2022 CROSS COUNTRY
The heavy morning fog slowly illuminated in a near surreal picture of a beautiful morning as the Sectional race day kicked off. Driving in and seeing the sunrise, in near-perfect temperatures really felt encouraging. We have had frost and heat and everything else this year, but everything aligned perfectly today for the ideal race day. I knew, too, that Eric was rested and sharp, and that today was going to present an amazing opportunity.
We traveled to Busse Woods for the Sectional. The fog was lifting as we arrived, giving way to a sunlit morning with barely any wind. We walked the course to find that it was firm, lacking in mud, and in arguably the best condition I have ever seen it in. Eric was relaxed and in good spirits, and together we saw the women warm up and throw down for their race. In the short minutes that they were on the clock, the women ran an amazing competition that ultimately put two women to State! Audrey qualified for a second time, and Riley earned a qualification as well! It was truly historic!
Eric warmed up with a large pack and took the line. Located in Box C, at the far right of the line, he had a nice shot to the first turn but the challenge that he needed to get out hard to not get pinned into the ropes. He strategized to go out conservative in the first mile and progressively work up. With a crisp set of strides and energetic break-down, the runners were called to the line. It was time.
With the gun, Eric got out in excellent footing. Last year this was the tough part, where he tripped forward. Today, he zipped forward with ease and put himself in good position in the pack headed up the hill. It was apparent that this was going to be a fast race, with two top packs forming up in the first mile with their feet on the accelerators. Eric came through the first mile running tall in a large group, bracketed by a Barrington and Grant runner, with the whole pack running the same pace. Coming down the hill and behind the line for the second time, he was holding well in the same pack, with an Evanston runner keeping right in front of him. For the third time around, the heat was on! The top groups surged forward with 800 to go, hungry for the finish. Eric's pack also moved, with Eric working upward in good form here for a hard stride into the finish. He came through at 16:04 and 63rd place--nearly a full minute faster than last year!
Unfortunately, Eric's time didn't qualify. The last individual qualifier was 34th place, running 15:43--this shows the depth of the race and just how fast one needed to run in order to get out. While this is not the finish we wanted for the season, I could not be more proud of the effort that Eric put in, not just today, but over the entire journey. He evolved as a runner and a leader who raced hard at every opportunity, and he threw down a tough, respectable final race. Honestly, I cannot wait to see what he does in the upcoming Track season with this fortitude and strength. Congratulations, Eric, on your race and your achievements!
And on to State for the ladies!
IHSA Regionals 10.22.22
This is a part of the season that I love and dislike at the same time. This is where the heart and competition truly matters the most, where opportunities are earned and breakthroughs matter above all other parts of the season. But at the same time, it can be the end of the season if individuals or teams don't qualify out for the next level of competition. We train for these moments, but these moments can go either way, depending on myriad factors. Today we went out to "Zion-Benton West," the familiar Grant course at the Bulldog Athletic Complex. The weather was absolutely perfect--sunny and warm--and felt just like an early September day. This was a big departure from the last couple of weeks of frost, chilly winds, and rain. Seven-strong, we were ready to put our best on the line and race toward the Sectional.
One late night at Oshkosh, the men set the goal of making it as a team to Sectionals. This hasn't happened on the men's side since 2016, but the way this team has evolved and worked, we believe it to be possible. Unfortunately we were also nursing a number of pains and injuries, but despite these the men had resolved not to back down from the work. Adam, Alex, Eric, Jared, Jarek, Jalen, and Ryan took the line in the "pizza" uniforms in the best shape of their lives and with the best possible potential to race well. It would not be about times today, rather, the places we race. They were hungry. They were ready.
The gun went off and the pack surged forward and up the hill. Eric put himself in 11th place in the first mile, with Ryan assertively getting out and holding a high position as well. Alex and Jared were within a stride of each other and looked great together heading into the mile mark. Jalen was racing as our fifth, with Adam and Jarek in close order as well. In the second mile Eric was in tenth headed into the woods, with that top pack moving quickly. Ryan was having an awesome race and holding off the moves of a Mundelein runner at each turn. Alex moved up a couple spots, putting two runners between him and Jared, who was racing in excellent form as well. Adam put about thirty yards on Jarek, who was working well against a Round Lake athlete into the woods for his second loop.
The final lap of this course is always the toughest. The third trip up the big hill is one that wears athletes down, but our men worked incredibly well on it. Eric surged up in 11th place. Ryan's kick was superb, and both Alex and Jared moved well. Jalen was finding a great second-half surge, and in the fields above Jarek closed to within two strides of Adam! In the final 400m Eric slung around the turns in good order and finished hard into the chute for 16:34, narrowly being beat out for 12th by a McHenry runner. Ryan had an excellent stride in as our second runner, racing 17:49 and holding off the same Mundelein runner by a second! Jared kicked hard as our third, putting down 18:04 to also hold off a Mundelein athlete. Jalen had a great final mile with an 18:17 finish, followed by Alex at 18:36, whose final mile looked a little tight but still fought through to the finish. Jarek finished the last mile in excellent form as well, working jut ahead of Adam for our sixth finish of 19:26 and Adam rounded out the pack at 19:37.
It was a hard-fought race all-around. The Bees placed 9th/10 full teams (Waukegan didn't have a full squad), and unfortunately missed the top six cutoff to make it out to the Sectional. Eric qualified as the second individual due to this finishing place! While it was not the race we had dreamed and hoped for, I could not be more proud of the work that went in. Though a bit battered, the Bees fought through and competed the whole way. It's tough to see the season end for these amazing athletes in the way it did, but they went out working together and making moves on the course. They competed when they were feeling tired and had nice kicks in the final stretch. We are very excited to celebrate Eric's accomplishment as we move forward, and cannot wait to see what he does in the next week! Thank you, runners, for your dedication and for your hard work this season. I'm so proud of you!
On another note, we are ecstatic to congratulate the women on their historic second place finish and team qualification to the Sectional! Awesome job!
It was finally here! We reached the epic NSC Conference meet, traveling out in a frosty morning to Lake Forest West. The temps were just breaking forty, but the wind gusts were unkind in the early morning hours. Still, this is a great course for racing and we showed up poised for excellent competition. The sun was out and the day slowly warming as we walked the course and talked strategy. Before long, it was time for the Varsity to warm up.
We were able to run ten men in the Varsity race instead of the seven customary in other races, which is something I really like about our Conference. Our top seven were joined by Orion, Tony, and Andrew today, all resplendent in their checkered uniforms and ready to race at their peak. Unfortunately, Eric was out feeling sick, so we had nine competitors on the line. I told the team to relax and have fun with the day, taking risks as they can and finishing well. We toed the line with the frost still crunchy in the shadows--and with a BANG we were off! Ryan went out leading the pack in the first mile, with Alex racing just behind him. Jared was not far behind racing in our third, trailed by Jay, Adam, and Jarek in close succession. In their customary way, Tony and Andrew went out racing together and looked amazing as they came past the mile mark. Orion was sicker than he thought and found himself stymied as he struggled for breath.
At the second mile Alex had overtaken Ryan by a dozen meters and was leading our pack but the order otherwise was the same. Adam was doing a good job of holding off a pair of Lake Forest runners on the tennis court turns, and Tony had put a short distance on Andrew. I made it over to see them racing into the finishing field. Jarek was making excellent moved on the gently rolling terrain, chasing down a Mundelein runner as he passed me.
Alex led the Zee Bee pack into the finish, taking 25th place and running 17:14. Ryan finished well at 17:32, followed by Jared at 17:59 and Adam at 18:08; Jarek rounded out the top five at 18:17. Jalen finished at 18:23, and I looked up to see Andrew and Tony sprinting all-out into the chute for monster PRs! Andrew finished at 18:27, dropping 12s from his time at Lakes, and Tony at 18:31, dropping 32s from that same race! Orion stuck with it and finished at 23:00. Overall the Varsity, one runner short, finished well at 6th/7 full teams, beating Lake Forest and Waukegan (partial team).
The Frosh-Soph were up next and they looked hungry! I could not wait to see the take the course as the day slowly warmed and we celebrated the amazing achievements of the women--who put three runners All-Conference and placed third! The F-S men knew what they could do, and when they took the line they looked sharp and in the best shape of their lives. They would come to prove it in the next minutes.
Deonta led our pack through the first mile and was racing the best race of his life. Noah C was next through the mile mark, with Robert racing well ahead of his best pace; Nick, Noah M, and Steven were packed nicely together and working against a pair of Stevenson runners. Tyler was just behind and racing well, followed by Jimmy and Caleb. The Bees looked amazing, still, as they passed me at the second mile mark. Deonta was still leading, and Noah C still our second Bee. Nick had broken off and moved up from Robert and Noah M, and Steven was racing in amazing form!
Deonta led all the way into the chute, finishing 50th at 20:07--a 36s lifetime PR from his time at Grant a couple weeks ago! Noah C matched this achievement with a monster finish and 20:31 time, a 66s PR over this time at Lakes! (Now I need to purchase a lot of chocolate from him) Nicholas's second-half surge landed him as our third racer at 20:47. This is a lifetime PR for him, and particularly notable because he had crushed his 22:21 time from last season, a goal of his as he worked through injury and strengthening all season to make this happen. Then he went out and beat it by 26s! Nice work, Nick!
Noah M surged in with a wonderful kick as our fourth man at 21:20, breaking 22 for the first time and earning a lifetime PR of 62s! He was closely followed by Robert, whose 21:49 time earned him a lifetime PR by 10s from his time at Lakes! I looked up to see Tyler and Steven surge into the chute in quick succession, with both running lifetime PRs as well! Tyler ran a 54s PR for 22:03, and Steven a 13s PR for 22:14--both breaking their PRs from Lakes! Jimmy and Caleb worked well in their kicks as well, with Jimmy earning 23:23 and Caleb 24:55.
I could not be more proud of the team today. 10 lifetime PRs reflect enormous effort, but their camaraderie and sportsmanship reflected the incredible character they carry. In the final JV race, they were literally everywhere cheering on the two women--and they gave incredible shout-outs on the bus. Conference is always bittersweet--it's the end of the season for most of the team, but a gateway opportunity for the Varsity to head to the State Series in the coming weeks. We cheered on Adam as the NSC Sportsmanship Award recipient, and celebrated the amazing All-Conference women to close out a fantastic day. As I look back at the runners that started the season, it truly brings into focus the growth reflected in the team today. This was amazing. And the journey is far from over! Keep up the momentum, Bees! Get well and stay sharp!
Unfortunately a scheduling issue was caught in time and shifted our planned Thursday meet to Friday--but this meant that it conflicted with many athletes' plans. Still, we packed a single bus with men and women (not racing at Sterling) and headed out to Lakes for the Sunset Invitational. This is our third running of this meet and its three one-mile loops never fail to make for fun racing in the coed races. We arrived with just a few moments to spare and sent our Open race men and women out for a warmup while the second and third waves walked the course. The evening settled just over 60 degrees with lovely clouds stacked to the horizons. With a quick dynamic and issue of the bibs (huge thank-you to Ashley for the help!) we were off to the line.
The Open race was the largest of the night and the Bees stacked deep in the box. From the gun, the pack surged forward and I caught them in the back loop--called "Narnia" on the map. Noah C. took the lead of the Zee Bee pack and Steven was racing as our second man--a powerful start. Noah M. was trailed by Robert with Jimmy just a few paces back, and as soon as he passed me, Tyler threw down one of his signature surges and passed nearly a dozen competitors! They had gotten out in great form.
In the second lap Noah C. was still leading our pack, but Jimmy had closed up quite a few ranks and had pushed Robert and Tyler forward. This pack was working along nicely. I was able to make it just in time to see the finishes and these were just as solid as the first half. Noah C. was our first man across the line at 21:37, breaking 22 for the first time and earning a PR by 66 seconds from his time at Dawson! Robert powered in next, bypassing the 22's entirely to race 21:59, dropping an incredible 1:58 from his time at Dawson as well. Steven finished just as amazing as his start, coming in at 22:37, dropping 1:37 from his previous best at the JT Invite. Jimmy, Tyler, and Noah M. were hot on his heels, with Jimmy and Tyler racing 22:57 and Noah 23:07. For Jimmy this is a PR of 15s from his previous best at Dawson, and Tyler a PR by 71s! These amazing kicks rounded out the ZeeBee pack and we cheered on the amazing races by our women as well!
The next wave was our 6-10 athletes, with Orion, Jarek, Adam, Andrew, and Tony taking the line. They went out hungry for success, with Adam and Jarek leading our pack in the first mile, with Tony and Andrew racing next to each other and Orion just on their six. Adam made a nice surge in Narnia in the second mile, which Jarek matched in the field on his second time around. Andrew broke off of Tony and moved up several positions, and Orion was holding steady. I was able to catch their finishes and was stunned by the authority of the kicks they threw down. Adam surged in at 17:58, just seven seconds off his PR earlier in the week and earning a sticker, and Jarek was next at 18:07 for a lifetime PR of 16s from Peoria last Saturday! Andrew was next at 18:39, running sub-19 for the first time and dropping 51s from his PR at Dawson! Orion and Tony surged in together as well with great kicks, racing twin PRs of 19:02 and 19:03 respectively. For Orion this broke his standing PR of 19:28 from a home meet last year, and for Tony this PR is a 26s drop form Dawson! This pack raced amazing today!
The final race was the 1-5 athletes and hotly contested from the gun. Ryan and Eric went out hard together in the first 400, with Eric putting himself in the top six in the first mile. Alex was racing in our third spot, with Jared and Jalen not far behind. In the second mile, Eric was in second place and racing well behind a nervous Mundelein athlete. Ryan was holding our second position well with Alex dialed in, followed still by Jared and Jay. In the final lap, Eric's surge started gaining some ground on the lead runner and the contest was on, but in the turns the athlete was able to keep looking back and bump out of the evident autopilot, which staved off Eric's advance. Still, Eric kicked hard for 15:44 and second place! Alex worked up as our second, kicking well for 17:07 and a lifetime PR from his time at our home meet this year. Jalen unleashed a nice third mile and passed Ryan, finishing at 17:15, with Ryan just behind him at 17:19. Jared had a great kick as well for 17:59, rounding off our pack under 18!
This was an amazing night of racing all the way around. The weather was great, the team energy was positive, and the races were fire. Ten lifetime PRs on this late-season race is a testament to the fitness and racing prowess this team has been developing, and the strength of the kicks exemplifies a willpower that can push through even the toughest miles. We applauded each other all the way home on the bus, celebrating the magnitude of the women's accomplishments as well--amazing work tonight, Bees! I am so proud and cannot wait to see what you all do at the Conference meet!
The weather was perfect as we traveled out to Adler Park for the tri against Libertyville and Lake Zurich--our final dual meets of the year. Because we also have a second meet this week, I asked the Varsity men to run this course as a progressive workout, and asked our younger runners to race as best as they could. This is a challenging course due to the hills, but a good opportunity to get in some quality training for the races ahead.
We had very little time from disembarking the bus, but a quick warmup and dynamic saw us to the line just in time. The gun went off and the race had begun!
Lake Zurich put a deep pack in the lead, and Libertyville did the same thing, followed by Eric in the opening loop. Ryan and Alex raced together, and Jay was just behind them as they headed down the hill and toward the Des Plaines trail. Our next pack was very cohesive--Tony, Andrew, Jarek, Orion, and Adam were nicely packed, and Deonta was working up. Noah, Noah, and Nick were racing together, and Robert was just trailing Tyler. At the mile mark, Eric had worked up ahead of the Libertyville pack and was progressing nicely. Ryan and Alex were still together, with Jalen and Jared not far behind. Noah C. had put ten yards on Noah M. and Nick, and I was glad to see Jimmy working up to them from back in the field! Steven was making similar moves into his second mile, and Reilly had a great start.
I saw them again with 800m to go, and Eric was challenging to lead LZ runner as he surged forward. He would go on the finish second at 17:05, just nine seconds behind the leader and in great form. Ryan was our next at 18:47 with a great kick that gained four positions, and Alex surged in at 19:00, followed closely by a great kick from Jared for 19:04. Adam progressively tackled the last mile for 19:30, with Jalen 19:36; Andrew kicked in at 19:45, Jarek rolled in well at 20:27, with Orion just behind him at 20:42.
Our next racers also had wonderful kicks as we worked hard up the finishing hill and into the chute. Tony finished well at 21:12, followed by Deonta at 22:33, Noah C at 23:02, and Noah M. at 23:04 just behind him. Nick kicked well to finish at 23:55. Jimmy was next at 24:32, followed by Robert at 24:45, Caleb at 25:17, Steven at 25:26, Tyler at 25:54, and Reilly at 30:08.
This was certainly a tough course, but we ran with authority today. The kicks through the finish line were magnificent and show just how fit and fast this team is getting. I cannot wait to see what break-throughs we can throw down at Lakes later this week! Great job tonight!
Peoria Invitational 10.1.22
This meet turned out to one for the books. Early this season I was approached by several runners asking to bump back the usual First to the Finish race in Peoria to a spot in the season where they would feel sharper and in better shape, and that is how this opportunity materialized. We have been slowly progressing in our Varsity pack this season, and this weekend would mark a remarkable leap in their racing growth. We left school and drove on down to Detweiller, finding the course to be extremely dusty and the temperature hovering at a cool 62. We were the only team on the course as we did our exploratory shakeout and discussed the conditions. The pack found out that the first two turns had poles that would not move, got acquainted with the mile marks, and kicked up plenty of dust. With a final kick to the finish line, the light was gone and we headed to the hotel.
We enjoyed continuing the tradition of dinner at Avanti's, a local Italian-style diner, and then a well-behaved trip to Kroger. That night we sat down and discussed team and individual goals. We all agreed that the next morning was a time for a breakthrough, and each man contributed his thoughts on how just to make that happen. I was struck with the common belief that the progress was assured, and the confidence that they brought to the conversation. I told them to put their watches away and race with the field, to take a risk, and to trust both their training and each other. For some this would be their first race at Detweiller, and for the others a remarkably different one from their hot one last year.
The next morning brought a dense fog and cool morning. Though breakfast was certainly lackluster, the energy was there and we loaded up for Detweiller, arriving just as the sun was breaking through. It could not be a more perfect morning, though any dew did little to dampen the clouds of dust in the lower leg of the course. We set up and soon it was time to warm up. Clad in our brand new Varsity uniforms for the first time, it was truly time to take our racing to the next level. We checked in, did our strides, and waited at the line for the final instructions. They were ready.
With the gun, the field surged forward with a rush of energy. I caught them at the 800m mark racing very well in the dense field. Eric was right around the 30th position and Ryan was our next man. Alex, Jalen, and Jared were racing within spitting distance of each other, and Adam was leading Jarek by about 20m. I caught them at the mile, where Eric was just under 5 and I was too excited to look down at splits as the team raced by. Ryan was holding well as our second, Alex and Jay were five feet apart with Jared only about 30m back, and Adam and Jarek only separated by about two dozen runners. A third of the way in, we had thrown down a great start!
Runners often "fall asleep" in the distant "back 40" or "triangle" part of the course, and I asked the men to be particularly vigilant here as they hit the midpoint. Coming out of the cut-through, Eric was holding at about the 35th rank as he passed two on the corner. Ryan punched out next, with Jalen rolling out next, having swapped places with Alex. Jared was next, and Adam launched out and passed a runner on the turn as well; Jarek shook out his arms and had a nice reset here. I caught them at the 2.5mi mark using the downhill well. The field had spread out a bit by this point, and it was necessary now to start moving and closing gaps as we neared the final 400m uphill stretch. Knowing how hard this team has worked on their closing game these past weeks, I hoped they could put down some nice kicks.
It was with elation that I saw excellent final kicks from every runner--I was about 200m down from the finish and watched this team fly. Eric rolled hard to finish in a big pack at 15:34, a big PR from his time at our home meet! Ryan and Jalen were our next, just steps off of each other as they surged in. Ryan ran the first sub-17 race of his life, finishing at 16:58, and Jalen hit a big PR with 17:00! Alex and Jared were next, with Jared kicking hard to pass a bunch of opponents in the final straightaway--Alex was just a half second off his PR as he finished at 17:25, and Jared ran a big PR 17:27! Adam broke 18 for the first time, racing a monster 17:51 PR, and Jarek threw down a big PR race to finish at 18:23! The Bees finished 24/36 full teams, and even ran a 1-5 split of less than 2 minutes!
It was a time of celebration as the team congregated at the tarp and considered just what they had accomplished. They indeed went out and accomplished exactly what they had come down here to do--they went out well, sustained and competed throughout the race, and finished in excellent form. The confidence and tactical racing showed this to be a new team as well, one that bring out the best in each other. I cannot wait to see them take this experience back home and pull the rest of the team with them as we approach the next two races this week. This was an amazing weekend. Great work, Bees!
JT Invite 9.24.22
I have always liked this course. It combines many great elements of Cross Country --rolling trails, grass pathways, a hill challenge, and a great, long finish. While the hill is challenging to run up three times over the course of the meet, there are so many opportunities for great racing that our athletes usually run really fast here. The turn to cooler weather this last week happened exactly on the first day of autumn--it felt like we also turned over a new leaf in our racing this season as our team embraced the cooler temperatures and their growing fitness. Conditions this morning were absolutely perfect as we drove out to Fox Lake for the meet.
The frosh-soph men were the first on the line for the men's team today. This pack has been making amazing strides in their racing, and I have enjoyed coaching their progressing packs and seeing their outstanding finishes. They collectively went out with amazing energy this morning, racing in a large field. Orion went out leading our pack in the first half, with Tony and Andrew not far behind as they surged up the hill a second time. Deonta had a great first half, followed by Kingston in the first race of his XC career. Nick took a lead on a ZB pack of Steven, Noah, Noah, and Robert, which did a great job of sticking together, with Tyler, Caleb, and Reilly taking the hill in great stride. The field spread out a little more in the second half, much thanks to the hill, but our packs continued the good work with Andrew and Tony working forward of Orion. Into the finish, Andrew and Tony kicked hard to be our first and second at 19:35 and 19:36, both catching opponents in the final straightaway. Orion was next at 20:22, followed by Deonta throwing down a huge PR race at 20:43, dropping 37s from his time at Dawson! Noah M surged away from his pack as well, racing 22:22 for a 13s PR and amazing kick, with Nick and Noah C finishing next at 23:01 and 23:03. For Nicholas this was a great Season Best in his progression, and at this point he is not far at all off his PR from last year. Kingston was next to earn a PR 23:37 in his first XC race, followed quickly by Robert (24:01), Tyler (24:08), and Steven (24:14). For Tyler and Steven this was a big PR race, with Tyler dropping a whopping 2:08 from his Dawson time and Steven 59s! Caleb kicked well for 25:21, and Reilly did the same for 29:11. Reilly ran a big PR in this race, dropping 41 seconds from his Deerfield time. Nice work, pack!
Our Varsity hit the line next, seven-strong. This is the same pack from Dawson, and they knew that today they needed to earn spots for the upcoming Peoria trip in this race. I told them to temper their first mile a little, and they went out in excellent form from the gun. Eric joined the top pack right away, and Ryan worked up to keep in contact with an excellent first half. Alex, Jared, Adam, Jay, and Jarek raced the first mile in very close proximity, which I was very excited about. In he second half, after the next trip up the hill, Eric looked relaxed and holding well in fifth place. Jared and Adam were racing shoulder-to-shoulder headed into the trails, with Jarek just behind them and Jay working forward. When it came to the finishes, Eric had a fantastic kick for a fifth place medal and 16:20 overall time. Ryan had his best finishing place and lifetime PR 17:36, dropping six seconds from Deerfield and earning a ribbon--his early-race efforts today definitely paid off. Alex (17:57) and Jay (18:09) were our third and fourth, with Jared racing through a sore achilles today as our fifth man at 18:48. Adam had a great kick to finish at 19:00, with Jarek surging in just behind him at 19:06. Varsity finished 6th out of 14 full teams today!
Bill Dawson 9.17.22
We braced for an exciting day as we headed to Warren for our biggest XC meet of the year to date, the Bill Dawson Invitational. The flat course contains three loops, and with dozens of teams it would prove to be a great day for competing. The early morning cool temps were particularly inviting, and the positive energy on the bus set us up for a day of great potential. Before long we were at the course and walking the damp grass loop and warming up.
The Frosh-Soph pack was the second race of the day. After warming up, this large crew was prepared on and on the line. I encouraged them to take a risk and go with the competition, which they certainly did with the gun. In the first half mile, Orion, Tony, and Andrew were leading our pack, and I saw many guys making moves to close up gaps in the crowded field. As things spread out a bit after the mile mark, with Orion leading our ZBXC pack with a 5:52 opening mile. Tony and Andrew were holding together at 6:03 and Deonta our fourth at 6:19. Both Noahs, Jimmy, and Steven were within paces of each other between 7:23 and 7:30, with Robert and Caleb packed with Tyler on their heels.
The third loop looked awesome and I saw a few nice moves being made. Tony and Andrew moved up past Orion here in a nice late-race surge, which Orion used to go along. Tony cross the line as our first athlete for 19:29, a lifetime PR, and Andrew a step behind for a lifetime 19:30 as well! Orion had a great stride to finish at 19:46, a Season Best and a nice race after weeks of sickness recovery. Deonta, in just his third race of the season, broke 22 and sprinted hard for a PR 21:20, just as Noah M and Noah C were racing into the stadium. Noah M finished first for a lifetime PR 22:35, and Noah C just seconds behind him for a lifetime PR 22:43. Jimmy threw down a nice kick as well, racing a fantastic 23:12 PR, with Caleb and Robert in their finishing loop as well. Caleb kicked in for 23:52, a nearly two-minute PR and Robert running the largest PR of the day, dropping 2:21 to finish at 23:57! Steven had a wonderful kick to race to finish with a PR 25:13, and Tyler's stride earned him a 26:16 PR as well! Every runner earned a lifetime PR or a Season Best in this race--an impressive feat!
Nearly two hours later, the sun had come out and the heat had risen into the low 80s--a 15 degree swing. The Varsity took the line, seven-strong, and completed their strides. I had asked them to take a risk in the first mile of this race, knowing their endurance would carry them to great races. The temperature would prove to be a challenge, however, but they carried out the instructions perfectly as the huge field rolled forward. I was surprised, though, how the heat affected the entire field. The fastest first mile was just sub-5, with Eric holding the 7th place position at 5:10... this is quite slow for this course in years past. Ryan split 5:29 as our second man, with Alex just behind him but nine places back at 5:31. Jared (5:34) and Jay (5:37) were next, with Adam and Jarek racing well at 6:10 at the mile. It was progressing well and our men were in a very good position in the field.
The latter half was very challenging, but our men split the second and third miles nearly evenly as the heat sapped at their strength. Eric was in 9th at the second mile, and would finish 10th overall at 16:19 for a medal! Alex made a late-race surge to finish as our second man at 17:34, with Ryan and Jay finishing in lockstep for 17:45 and 17:46 respectively. Jared locked in our fifth scoring position with a great kick as well, racing 18:24. Jarek and Adam finished the race they had run together, with Jarek racing 19:00 and Adam 19:05. For Jarek, this was a nice comeback race, bringing his time down nicely after several weeks of sickness. The Varsity placed 10th/16 full teams. While it wasn't the fast results many were driving for, the exceptional start and first mile showed heart. In better conditions, the outcome would undoubtedly be different, but still, we ran hard and finished well.
The final race of the day was the Open race, and we had just one runner entered. Cesar took the line knowing that it would just be him representing the ZBXC pack. With his usual sense of humor he joked about carrying the entire team on his shoulders, and then with two snappy strides and a swarm of his teammates, he took the line and the gun went off. Cesar raced forward and started the race off in great fashion. At the mile, he had logged 7:42--the fastest he has ever started a race. He cooled off the pace a bit in the second mile, and worked hard in the third. At the finishing stretch, he threw down a nice challenge to a Crystal Lake South athlete, just narrowly missing him at the finish line. But by taking a risk, he threw down a 46s lifetime PR. Congratulations, Cesar!
This is usually a meet and a course where we excel and walk away feeling positive. The three 1-mile loops are flat and good confidence boosters, as we saw in the F/S race. But sometimes the course conditions are challenging--either scenario, these athletes worked hard toward their goals. I am so proud of the finishes, and this next week we are going to hone these further when we are tired. We have a dual meet and the Conference meet on this course later this season so we won't be strangers. As this team develops and excels, the next race here is going to be different. Keep up the good work, Bees!
It was an eighty-degree evening as we returned to Waukegan Sports Park for our second dual meet of the year against Mundelein and our hosts, Waukegan. This was going to be a small field of competitors, and I asked a number of the runners to approach this day as a workout opportunity for even splits on their first two miles. After a short warmup, we were off to the line.
The weather felt like it was cooling down a bit, and there were far less insects out from the last time we attacked this course. From the gun, the packs surged forward and around the baseball field. Eric took an early, assertive lead, which he would hold for the entire race. Our first pack after that came together nicely with seven Mundelein runners by the time they hit the mile, and they looked to be both in good shape and within five seconds of their target mile time. Ryan was leading this, with Jared off his right shoulder, with Alex, Jay, Orion, and Adam just behind. Our second pack passed in good form as well, with Tony leading Andrew, Deonta, and Jarek. I was very pleased to see a third pack of Zee Bee racers working together, with Noah M. setting the pace. Steven set himself up for a good race by holding right behind Noah at the mile, followed by Noah C., Caleb, Nick, Jimmy, and Robert. Cesar was leading Tyler, and Reilly was just behind. We were looking great at the mile mark.
I know that the hill up to the midpoint of the race is a monster challenge, and it indeed tired our packs. They did a great job working down from it on the switchbacks. Eric swung through and handily won the meet with a time of 16:57 and a nice evenly-split second half. Ryan was next at 18:55 and a nice kick, followed by Jared (19:05) and Alex (19:11)-- Jalen followed soon after at 19:23 to round out our top five. Adam kicked in for 20:36 with Tony right behind him at 20:42, and Orion followed at 21:01, and Jarek finished a fantastic recovery race at 21:20 with Andrew just a handful of strides behind him (21:41).
After a couple minutes our next packs entered the final field and worked hard to get across the finish line. Deonta finished his second race of the season at 24:33, with Noah C (25:20) and Noah M (25:28) finishing with great final kicks. Caleb (25:49) and Nick (26:59) were our next finishers, with Nick running a Season Best race here and Caleb throwing down the team's only PR! Cesar kicked hard for 28:15 with Jimmy just behind him (28:43), followed by Steven (29:37), Robert (29:52), Tyler (30:05), and Reilly (30:26).
The workout day wasn't geared toward winning the race, but we came very close in points, running 33 to Mundelein's 24 and beating Waukegan. The hills were challenging and finishes generally looked quite nice, which will be positive for our upcoming meet at Warren this next weekend. Nice work tonight!
Home v. LF 9.6.22
The first word that comes to mind when considering the excellent race of the Zee Bees tonight would be "proud." The men came together after a short rest and a long weekend to come out swinging in our first dual meet of the season, and our only home meet. I asked the team to toe the line and race to their best abilities as we went head-to-head with Lake Forest. They did just that and came away with a win!
The eighty-degree temperature had cooled slightly and the course was in the best shape it possibly could be, thanks to the Zion Park District--who mowed it down perfectly and trimmed up the low branches--and the Zion-Benton grounds staff--who came out and double-lined the entire thing! Thank you to both! We had the course set up in no time and the teams were ready to run. The men warmed up and came out looking ready. With a break-down circle and a few final words about dominating our home course, the starter called us to the line. It was on!
The men went out aggressively at the gun, a key move that set them up in nice positions by the mile mark. Eric took an early and decisive lead, and our next pack was Jared, Ryan, and Alex pressing hard; Jay was next and Tony was punching forward against a pair of LF opponents. Adam, Andrew, Jarek, and Deonta passed in quick succession, all looking well in the first half. Jimmy and Noah M packed up together to the midpoint, with Tyler, Noah C, and Nick within a dozen paces of each other. Caleb and Riley were competing in good form here, and I raced to the midpoint by the goose pond to catch the race again.
Eric had put nearly 200m on the nearest runner by this point and had split just under 5 in the first mile--he hit the second at 10:30. Alex had gained a couple paces on Jared, and Ryan was racing well right by his side and working to box out a LF opponent. Jay and Adam were our five and six, with Tony pressing here and Andrew racing next to Jarek--these latter two would be running stride-for-stride at the 2-mile mark as well.
Eric surged into the chute for a 15:43 PR race, taking third place on our all-time ZBXC record board, and doing it with incredible self-discipline. Alex lengthened his stride to finish 3rd with a PR 17:24, dropping six seconds from his time at Deerfield! Jared punched in as our third finisher with a remarkable 17:55--Jared's PR was previously 19:14 at Lake County, so he skipped the 18's completely by dropping 1:19 in time! Ryan was just behind him at 18:04 with a gutsy finish and much-needed team points. A LF runner edged our Adam and Jay in the final 100, but Adam gave chase and landed a 18:34 PR, dropping 21 seconds from his Deerfield time! He was also our fifth scoring man and secured the winning score. Jay worked hard just behind him at 18:36.
Andrew finished his race in the same way he had begun--by running fast. He ran 19:46 with a monster finish, for a whopping 1:40 PR and first sub-20 race! Jarek was just a few strides behind with 20:04 in his first race back from a long illness. Tony worked in nicely at 20:53 as our next man with a great kick. Deonta finished the first ZBXC race of his career at 22:13 for his first PR and a great finish, followed by Noah M at 24:34--a huge 41 second PR! Jimmy matched his stride for 24:33, with Robert surging home in great form as well for 26:18--a PR of 4 seconds from his time at Deerfield! Steven finished his first ZBXC race as well to log a 26:20 PR, and Tyler and Noah C were just behind him. Tyler kicked in hard to run 26:28--dropping a monster 3:09 PR, which was the biggest time drop of the day! Noah had an excellent kick at 26:32, and then I looked up to see Nick, Caleb, and Reilly cruising down the hill. Nick ran 29:37 and Caleb 29:46, with Reilly finishing at 30:53. This rounded off the impressive races of the ZBXC pack!
At the end of the night, we had won 24-32 against Lake Forest. We had been 6-8 against Lake Forest since 2008, with this victory making seven wins now. Ten lifetime PRs is very impressive as well, but most importantly I was impressed and proud of the way we truly raced. We had a heavy meet at Parkside and runners could have chosen to chill a bit and stay in their comfort zones--but clearly they chose to run great races. The heart and guts shown in the face of competition tonight collectively made this one of the best ZBXC races I have had the honor to coach. Adding to his, Eric moved up the Top Ten board to third--a major achievement. Very good work tonight, Bees!
Rebel Invitational 9.3.22
It's been a rigorous week, and we topped it off with a second race in the span of four days. Today we journeyed just northward to the famed UW-Parkside XC course for the Rebel Invite. This has been an annual tradition for several years now and universally a challenging one for both its distance (4k and 5k), and the notoriously-challenging hills. Today it was over eighty degrees at the first cannon, with barely any breeze to stir it up. It felt toasty as we walked the course, but I noted the course itself was in fantastic shape and ready for some work. I prefaced the race day with the fact that I care little for the times today in the races--since we don't have any to compare to in the season, the effort today was the best measure of our success. I was looking for kicks in the final 200m, and our men pushing themselves on the course. I would be impressed by the time the day was done!
Our freshmen took the line first for the team, preparing for the 4k race. This crew is incredible in their positive spirit, and for the support of each other. They got out in good form from the cannon and headed up the hill. I saw them again as they cruised past the park entrance with just 1200m to go. Andrew was leading our pack in the race's top ten--he got out really well! Noah M was next in a remarkable first half as well, with Noah C not too far behind him. Caleb attacked the second half hill with excellent arms, and not far behind him Tyler and Jimmy were packed together; Reilly made incredible use of the downhill toward the park entrance to recover and reset his stride. I didn't even make it over to the finish in time to see Andrew fly around the corner and sprint the final 150--he charged in for a fantastic 13th place finish (16:48). Noah M was next with a mighty kick for 20:30, with Noah C next at 21:15. I turned back just in time to see Caleb unleash a mighty kick for 22:27, followed closely by Jimmy at 23:40, Tyler at 24:08, and Reilly at 25:37. Overall these incredible freshmen took 8th place as a team and finished the course in wonderful form. Nice racing!
The Varsity pack was the next men's race, and we had a few minutes of cloud cover that felt like it cooled things down a bit. Our goal today was to decrease our 1-5 split, which we have successfully done in the last two races, by racing as closely together as possible through the woods. With six men on the line (the rest out sick unfortunately), we launched forward with the cannon's boom and the race was on. At the midpoint of the day's first 5k, Eric was racing in toward the very top of the field and looking excellent as he charged the second major hill. Ryan was racing in excellent form with Alex and Jay just behind him; Jared was leading Adam by about 30 seconds. It was clear that the heat and terrain were challenging, but the team was working well. Their finishes were even better. Eric slung around the final turn and kicked into high gear, passing the 3-mile mark at 16:31 and finishing the 5k for a 5th place medal at 17:01! Jalen and Ryan raced side-by-side with fantastic kicks as well, passing the 3-mile at 18:23/18:24. Both finished nicely at 18:53, with the split-second lead going to Jay. Alex hit the 3-mile at 18:55 and finished at 19:23. Jared was up next and extended his stride in excellent form, passing the 3-mile at 19:25 and picking off several runners before finishing at 19:52! Adam was misdirected for a minute but finished well at 20:06, bringing our pack home. The six-strong team placed 7th/14 from a nicely-run race.
The last race of the day was the JV 5k, and the heat/sun had returned. Four more runners took the line for the final race--and after a couple final strides they were off and rolling! Tony set a goal for a hard first half, and he went out nicely making this happen. Robert was our next guy at the midpoint, followed by Nick and Cesar. Nick has been gaining strength back from knee pain early in the season and it was good to see him racing for the second time this week; Cesar has been getting over a bout of sickness and kept his omnipresent positivity about him as he pushed the pack forward. At the final stretch, Tony hit the 3-mile at 21:20 and closed with a fantastically-fast turnover at 21:48! Robert hit the 3-mile at 26:53 and closed at 27:34 with a good kick as well. At the end, Cesar had caught up with Nick and they pushed on together. Nick rolled through three at 28:04 and finishing at 28:43. Cesar kicked hard right behind him, crushing the three at 28:07 and finishing at 28:53! Nice job, Bees!
One thing that stuck with me was just how much better we raced today than at Lake County. We came out just a few days later on a longer course with far more difficult terrain--and crushed it. The day was just as hot, but we used the recovery days effectively. Looking at the three-mile times, most guys were close to their season bests, and some far better than their Lake County times. This shows incredible growth in just a few days as we finished a heavy week. These races are stepping stones for our season's progress, and much needed as we grow as a team and tackle different courses--with this in the back pocket, we can truly work through anything.
I am very excited for Tuesday's home meet, where all the men will be taking the line against Lake Forest! I'll put in for some good weather, too, and see this team race to their full potential!
Lake County 8.31.22
"Challenging" is probably the first word that comes to mind for the men that raced Wednesday night at Lake County. The course at Waukegan Sports Park is far more difficult than the Deerfield course from last week, so the challenges were not unanticipated. The course contains hills, uneven trail terrain, and is nearly 5k, which is longer than our first course by about 160 meters. With temperatures in the mid 80s and little breeze to mitigate, we still dialed in for a night of racing.
The Varsity men took the line first. We could enter ten, but with several guys out with sickness, only six toed the line. These are experienced racers and Oshkosh veterans, and they went out splendidly. At the first mile, Eric was sitting nicely in the sixth position, with Ryan, Alex, and Jay within a stride length of each other. Jared was about twenty seconds back, with Adam not far behind him. I was able to catch them again at the midpoint as they rounded the course at Green Bay Road, and it was here that the heat and exhaustion had clearly set in. We've had a heavy week to this point and I know it was still in their legs at this point, but our pack was still pushing. Eric was still in the top ten, with Alex putting a little distance on Jalen and Ryan. On the second half they worked hard on the switchbacks and into the finishing stretch. With 800 to go, Jared made a great move to lengthen his stride and open on the competition.
Eric finished in 16th (17:16), with Alex our next runner at 18:47. Jared worked himself up to our third finisher for a lifetime PR 19:14 finish--a remarkable achievement tonight! Jay finished at 19:36, Ryan at 19:42, and Adam at 20:11. Overall the team took 12th/16 teams. It was a gutsy race!
I barely made it over the start of the massive coed Open race, in which we had a huge pack of runners ready to compete! Their energy and positivity was palpable, and I encouraged them to pack together and compete. With the gun, the entire field slowly marched forward and the race was on! The temperature slowly started to come down, which was nice, but hundreds of dragonflies came out to eat.
Tony was our first athlete through the mile, throwing his signature thumbs-up as he passed me. Andrew was next, with a Round Lake runner right on his elbow. Jimmy got our especially well today, too, and was racing well as our third--the rest of our pack was stretched down the trail. I saw them again on their way down in the second mile, and despite the heat and challenging terrain, they were working as best as they could. Headed out of the trail, Tony was still leading the ZeeBee charge and fighting a Libertyville competitor, with Andrew working his stride on the turns. Noah C. was opening and racing the turns in good shape and Caleb had worked up nicely. Nick and Tyler were two strides apart as they worked together, this being the first race this season for both men. In short, we were working hard!
Tony was the first ZeeBee into the chute at 21:00, and Andrew was just behind him at 21:28. For Andrew this was a lifetime PR, beating his Deerfield time by 17s! Noah C was next at 24:45--just 3s off his PR--with Noah M surging home nicely at 25:34. Caleb threw down a nice kick for 26:50, and Nick and Tyler punched home together for 29:13 and 29:37 respectively. This was Tyler's first race and established his PR--congrats! Jimmy brought home a tough race at 31:23. Reilly was not far behind in the 32s, but unfortunately his bib didn't read and his race wasn't recorded in the results. Sorry, Reilly! The ZeeBees placed 12th/13 in this race.
It was indeed a challenging night. This is part of a tough week in which we are putting in hard work in practice, working in hot temps, and racing two tough courses. By design, this week will be a significant milestone in our training. I am impressed at the effort put into the races, and especially by the men whose times were close to that of Deerfield--many likely ran a 3-mile PR if there had been a measurement. This, alone, shows incredible growth in these runners. Times across all the teams were not fast, but our hearts were. Nobody shrunk from the work.
It's time to recharge and hit some kilometers at Parkside this weekend! Keep up the strong work, Bees!
"STRONG" is really the best word to describe the season-opening performance of Zion-Benton Cross Country as the men took the line for the first time. It was in the low 80s and humid as we warmed up and scouted the course, but the course is one of the best for a season's starting point and the competition was promising. Deerfield, Warren, and Mather joined us. All of the ZBXC men who had enough practices were on the line for the 3-mile race.
Right as the run-outs ended, the sky opened up and a cooling rain poured down. This steadily soaked everyone, the course, and the entire pile of team gear, but the cooling sensation's role in the race cannot be understated. The gun went off and the pack surged forward.
I encouraged the team to run their best and see where their summer and early-season fitness was at on this night. With so many men launching into their first race, I knew the race would unfold differently for each athlete, but encouraged packing together. I was very impressed by how they got out and into the first lap. Eric took a commanding lead in the opening 800m, with a Mather runner about 8-10 seconds behind him and the Deerfield pack behind them. Ryan went out hard as our second man, followed by Alex and Jay side-by-side. Jarek and Adam had excellent starts as well, and most of our men spread out as they raced solo over the course, interspersed with opponents.
Just after the mile mark, Eric still commanded the race and looked fantastic through the downpour. Alex had moved up and relieved Ryan from the #2 position, with Jay running tall in the middle of the top Deerfield group as our #3. Jarek and Adam rounded off the top 5 through mile two as well. I was very impressed with the new athletes as we hit the midpoint! Jimmy was leading the first-timers, with Noah C. not far behind, followed by Noah M. and Caleb. Cesar and Riley were racing hard--and running the fastest I have ever seen either compete. I dodged over to the final loop for the finishes.
It was here that I was most impressed by the pack tonight. Typically, I see the spend athletes run in to the chute at the same paces they held during the race, and we would work for the season to develop kicks. But tonight, the opposite occurred and the Bees hungerly ate up the final 150!
Eric surged in to stave off the Mather opponent, running a lifetime best 15:44 and winning the race! A bunch of Mather and Deerfield athletes hammered in the final mile ahead of our men, but out pack, when it arrived, was fast and powerful. Jay and Alex sprinted together and finished at 17:29 and 17:30 respectively, both earning lifetime PRs! Ryan kicked hard to break 18 for the first time in his life, finishing next at 17:42! Jarek and Adam pulled on one another as our #4 and #5, with Jarek lengthening his stride to finish for a lifetime PR 18:52 and Adam at a PR 18:55--Adam beat out a Warren runner by a split second here!
Antonio kicked hard in his first race of the season, earning a season-best 20:54. Andrew was the first first-timer to race to completion, running a PR 21:45! Jimmy was not far behind him, racing a monster PR 23:14. Jimmy had previously run his 25:38 PR in a workout the week before, and it was amazing to see him drop so much time. Noah C. was next at a PR 24:42 (erroneously reported in the results, which should be re-labeled shortly), with Noah M. just behind at 25:13 for a lifetime PR as well. Robert, racing back after a track season of injury, hammered down a PR 26:22, with Caleb breathing down his neck to race a PR 26:42 and a monster kick. Cesar finished with the fastest race of his life at 27:33, and Riley broke 30 for the first time as he raced 29:52! What a solid set of finishes!
While Deerfield and Mather got more people in the top 20 than we did, we took 3rd and beat the Warren underclassmen tonight. Our stats are excellent-- 1 Season Best and 14 lifetime PRs! Some men were over a minute faster than when they ran the course last year, and the significance of the time drops collectively on the team cannot be understated. From our first to our final finisher, the Bees worked incredibly hard. I believe that if this work ethic can be extended throughout the entire season this team is destined for truly amazing feats as they work together. I cannot wait for next week as we race twice and should be out at full strength as well. It's clear that we rise to competition, and there will be plenty of that to sharpen us. Nicely done tonight!
1. Eric B - 15:33 @ Peoria
2. Alex D- 17:07 @ Lakes
3. Jared D - 17:27 @ Peoria
1. Ryan H - 16:58 @ Peoria
2. Jalen D - 17:00 @ Peoria
3. Andrew M - 18:27 @ Conference