasn’t been done since 1991, and Audrey is only the second woman to accomplish this feat. Congratulations, Audrey!
Eric warmed up with an awesome pack. He looked loose and ready as he swapped for longer spikes and loosened up with the dynamic. We took the line right after hearing Audrey’s news, and he was visibly excited. His run-outs were spectacular and he settled into Box C at the far right of the line--a good starting position for the first turns in the opening 400m. With the clouds breaking and sun illuminating the course, the line went still. The gun fired.
The next seconds were captured on my camera, but Eric’s first steps out of the box nearly landed him on his face. The McHenry runners next to him struggled to move away as he grasped to find his footing again. The surge of adrenaline saw him punch way up to the front of the pack, but unknowingly also sapped his second half reserves. Still, he made a positive commitment to racing out, and in the first mile came through in good form and sticking around 20th place.
The course was churned a bit from the women’s race but actually better than anticipated. Eric had dipped back a little through the second mile and was running well alongside a Warren runner. When we came down the hill for the final time, it was clear that he was giving his all. He valiantly fought into the final 400m and kicked nicely. He surged across the line and beat five runners within two seconds of him, finishing at 17:00!
It wasn’t the race that he wanted, but it was fought with heart. The challenging start was a lot to recover from, but the way Eric raced today in the conditions is admirable. He has had an amazing season and represented himself and the team in a superior fashion, in all ways. I’m very proud and cannot wait to see him take it to the next level this next season. Great work, Eric!
IHSA Regional 10.23.21
It was a gorgeous day for racing as we headed back to Adler Park for the IHSA Regional meet. The clouds were slowly giving way to sun over Libertyville’s course as we entered the State Series. We put seven men on the line today: Durran, Eric, Ryan, Jalen, Adam, and Alex--joined for the first time on Varsity by Antonio O. It’s been a long journey to this point, but these men were at their peak fitness and ready to represent ZBXC on the challenging terrain. We were ready to roll.
We cheered on the women as they qualified their team for the Sectional for the third consecutive time (!!!), and warmed up. We took the line today knowing that this may be our last race of the season and that nothing is guaranteed here. Our team is young in experience, but have been racing with greater strength each week. It was time. We were ready.
At the gun the pack leapt off in great form. Using the free starting downhill, we entered the woods loop in excellent positions and began competing. Our men went out harder than they have all season. Eric pushed into the top twenty pack and held there through the mile. Ryan raced up as our second man, with Alex just off this shoulder. Jalen was next as they hit the downhill stride down Bertha (the hill); Durran and Antonio were separated by just one Mundelein runner, and Adam was racing well as our seventh. At the mile, Eric was in nineteenth place and holding strong. Ryan was our second, with Jalen racing up between him and Alex as our third man. Adam had moved ahead of Durran here, and Antonio had dialed back a bit. He had just started the race faster than he had ever raced in his life.
In the woods, Eric was fighting off a brace of Highland Park runners, and was able to hold his position as the trail narrowed. Jay passed Ryan and they began racing together. Durran had moved up closer to Adam and Antonio was racing in great form. Headed into the third mile, our runners did a great job of using the slight downhill to the two-mile mark to open their strides as they embarked on the final lap of the race. And the race was tight!
Eric was our first man, surging ahead and catching a guy as he raced into the chute. He earned 19th place overall (17:00) and cementing a berth to the Sectional! Jalen kicked incredibly as our second man, catching a Mundelin runner and finishing at 18:22; Ryan was just behind him with a great kick at 18:25! Alex was next at 19:06, followed by Adam at 19:47, Durran at 20:00, and Antonio at 21:21. Jalen destroyed his previous time on this course, with Adam beating his by one second and Durran dropping fourteen seconds here.
Overall the Bees finished tenth, but not far in points behind Round Lake and Stevenson. It was a tough race that the men ran well. I’m proud of this hard work and the entire season that they have dominated. Congratulations, team, on a nice race today. To Antonio on his first Varsity race! And congratulations, too, to Eric as the first individual qualifier out of the Regional. On to Sectionals next Saturday!
It's been a whirlwind these past few weeks as we have prepared for hosting the NSC Conference meet. It is exciting to have this opportunity and we put every effort into making this a memorable and well-run event. From arranging food trucks to having an amazing volunteer staff on the course (Taylor from CLC and the ZB Wresting Team!), the late Friday night and early Saturday morning found the course in great shape with a wide painted lane and a long finishing chute. The gorgeous Saturday sunrise over the course and heavy morning dew was simply inspiring--and within an hour the course was a bustling hive of activity. Special thanks to Coach Hamilton, who was first at the course and the last off of it, hammering in stakes by the light of her headlights!
After a short coaches meeting and an emergency run to the nearest gas station for sunglasses, our Varsity was first to take the line, kicking off the day's six races with six men on the line. Eric went out with purpose, landing ahead of a large Libertyville, Warren, and LZ pack. Ryan and Jay were our #2 and 3, racing at each other's shoulders with the rest of our pack in close order. I was able to see them again at the midpoint, and was impressed at how our men were working. Eric's pack had spread out a bit and he was in 9th overall here, and just behind him were Alex, Jalen, and Ryan packed beautifully together. Durran and Adam were not far back and racing well. Headed into the third mile, Alex had moved up from Jalen and would hold this the rest of the race. Adam was battling a Mundelein runner here. Into the finishing 400, Eric kicked smoothly on in for a 9th place time of 16:04. This Season Best moved his time up on the All Time board and showed a great mark of improvement. Alex was our #2, racing a PR 17:41 and finishing with a Libertyville runner literally punching him repeatedly as they drove together into the chute (the unsportsmanlike conduct later resulted in a disqualification of the other athlete). Jalen and Ryan surged in at 18:04 and 18:10, with Durran finishing as our #5 at 18:46 and Adam rounding out the pack at 18:58. For Durran, this tied his lifetime PR set at Lake Forest (and impressive feat as he has continued to battle injuries), and for Adam this is his lifetime PR and first sub-19 finish! Our Varsity finished 6th and beat Waukegan and Stevenson today.
Our Frosh-Soph pack took the line next. By then the dew was starting to dry up and the sun felt amazing. This large group has made incredible progress this year, and I was eagerly awaiting what they would do in their final race, on our home course. They went out with tenacity! Antonio O. rocketed up to the front of the Zee Bee pack, with Orion not 20m behind him at the 1200 mark. Manny and Joan packed nicely, with our next racers stung back and competing hard. At the midpoint Antonio was still leading and Orion flagging back a little, and Manny broke away from Joan and was attacking the corners. Sebastian was racing tall and in the best form of the season, and I liked seeing Orland throw down fartlek intervals between flags. Antonio N. was also having a great race and attacked the woods in good form.
What impressed me most today was how these men finished. They collectively kicked hard in the final 400m, just like we had been drilling in practice! Antonio O. led our pack into the finish with a 20:13 PR, followed by Orion at 20:29. Emmanuel kicked with strength as our next man at 21:30, followed by Nick at 22:21 and Joan at 22:52. For Nicholas this is a lifetime PR, dropping 15s from his time at Lakes! I was excited to see Sebastian surge in next, at 25:15, dropping nearly a minute PR from his previous PR at Lakes! Orland (27:08) and Antonio N (32:06) were our final finishers, bringing to a conclusion and amazing race. For Orland, this was also a monster PR, dropping over THREE AND A HALF MINUTES from his previous best at the Warren course! What a great race!
Our JV race was the final race of the day. Several guys were out with injuries, and the only man left standing on the line today was Jared. His courage in racing alone speaks for itself, but the way he approached the day is one for the books. From the gun, Jared took off and competed the entire way. He came into the season with a PR over 25 minutes--he steadily shed time and raced the entire way, putting in the work to see these gains. Last week at Lakes he ran sub-22 for the first time--by the time his mighty kick had finished, he broke 21 today with an incredible 20:56 PR race. Congratulations, Jared!
We ended the day with a great awards ceremony. Eric earned and All-Conference medal, and in the end Lake Zurich took the Conference trophy home. It was an incredible racing day--the last for many of our men this season--and incredibly memorable to do this on our home course. The food trucks were a fun touch as well, despite the swarms of hungry wasps. This has been so amazing, Bees! I cannot wait to see what we do at the Regional next weekend.
We had our first October race last week, hosted by Lakes High School. This is our second year racing here and were greeted by the same course--it consists of three one-mile loops with a couple nice rolling hills. I encouraged the men to take some risks, especially in the back field, and to capitalize on the downhill opportunities to pass other runners. While were were supposed to have seven races tonight (in flights, plus an Open), the threat of incoming severe weather shortened the night to just two coed races: Varsity and Open. After a quick walk of the course loop, we were ready to go!
Our Varsity took the line first. On the line was Christian in his first Varsity race of the season! Eric took off fast and was leading the field in the first mile. A mile in, Jalen was our second man and racing well despite his sore calf, with Alex not far behind. Durran and Christian were not far behind as they moved back toward the starting line to start their second mile. In the next lap, Plainfield had moved their top racers up aggressively, but Eric was still hanging on at fifth. We generally stayed in the same positions for the second half of the race, and our men were working hard through the Libertyville hills that were in their muscles from this week. Eric rolled in as our first man and for a fifth place finish at 16:26, with Alex moving up to finish as our second man at 18:11 and Jalen rolling in at 18:52. Durran was next at 19:07, followed by Christian's PR 19:45 finish. Congratulations, Christian, on competing in your first Varsity race!
Our large Open pack competed next. It was awesome to see this group surge off the line. From the gun, Jared and Manny packed up together and would stay this way the entire race! Nick was not far behind these two, with Sebastian a few places behind him in the first mile. Antonio N had packed as well and looked great going into the second half. In the third and final lap of the back field, Emmanuel used the long downhill at the southernmost point and began passing aggressively--Jared was making similar moves but Manny's pace was faster. This sharpening was awesome to watch as they both flew into the finishing stretch. Manny finished first for the ZBXC pack for a PR 21:20, with Jared racing a PR 21:25 just behind him! For both, this was their first sub-22 race! Nicholas was next at 22:36, dropping a PR of ten seconds from his time at Home last week! Sebastian was next with a huge PR 26:08, dropping an impressive fifty seconds and finishing with a great kick. Antonio N. rounded off the ZeeBee pack, extending his PR streak out to five in a row with a strong race and 31:25 finish!
It was a tough race with Libertyville just two days prior, and a number of runners sat out tonight due to the strain from Tuesday's hills. Still, we had a very strong showing in our final Invitational of the year. I am very proud of the SIX huge PR races and the grit showed by the team tonight. I cannot wait to see what we accomplish as we move forward to Conference next week with fresh legs. Great job, Bees!
Libertyville Dual 10.5.21
It was the final dual meet of the year under overcast skies and pleasant low 70s temperatures as we hit the line at the intimidating Adler Park course at Libertyville. Most of this pack had never run here, but the returners always speak of the Libertyville experience with a sense of distain. I encouraged open minds today as we raced the first of two races in 72 hours--to put it in perspective, the hills here are small compared to UW-Parkside's! Still, this is no easy course and the men were a little anxious as we walked the first mile and surveyed the bluff.
It was just us and Libertyville today, and we launched off a little late due to their senior night going late. At the gun, our pack surged forward nicely. Eric took an early lead in the first mile with the entire top Libertyville pack behind him--the aggressive start was great to see and pushed our guys behind him to also move hard in the first lap. Alex was racing as our second man at the mile, followed by Jalen, Adam, and Durran. Antonio and Christian had packed nicely at the midpoint, at which time Eric was overtaken; Manny and Joan were working together nicely as a pack, and Jonathan and Nick were also racing shoulder to shoulder. Orland had a great second half, making great moves through the two-mile mark on the rolling downhill. It is not an easy course to see our runners, but I could tell they were holding their own and racing with heart.
Eric was our first man into the chute, racing 16:38. This ties three other runners as the 7th fastest time ever run by a Zee Bee on this course! Alex was next in, racing 18:38 and competing hard into the chute. He was followed by Jalen at 19:17, Adam at 19:48, and Durran at 20:14. Christian (20:59) and Antonio (21:12) flew in next with amazing kicks, followed by Manny (22:35), Jared (22:40), and Joan (22:27) in rapid succession. For Joan this was a nice PR! Nicholas (24:27) and Jonathan (24:29) finished with excellent kicks as well, with Sebastian (26:58) breaking 27 for the first time for an excellent PR and Orland rounding out the pack with a gutsy 32:15 finish.
It was amazing to celebrate the pair of PRs tonight and to see the fortitude displayed in the kicks. This team raced until they were tired, and then finished hard on top of that. It is clear that Libertyville has the tactical advantage of practicing on their own course, and they knew how to run it. We will be racing here again for the Regional this year, and I cannot wait to see how today's experience pays off. Nice job!
We hosted the first of our two home meets this year at Shiloh last Tuesday, hosting Warren and Lake Zurich. The weather was pleasantly warm and a little overcast, but made for absolutely perfect racing conditions. I urged our team to embrace the conditions and their experience racing on our course, and used this as a chance to both prove their progressive fitness and to prepare for the Conference meet on this very course next month.
We had the expected delays as we waited for Lake Zurich, and then finally we were off. It was clear (and expected) that both opposing teams were there to run workouts, but I asked our Zee Bees to go out and race the course. They did.
Eric took an early lead with a pack of six LZ athletes around him. The powerful Warren pack chilled way back, as their entire team appeared to relax and just race the final mile. Jalen and Ryan packed in the first mile, as did Durran, Christian, and Orion. After a nice start, our team began to pair up and work together as they headed toward the mile mark. I caught the packs at the midpoint by Goose Alley, where Eric was still gamely racing the LZ pack and Alex was racing nicely as our second place man. Ryan, Jay, Durran, Orion, and Adam were working forward to better positions, which they held well into the finishing loop. We were making nice gains, especially as Warren began to turn up the tempo in the second half.
We had nice kicks tonight, which reflected the experience of our runners on our home course. Eric surged in just behind the LZ pack to run 16:09, moving his best time on the course up two seconds from last year and set a nice Season Best! Alex had a fantastic race from start to finish, surging in as our second man for a monster PR 17:48--his first time breaking 18! Ryan was our third with a nice 18:07 PR time, followed by Jay at 18:43, Durran at 19:02, Adam at 19:15, and Orion at 19:28. This represented nice PRs for Adam and Orion! Christian was next at 19:48, breaking 20 for the first time in his life!
Antonio O. was next at 20:49 and a very strong second half, followed by Tom at 20:55. We had a great pack surge in after that with excellent kicks. Manny led this in at 22:31, followed by Joan's PR 22:45 and Nick's 22:46 PR! Sebastian had an excellent race and strong finish for 27:02--just two seconds off his lifetime best--with Orland next at 31:28 and Antonio N. sprinting home for a PR 32:45!
Overall, we beat Warren in points and lost to Lake Zurich. We had a wonderful night with eight lifetime Personal Records and one Season Best race. We had much better kicks, collectively, than in past races as well. This excellent evening of progress was rounded off by an exciting Senior Night event to honor our leaders--the Hives made wonderful posters for us to put up on the course! I cannot wait to see how we capitalize on this progress when we return here for Conference in a couple of weeks. Great work, Bees!
JAmeS TAYLOR INVITE 9.25.21
With no midweek meet, we had some great training opportunities this week as we prepared for the JT Invite at Grant. Saturday arrived as a gorgeous, cool morning, with temperatures in the low 60s. The overnight rains had not significantly affected the course, which was in the best shape I think I've ever seen it in. We walked the loop and checkout out the turns as the dew began drying in the morning sun, and then it was time to begin the race day.
Our Frosh-Soph pack took the line first, six-strong. They slung out for very strong starts and we quickly up the hill in their first lap in great form. Christian took the lead of our Zee Bee pack, racing tall, with Antonio just behind him. Emmanuel was not far back, with Sebastian racing very well. Orland and Antonio N were next, and both looked tremendous on the challenging hill each time they came around. Christian kicked in as our first man at 20:36, with Antonio at 21:53 and Emmanuel at 22:19. For Manny this is a fantastic lifetime PR, dropping 8 seconds from his time at Dawson last week! Sebastian was next with a mighty kick at 27:02 (only two seconds off of his lifetime!), then Orland with an excellent race at 31:03 and Antonio throwing down a great final 400m strinde for 34:58. For Antonio this was also a PR--he dropped 1:47 from his time last week and has extended his PR streak out to three in a row. Nicely done, men!
The Varsity was up next with seven men on the line. Orion joined in his first Varsity race, and from the gun the pack surged out in good order. Eric took an early lead, being challenged every stride by a Woodstock competitor. They exchanged first and second places the entire race--it was clear the Woodstock athlete was not anticipating the challenge, and Eric was putting him through the paces. Jalen and Ryan were racing in close proximity, with Alex and Durran not far behind in the first mile. Orion and Adam rounded off the pack and we competing nicely. Into the third mile, the Woodstock runner put a small lead on Eric, who continued to fight him in every stride. Alex had moved up in his second mile, as had Adam--he was now racing right off of Durran's shoulder. This excellent Varsity team kicked very well today, with Eric surging in at 16:30 for a second place medal! Jalen again broke 18, racing 17:56 on this challenging course and catching four competitors in the final 100m! Ryan was our third man at 18:31, followed by Alex seconds later (18:39), Adam (19:31), Durran (19:57), and Orion at 20:10. I was very impressed by the way they raced together today, and they placed 6th our of twelve teams! In addition to Eric's medal, Jalen earned a ribbon for his place!
The final race of the day was the coed Open race, with Thomas and Jared representing our pack here. It was a larger field than the previous races, and from the gun these two went out to compete. Tom raced as the first man in our pack. Tom even passed a Grant runner on the first go up the hill! He and Jared did a great job navigating each lap and working up, particularly around the upper sport fields. Tom sprinted in for 20:49, just seconds off of his season best time, and Jared had a tremendous kick for his 22:36 finish.
It was just a great racing day. The challenging course was one that most runners ended up enjoying, finishing strong with big smiles. Their times were respectable as well, with most just a few seconds off their lifetime best times from last week at Warren. Most importantly, the final 400m kicks were the best of the season thus far. We have been working to hone this, and the week's work is just starting to pay off. Great work today, Bees!
Dawson Invite 9.18.21
Just a few short days after our great meet at Lake Forest, we headed down to Gurnee for the Dawson Invite. It's been two years since this meet has been run, and it's a nice way to honor our late friend, Coach Dawson. The gorgeous morning yielded blue skies and a slowly climbing temperature, but the course was flat, packed, and ready for fast races. We walked the one-mile loop and talked a bit of strategy in racing this one against fourteen other teams.
Our Frosh-Soph men took the line first. Box #9 put us in great position for a straight start, and we raced our Varsity F-S runners here rather than Varsity today--this gave them an opportunity to compete against racers their own age. Our men went out hard and in great form. Jalen led our pack in the top 15 in the first mile, with Ryan, Alex, Adam, Christian, and Orion strung back in short order. Emmanuel and Antonio O. were packed nicely, followed closely to Joan into the second mile. Nick was racing with strength and much faster than his race earlier this week, and Sebastian looked healed from his persistent Achille injury. Orland and Antonio had fast first miles as well. The field was moving hard at the midpoint, and our men responding well in the current. Jalen was our first man into the chute for a 15th place ribbon finish and 17:45 PR! Ryan was next with a strong kick and 18:27 PR, followed closely by Alex at 18:35. Adam followed as our fourth with a nice kick and 19:23 PR, with Orion breaking 20 for the first time in his life for a 19:45 PR! Christian finished his amazing race right behind him at 20:12 for a PR as well, dropping over a minute from his Deerfield time! Emmanual threw down a staggering PR by 3:34 with a 22:19 finish, with Antonio O. right behind him at 22:30. Joan was our next man in at 23:18, dropping over 90 seconds in this race. Nick then threw down 24:55, dropping 4:12 from his time earlier this week, followed by Sebastian's 2:58 PR time of 27:00! Orland dropped forty seconds to race a 30:45 PR, and Antonio N. dropped 2:26 to race 36:45! Our F-S pack placed 9th/15 teams and had an amazing performance today!
Eric and Durran represented ZBXC in the Varsity race. They both got out in great position and were racing well at the mid point. I was happy to see great moves on the corners of the course where we had discussed a few hard steps. Eric settled well into the top twenty-five in the first mile, but the pack's move in the third mile spiced up the pace and he raced well with it. Before we knew it, they were flying into the stadium for their finishes. Eric landed in great form at 16th place overall with a time of 16:18--a Season Best! Durran crushed his final 800 as well with a finishing time of 18:53.
Our final race of the day was the Open race, in which Davion and Jared represented ZBXC at the line. Both looked good from the line, and from the gun the went out hard. Davion actually put the pedal down and raced to the front of the entire field in the first 400m. He was settling back by the time he reached the mile, and Jared was racing well in a pack between two Warren runners. By the second half, Davion was in obvious distress while Jared was racing the best I've ever seen him do. Jared kicked nicely in for a PR 22:14, dropping ten seconds from Lake Forest earlier this week. Davion stumbled across the line for 22:27 and had to be carried to the camp. He appeared to have strained his knee.
We really had a great Saturday here at Warren. We truly capitalized on our progress from Lake Forest this last week and threw down TWELVE lifetime PR races as well as a Season Best. We raced in the heat and with the competition, truly starting to show our fitness and abilities as we crack into the second half of the season. Great work today, Bees!
Lake Forest Tri 9.14.21
We started out an epic race week on Tuesday at Lake Forest, being joined on a pleasant evening by Stevenson as well. The high 70s temperatures and pleasant breeze made a truly nice racing atmosphere, and the men were fast to seize the opportunity and race with strength.
We took the line against about a hundred Stevenson racers and a Lake Forest team not much larger than ours. They had moved the course somewhat for a longer start and finishing loop that resembles a paperclip, but it proved an excellent racing opportunity, and spectator-friendly. Eric went out hard and established a solid lead on the field. Jay was our next man through the mile, with Alex and Ryan packed just behind him. Orion turned his first mile into his strongest yet, racing ahead of Adam here, with Durran working hard just behind them. Tom and Christian were moving into great positions, and the rest of our pack was doing great here. I was pleased to see Nicholas and Antonio N. racing well in their first 3 mile race of the season!
I ducked over to the 2-mile mark and observed the good racing continuing. Lake Forest and Stevenson were making some second half moves (and sometimes throwing elbows), but our men were responding with some hard steps of their own to maintain positions. Davion kept getting pushed around by a Stevenson runner, but he refused to engage and kept working on establishing a little distance on the guy.
At the finish, Eric surged in for a Season Best 16:36, a full thirty seconds ahead of the next runners! Jalen was our next man, his excellent race sending him sub-18 for the first time for a monster 17:57 PR! Ryan was our third with a nice 18:30 PR, followed closely by Alex (18:44) and Durran's 18:46 PR! Adam kicked hard for a 19:34 PR, with Orion finishing hard as our seventh man for a PR 20:21. Tom was next with a 20:44 Season Best race and great kick, matched by Christian (21:15) and Davion (21:22)-- for Christian a PR by over thirty seconds! Jared threw down a great kick on the long straightaway as well to finish a most excellent race at 22:24, a PR by over two minutes! Jonathan was next at 23:59 for a Season Best race, with Emmanuel racing 28:31 and Nicholas finishing his first three mile race with a PR 29:07! Orland was next with a monster race and 31:25 finish, dropping over two minutes from his time at Waukegan. Antonio N. was our final man, racing his first three mile race as well and kicking nicely for 39:11!
Congratulations to the men for their supreme efforts tonight. We charted ten lifetime PRs and three Season Bests, and have shown great racing improvement since last week. We truly embraced pack running and stayed sharp, We narrowly lost to Stevenson and could not quite match Lake Forest's lead pack, but the collective progress of our team established this as a nice benchmark race. Keep up the great racing as we travel to Warren later this week!
First to the finish 9.11.21
Thankfully, after a year's hiatus, we were able to return to the absolutely amazing racing opportunity at the First to the Finish meet at Detweiller Park in Peoria. The value of this trip and race cannot be understated in the scope of our team's development and progress, and I was excited to invite seven men and Coach Washington along this year. We took the spirit bus out on Friday afternoon, arriving at the course a little after 6:30 pm for a little shakeout run. The temps were nice, but we were also bracing for the predicted heat the following day. I held Jarek out of racing here to focus on injury recovery, and the rest of the pack did several strides as we prepared for the big event on Saturday. Of the pack, only Eric had ever raced here before.
We had an excellent dinner and team goal-setting meeting that night, and learned that hotel room doors are actually battery-operated (and require a special screwdriver). The next morning we were greeted by a very impressive, hazy sunrise and a steady increase in both heat and humidity. We started a new morning tradition of going bowling, which was quite fun. When we left and headed to the course, though, it was all business. We arrived to see hundreds of teams and thousands of spectators--a very impressive and welcomed sight! We had pledged to go with the current of the race and push out hard from the start--a very reasonable goal for this race. The temperature was in the high 80s by this time, and we had a full hour to watch the races and shop for clothing. I talked race and training with Coach Washington here, and team started getting ready for the big event.
Before we knew it, it was time. The warmup was out of the way, and it was just HOT. The men sipped water, applied it to their skin, and stretched. We checked in and ran out from the box. From the gun, the pack surged out hard and in the monster field. Some years the pack holds back and races back, but I was glad to see them aggressively punch forward and down the hill toward the first pin. At the approximate mile mark we were in excellent position and each guy was racing faster than they had before! Eric was near 4:45, Jalen and Alex right around 5:20, Ryan at 5:30, and Adam right at 5:45. I'd missed Durran in the massive croud. The heat and clouds of dust took a heavy toll on the second mile. Eric was near 10:40 here, and Alex and Jay were still together and near the 11:50 mark. Durran had moved up and was around 12:30, with Ryan just behind him at 12:35 and Adam at 13:05. The heat was doing a number on the field, and I know our men were fighting hard through it.
Eric was our first man into the chute at 16:48--a Season Best. Alex was next with a lifetime PR 18:24, followed by Jalen (18:47), Ryan (19:11), Durran (19:46), and Adam (20:34).
The men appeared devastated with the result, and completely dead on their feet. The reality of the challenging race in contrast with their lofty goals left them gutted, but it was time to focus on the positives as we talked about the experience. As they talked it though, the reality shifted to the gritty racing they put into the day, the punishing 90 degree extreme conditions, and the effort put into the first mile. For several this was a PR, and for all the fastest they have started any race this season. The goals still stand, for now, as we celebrate the effort and intensity of Peoria and take this back into the next week of racing. I could not be more proud of how this team came together and competed this weekend. While it clearly wasn't the race we were hoping for, working hard to make it so exemplifies many great qualities this team possesses. They are destined for great things, and they know it. So proud of you all!
@Waukegan v. Mundelein 9.8.21
We rolled back down the road on Wednesday to our first dual meet and second run of Waukegan's course. The sky was a beautiful mélange of high clouds illuminated by the late afternoon sun, and temperatures hovered in the high 70s--perfect racing weather. Waukegan did not field a team, and it was just us and Mundelein. In looking at our previous run against them at Lake County, we saw that we were just narrowly beat in points by their top guys, and thus very evenly matched for tonight. I challenged the guys to match up with opponents and snag those top spots.
It was our first time putting all the Zee Bee men on the line, and the tiny race went off in good order. In the first mile, Eric was leading by a substantial margin--a lead he would maintain the entire way--as he notched a 5:03 opening mile. Jay was racing side-by-side with the top two Mundelein runners, followed by Alex and Ryan at 10m intervals. Adam was next through the mile, with two opponents separating Durran and Orion from Adam--both were running in excellent form. Tom was making big moves here, and I was pleased to see Antonio and Davion squared up and racing in the sixes just behind Christian. Jared and Jonathan were racing together, as were Joan and Emmanuel. Orland was speeding up as well, having an incredible first mile.
Clearly our challenge to Mundelein had upset their coach, as he had apparently planned to run a workout tonight. He had his top four athletes punch into the last mile with another gear, which our runners gamely attempted to match. Their final miles tired us out, however, but saw our men matching them very well. It was anyone's race going into the final 400m, where Eric finished the race all alone at 17:02. Mundelein narrowly snagged the next three places, with Jalen racing as our second at 19:11, beating a Mundelein runner right at the chute. Alex and Ryan took seventh and 8th (19:18 and 19:27), with the ninth spot going to Mundelein and Durran surging in for tenth (19:38). Adam was next at 19:56--his first time breaking 20! Mundelein narrowly won 24-31, despite our excellent fight in the second half.
We had some very excellent races. Davion ran his lifetime PR, beating his freshman time, kicking hard in for 20:01 with Antonio and Orion both earning lifetime PRs at 20:24 and 20:46! Tom earned a great Season Best 21:39 here with a great kick. Christian his 21:48 as our next man, with Jared (24:40), and Jonathan (24:51) just behind. Joan ran a lifetime PR 24:55, with Emmanuel racing 28:03. Orland had the race of his life, dropping nearly 3 minutes from his time here last week to race 33:53!
While we narrowly lost to Mundelein in points, we put forth a fantastic effort tonight. We worked to match Mundelein's moves and competed all through the course. This experience will undoubtedly help our pack move forward in their racing, and I am very happy with the number of PRs here. I know we will be a different team next time we race Mundelein, and can't wait to see what they will do then. Nice work tonight!
Rebel Invite 9.4.21
We rolled up to Wisconsin for the exciting Rebel Invite on the UW-Parkside Cross Country course this weekend. This hilly, wooded, course is one of my favorites but clearly a polarizing experience. It's tough on the body, but wholly rewarding to race. The rain gave way to a nice morning upon our arrival, and we set about preparing for race day. The distances here don't lend themselves to great comparison with the rest of the season--4k and 5k--but today was about effort and competition.
Our freshman pack took the line first in their 4k race. Nick, Sebastian, Orland, and Antonio N. were the men on the line, and for Nicholas and Antonio this was their first race. They took off well with the gun, and attacked the long hill together. This course isn't very spectator-friendly, so we saw the starts and didn't see the athletes again until they were rolling down toward the finish. Nick led our pack and put on a spicy sprint as he passed the fans. Sebastian was our second, followed by Orland and Antonio. They all had a nice resets and kicks into the chute. Nick finished at 23:22, followed by Sebastian (25:30), Orland (29:04), and Antonio (31:00). I am proud of the effort in working through the challenging course--and of the two men that raced their first today!
Our Varsity pack of six men took the line next. I had asked them to pack, and keep our split tight the entire time. They had a very excellent start up the hill, and seeing them race down at the midpoint showed their hard work paying off. Eric was in the top 15 here, and Jay and Ryan were packed shoulder-to-shoulder. Alex wasn't far behind, followed by Adam and Durran. We didn't see them until the finishing straightaway. Eric sprinted in nicely for 28th place and 17:32. Jalen, Ryan, and Alex were in very close proximity for their finishes. Jalen held off the rest of his pack for a great 19:31, with Ryan at 19:36, and Alex at 19:56. Adam and Durran had great kicks to round off our pack at 20:59 and 21:29 respectively. The Zee Bees placed 12th/14 teams.
Our final race of the day was the JV/Open 5k race, and we had our largest pack on the line. Orion forgot his bib but was able to recover and pin it just as the race kicked off! Tom and Christian led our pack at the midpoint, with Orion not far behind. Emmanuel was having a great race, and he and Antonio put on nice moved to pass other athletes as they passed the fans. Davion, Jared, and Joan had nice surges here as well. When the athletes rolled into their finishes, I was impressed by the tenacity of their kicks. Tom was our first man in at 22:07, followed closely by Orion at 22:17 and Christian at 22:21--what a great pack this was! Davion was our fourth man at 24:54 with a great kick, and Emmanuel was right after him at 25:03. This was a huge PR for Emmanuel, who dropped 50 seconds from his time at Waukegan this last week--and in a 3.1 mile race! What an impressive feat! Antonio was next at 25:35, followed by Jared at 27:26 and Joan at 27:58. The Bees placed 12th/14 teams here as well.
This was a tough day to race, and the Bees came out and raced tough. The kicks, the passing on the trails, and the overall effort were there today. While this isn't easily measured in times (Coach Washington did provide general equivalents to the athletes), today represented a great stepping stone of progress in our season. Racing these hills and competing provides invaluable experience. This next week we move forward to race again at Waukegan Sports Complex, and then the Varsity is headed downstate to Peoria. I cannot wait to see how this team capitalized on their momentum. Have a great holiday weekend everyone (get in your Long Run)!
Lake County 9.2.21
The weather cooled off a bit for our first major invitational of the year. We took the short commute out to Waukegan Sports Complex to square off against fourteen other teams in the Art Campbell Lake County Invite. This was the first time we ran at Varsity and Open levels, and the course is a far hillier 3 miler than our season opener at Deerfield. After a short course hike, we were ready to begin the day with the men's Varsity race. It is worth noting here that the race info I received listed two open races, but when the Varsity went to the line we learned there was just one--our Open racers had to quickly adjust to an immediate warmup and accelerated race schedule!
Eric went out with the top pack in the Varsity race, and was racing in the seventh spot through the mile at 5:03. The rest of our pack came through nicely packed, with Alex leading Ryan, Adam, Durran, and Jarek. It was awesome to see these Bees working so well together. I ran up the hill to catch the downhill part of their second mile. Eric was back at 15th and still racing well, and Ryan was right up on Alex's back. Durran had surged ahead of Adam on the downhill switchbacks, and Jarek was holding off a pair of Warren runners. Eric launched into the finish to earn a 14th place medal finish (17:16)! Ryan was our next man, edging out Alex in the finishing route for 19:30. Alex was just behind at 19:36 (incorrectly reported in the results as Orion). Durran kicked hard as our fourth man (19:59), with Jarek edging out Adam for a pair of nice finishes (20:20 & 20:23 respectively). The Varsity placed 13th/15 teams in the race.
The coed Open race was next, and I sprinted over to the line just in time to wish them luck and hear the gun go off. This was a huge race with both men and women racing, and our Zee Bee men--many of whom had never raced before--went out with fire. Jalen decided to make the race his own, and took a fantastic lead over the entire field in the first mile. Orion raced in excellent form as our second runner, with Tom not far behind him going into the mile--accompanied by Lauren as the first woman in the race! Christian and Davion were in close proximity going through the mile, with Jonathan and Antonio separated by about fifteen positions. Jared was working next to Illyana, and Sebastian was racing in excellent form in his first race, as was Orland. Joan and Emmanuel were packed up nicely into the second half. The Bees had visibly tired from the hill, but were looking pretty aggressive on the switchbacks coming down. Orion and Christian both caught runners on the turns, and it was awesome seeing Emmanuel and Joan still side-by-side headed into the final 800m. I wasn't able to make it back to the finish for all of the kicks, but I was assured by the other coaches that these were awesome!
Jalen was edged out in the last half second by a Deerfield runner, but finished in second place with a fantastic kick and 18:43 time. Orion was our second man at 21:53, which was a huge PR from his time at Deerfield! Tom and Christian rolled in next at 22:18 and 22:24. Antonio O. was our next man at 23:18 with a fantastic kick into the chute, followed by Davion (24:09) and Jonathan (24:17). Emmanuel finished his first XC race with a 25:53 PR, with Joan not far behind with his first finish and PR 26:35! Jared (26:29) and Sebastian (29:58) were next, with Sebastian racing through strong Achilles pain to finish his first XC race as well. Orland rounded off the pack in his first race, too, with a tremendous kick and 36:52 finish. The Open race men took 9th/13 teams.
I could not be more proud of the races tonight. The tougher course was certainly a factor to learn from, and our men rose nicely to the challenge. We will be back here next week for a dual, and I believe we can approach it with a different angle based on our experience. I am proud of the assertive races -- including those that raced to the front and held it -- and of those that pushed to get into good position at the first mile. Congratulations to the men that raced their first high school Cross Country races as well!
It is with immense pride that I report on the season opener today. The Zee Bees have been working hard in the heat and humidity that have been omnipresent since we started the season just three short weeks ago, and the team's commitment to hard work is just starting to pay off. We traveled to Deerfield HS to race against Deerfield, Warren, and Mather on a toasty Thursday evening. Temps had dipped slightly when we took the line around 6:20 pm, but were still in the mid-80s. While a solid third of our men's team was sitting this one out (not quite to the minimum number of practices to compete), we put a squad of fourteen men on the line for the 3 mile race. Our captain, Durran, took the lead in getting the squad warmed up and positioned for the race.
For many, this was their first high school XC race. For most, the nerves of throwing down for a true race were occupying the mind. We had hashed out some plans to attack this flat course--packing in the first mile and seeing where this would set up the second half. Our collective strength this season has been in sharing the work together, and I was pleased to see our packs form right off the line. With the gun, the team surged forward in great form. Eric raced out assertively to take an early lead on the entire field, and in the first mile we had some amazing groups pack up. Jalen, Alex, Ryan, and Adam were racing together, with Durran just behind. Jonathan and Jared were working together, as were Aaron, Tom, and Antonio. The first mile came and went with our team competing nicely.
Eric entered the second loop with a slight misdirection that he quickly corrected--he held a nice 75m lead still. Jalen and Alex had pushed ahead while a Mather pack worked up in front of their squad mates. Jarek, Christian, and Orion were between groups here, and Jarek made several assertive moved to pass runners in his laps near the building. In the third mile, a Deerfield athlete worked up to Eric and took the lead. As the field of spectators raced to the sport fields to see the finish, I could not help but be impressed by the fire of our finishes.
Eric locked in 2nd place with a 16:51 season best time and great kick. Jalen surged ahead of Alex in the final loop to lock in our #2, racing a lifetime 18:24 PR. Alex was close behind him as our third man, also with a lifetime PR 18:29. Ryan and Durran fought neck and neck into the chute with amazing kicks, each running 18:49 PRs! For Durran this is 42s faster than his PR from last year, and for Ryan it dropped 1:58 from his Bee Linked time. This top 5 group had a 1-5 split of 1:58--not a bad start for the season!
Jarek punched in with a stellar kick as our 6th man, breaking his previous 22:02 best with a smashing 19:47 (2:15 improvement from last season!). He was closely followed by Adam as our 7th, who threw down a lifetime PR 20:50. Christian and Antonio were next, both racing their first high school XC races. Their efforts were impressive, particularly how they rounded the final flag and kicked into the chute. Christian ran 21:21, a 2:35 PR improvement over his Bee Linked time. Antonio raced his lifetime PR 21:37! Tom was right on his heels with a Season Best 21:50, and then a string of Zee Bees rolled in hard across the finish. Orion raced a PR 22:17, followed by Aaron at a PR 23:01, Jonathan with a Season Best 24:00, and Jared with a lifetime PR 24:29--65 better than his time last year!
In sum, we had 11 lifetime best and three Season Bests tonight. This amazing racing underscores the benefit of the work they are putting in, and their commitment to pack racing will undoubtedly be a deciding factor as we move into the season. I don't think I have ever had a frosh-soph pack start the season with this kind of strength, nor carry this kind of potential moving forward. As we finished the evening and reflected on what we had done, I could not help but feel that we have something truly special here--this team is poised for greatness! Congratulations, men, on a great season opener!
1. 16:04 Eric @Conference
2. 18:46 Durran @Lake Forest & Conference
3. 20:44 Tom @Lake Forest
1. 17:41 Alex @Conference
2. 17:45 Jalen @Warren
3. 18:07 Ryan @Warren