2023 Cross Country
We returned for the third time to Grant's course at the Bulldog Athletic Complex on a beautiful Saturday morning for the IHSA Regional. We knew going in we needed to fight against a stacked field, and were dedicated in the mission of racing hard as a pack. We had a wonderful week of training leading up to the meet, with some amazing work out in the woods and a superb track workout on Tuesday. These guys are sharp and ready.
The day was beautiful and started in the low forties. The week's rain did little to impact the great course--there were a couple of soft sections on the course, but it stayed pretty firm. We've seen the hill absolutely shredded, and today it was in remarkable shape. We watched the women triumph in their fifth consecutive qualification as a team to Sectionals, and completed a great warmup. It was time.
We took the line from the far outside box, but it presented a decent trajectory with half the traffic across the field. As soon as the gun went off, the men pushed off hard and cruised with excellent form up the hill and into the trails. Alex led the pack, racing well in the top twenty, into the mile mark. Ryan got out well and was just ten meters off Alex, and Jay raced well as our third just a dozen meters behind Ryan. I was proud to see Tony right behind him, with Jarek and Adam in close range, with Noah about 30 seconds back. Alex caught a Mundelein guy right at the entrance of the trail, and here Ryan communicated that he was having trouble with his breathing. Despite this, he closed up nicely on a pair of opponents. Jay was locked in with a large group but the pace was good, and a pair of opponents nearly ran Tony into the flag. He put a little distance on Jarek, who was holding nicely with a bit of a wider lead on Adam and Noah, with a just one Warren guy in between.
Coming through the final uphill, we had fallen back a little bit. Alex was just outside the top thirty but racing well, with Ryan and Jay still our two and three. Ryan passed a Grant guy with a nice uphill surge, and in the meters leading to the hill Tony made a good move to get right up to Jay's elbow. Jarek held our fifth nicely, with Noah exchanging positions with Adam. It was a tough final mile, the guys reported later, but they gritted through and stuck with it as best as they could.
Alex poured everything into the final four hundred, finishing as our first man at 17:22 in 41st place. Ryan kicked hard as our second at 18:06, and Jay had a nice kick as well for 18:13. Tony threw down a great surge as well at 18:20 to finish as our fourth man, and Jarek kicked hard to finish at 18:41. Noah was next at 18:51 as he competed in his first Regional, and Adam rounded out the pack at 19:33. Altogether we finished 11th our of 12 teams. Unfortunately, we also did not quite make qualification of any individuals, either. Alex ran a solid race, but the fast field today meant we needed over a minute less to even get in range.
Our season ended today. It is always a bittersweet moment--knowing that the months of incredible work had come to an end, but also celebrating the process that got us here. We have shared many miles of trials and triumphs, from the summer heat to the torrential rain, and the men I got to know in between were an amazing group to coach. I am left with a feeling of pride as I think about what it took to forge this powerful team, and thank both the athletes and families for their dedication this season. We shift gears now to support the women on the extra week they have earned, and look forward to pushing them as far as they can possibly go!
Mud... mud everywhere.
Conference 2023 at Warren happened to fall on the third straight day of rain. The flat course had plenty of time to soak in the water and turn to mud on the corners. Thankfully, we were able to make camp in the lower fieldhouse and were spared the hours of being out in the deluge. With 25 mph gusts throwing walls of rain out at us, we recognized that today was about our best efforts in the conditions, rather than the expectation of PR times. Truly, there was no going fast on the corners coming out of the stadium, heading onto the trail, and in the final 400 before the stadium. These areas already had standing water, and the races would later turn them into quagmire. Still, we run well and have fun in adverse conditions, so there were many very excited for the rainy run today!
The Varsity went out first and warmed up and head out to the line. There weren't many people brave enough to be out on the course, and the water was falling fast. Still, our ten men stood tall against the elments. With the gun, they got out in great form. At the 800 mark, Ryan and Alex were leading our pack, in the top twenty of the field. Jay held down our third, with Jarek right behind as our fourth. A couple dozen meters back were Tony, Orion, Adam, and Noah in a large pack. Tyler was just behind them, racing his first Varsity race of his career. We were off to a great start! I caught them again headed out of the stadium, and thankfully the s-curve was still in pretty firm shape--though that was quickly changing and runners were already slipping sideways. Alex held our pack's lead, with Ryan just behind taking the turn wide. Jay saw the wisdom in this as well and ran it smart, with Tony cruising right through with Jarek on his heels now. Adam was our next man, with Orion leading Andrew and Noah in a tight pack--Tyler had made a nice mid-mile move to catch up to them.
In the second half, Alex continued to lead our pack nicely around twenty-fifth place, with Ryan running well as our second and Jay our third. Tony and Jarek still stuck together nicely, with Adam our sixth and Noah moving up as our seventh; Andrew and Tyler faded back slightly, with Orion our tenth. I caught them again on their final run into the stadium. I was pleased to see Alex make a solid final move up, and he finished with an All-Conference 14th place medal at 16:31! Ryan kicked hard to finish as our second at 17:52, followed by Jay right on his heels at 17:55. Jarek fought in as our fourth at 18:08, with Adam our fifth at 18:38 and Tony at 18:41. Noah surged in as our seventh runner at 18:47, followed by Andrew (19:04), Tyler (19:09), and Orion (20:21). The Zee-Bees placed 6th/7 full teams, narrowly losing to Warren and beating Lake Forest today. Congratulations to Alex on his Conference medal!
Our second and final race was a combined F/S and Open race. I was glad we could run all these guys together (but it led to the timing company not figuring out results for a couple days), and they did a great job of warming up in the gale. We took the line and they were ready and hungry for the race. From the gun, they went out hard in the deep water of the field, and we soon found that the two previous races had churned up the course into deep mud. Joan went out racing well as our first man, and with 800m in Deonta was just behind him. Jimmy led a pack with Noah, Alexis, Robert, and Steven C, with Steven G following about 50m back with a handful of LZ competitors, followed closely by Airimus, Caleb, and David. I caught them next at the corner headed out of the stadium, which had turned into a deep pit of mud. I saw Alexis navigate it well, and Airimus took it really wide. Comically, a Stevenson runner wiped out hard right in front of Steven taking several runner with him--he was able to safely hurdle the guy and keep on his feet!
The second half was even worse. The churned mud got deeper and the cold rain continued sideways through robust gusts. Warren staff carried out bags of sand to try and firm up the corners, which helped a little in the third mile. There was no way this could be fast racing, but it was the grittiest racing I have seen all season. Joan continued to lead our pack, with Deonta right off his shoulder. Jimmy raced as our third, hurdling a Warren runner that wiped out past the stadium, with Noah our fourth and Alexis holding down the fifth spot. Robert and Airimus were running tall togehter as well, and the team was holding their own. On the JV level, Joan led our team all the way in. He raced a fantastic 19:41, with Deonta 19:56. Alexis had a great kick in the final 400 for 21:25, and Robert a very strong race finish of 22:05. At the F/S level, Jimmy had the race of his life. He raced the day's only PR, finishing at a fantastic 20:36! He was followed by Noah at 21:06, leading in Airimus (21:36), Steven G (21:56), Steven C (22:16), Caleb (23:49), and David (32:49). It was a hard-fought race through-and-through, and I am so proud of how these guys competed. Joan took home a 22nd place medal from his race today!
While this was the end of the season for most of these guys, they have had an incredible journey. We were supposed to end on a opportunity for a crack at their fastest time, but instead we ended in a chaotic mud run. They have risen to every challenge--especially today's--and run well. I am very excited for the Regional next week and the prospects of the pack we are taking to the line. I am also very grateful for the way this team has come together and the supported each other all season. They have embraced the toughest aspects of the sport and worked hard. Great job in the conditions today, and let's race our best next week at the Regional!
Lakes Sunset Invitational 10.6.23
Tonight's race was arguably one of the best of the entire season thus far. I like the Lakes race for several reasons--the competitive, coed tiered races, the fun atmosphere, and the exciting course that typically facilitates fast times. We were in great spirits headed into this Friday night. I rode the bus with the women as Coach Tolliver took the men, and we quickly got to the site and sent most of the crew on their warm-up. I am noting here that we need to leave earlier next year, so we don't have just a six minute warmup and speedy dynamic before the race; however, tonight, the team responded so well and took care of business efficiently.
The first race was the "bronze" unlimited open race. We had a huge pack on the line, and the chilly wind cut across the landscape, starting to create openings in the rainy cloudcover. The line was ridiculously crowded, but with the gun the sun came out and the race was on! I looked out to see Ryan (who is on an injury-recovery plan) racing out to lead the entire field into the trails, with Tyler surging forward to race right next to him. I always post up in the back practice field, meaning I rarely see finishes at this meet, but this is the most crucial area for athletes to make moves. I was so proud of what I saw. Ryan and Tyler were racing just meters apart, and our athletes had packed up really nicely. The women, especially, were in groups of two or more and working well in the traffic. On the second loop through, Ryan had put some distance on Tyler and looked to be running pain-free. Tyler was about thirty meters back and racing the strongest--and fastest--I've ever seen him run! Noah M. was racing hard as our third man, with Steven C. not far behind. Jimmy came through next, racing in excellent form, followed by Robert and Steven G. David had a great pace going as well, and was making excellent headway. On the final lap through the backfield, Ryan and Tyler continued to lead our pack, and a quick glance at my watch showed that Tyler was on track for a monster PR time, while Ryan was encouraging him to pull off the energy.
Tyler passed Ryan and surged in as our first runner tonight. He finished at 18:32, a PR that broke 20 and 19 for the first time in his life! Ryan worked well tonight to finish as our second man (18:52), followed by a great kick from Noah M, who finished as our third man with a lifetime PR 20:02! Jimmy ran an amazing race as well, breaking his PR from last year and running a lifetime PR 20:50, followed by Steven C's lifetime PR 20:59! Steven G kicked hard as well for 21:31, also breaking his PR time from last season! Robert was right on his heels, racing a monster PR 21:41, followed by Caleb's gutsy finsh at 23:59. David rounded out the pack with the race of his life, dropping four minutes of time for a hugh PR 31:30! We also charted ten PRs on the women's team in this race!
The door to success was open, and the Silver level was on the line next. They had a little bit more time to warm up, and looked incredibly sharp on the run-outs. In the first mile, Orion went out hard and led our pack into the backyard. Andrew was racing well as our second in the middle of a huge pack of compeitors, with Deonta racing tall as our third. Noah C. was next, followed closely by Joan. Our pack was looking great on the second loop as well. Andrew and Noah moved up on Orion, and Deonta worked with Joan in a nice demonstration of solid pack racing. A fantastic sunset broke through the clouds as they approached their third loop; as the guys started to tire, they still found ways to make moves. Andrew surged in as our first man, racing a lifetime PR 18:18! Noah C. was next, racing 18:24 and breaking 19 for the first time in his life! Orion followed at 18:30, followed closely by Joan at 18:46, a 14-second lifetime PR and his first time under 19! Deonta kicked hard to complete a fantastic race, breaking last year's PR and racing 19:25. Great racing!
Our final pack ran in the Gold level race, just as the light was starting to fade and the sunset really popping out of the clouds. Alex, Jarek, Jay, Tony, and Adam took the line for our team, and they went out hungry for success as well. Alex raced out ahead and firmly embedded him in a pack dressed in bright pink jerseys. In the first mile, Jay raced up as our second, with Adam, Tony, and Jarek tightly packed through the mile mark! Alex continued to lead our pack in the second mile as the field spread out a bit, with Jay running well in a densely-packed section of the race. Tony and Adam were both packed well and racing side-by-side here, with Jarek just a couple positions behind them. The third lap they looked solid, with the unfortunate except of Tony--he had lost his right shoe! He had a lost a little ground, but thankfully he had picked up the shoe with the chip attached and was racing the entire last mile in his sock. Jarek made a solid move and passed Adam by, and they were headed toward the finish with brilliant rays of sun filtering through the clouds. Alex finished as our first, racing a wonderful PR 16:03! Jay was next at 17:16 with a great finish, followed by Jarek. Jarek surged hom for 17:50, a lifetime PR and his first time breaking 18! Adam was next at 18:18, followed by Tony's gritty half-shod race at 18:32. I'll be honest, it might be a one-shoe ZBXC record and he worked really well despite the setback.
There were twenty-six PRs tonight. The measurement of dropping time is just one aspect of the night, however, as I can surely measure the great successes of the team in the ways they support each other, push each other, and work so well together. This is a stressful meet to coach, with time constraints and lots of moving pieces, but this team made it a very enjoyable night. I am so incredibly proud of the team tonight--the fast racing, the helpfulness, the solidarity. It represents a testament to their fitness and their character. Great racing tonight, Bees! If this is how we make progress, I have high hopes for Conference next weekend!
Libertyville Quad 10.3.23
It was a gorgeous Tuesday to head out to Adler for the last quad meet of the season. Coming off the exhileration of Peoria and headed toward Lakes at the end of the week, I gave the men the option of either racing the course or completing a progressive workout that I shared with them. It was the perfect day for either one, with sunshine and low 70s temperatures.
After Noah's successful Homecoming proposal, we warmed up and took the line. We got out well in the crowded field and sorted out into a number of pairs and packs. Adam went out hard to lead in the first 800, followed by Jay and Andrew. Alex held back a little here, with Jarek and Tyler running well not too far behind him. Airmus and Tony got a nice start together, and Noah M and Steven C were packed well; Noah C. and Joan also paired up. Deonta and Steven G. followed, with Jimmy and Robert paired well. David had an exceptional start as well.
Through the mile mark, Alex surged up and overtook Adam, with Jay and Andrew our three and four. Tony had moved up to our fifth, followed by Jarek and Tyler, who was really pushing himself to move up in the race. Airimus still led Joan and Noah C, followed closely by Deonta, Noah M, and Steven C. They held these same positions 800m later when I saw them in the woods. This was a "go zone" assigned to those completing a workout, and I saw some nice moves made. This isn't an easy area to pass, but several guys did. Tony's surge overtook Adam and a Libertyville runner, and Jarek put some distance on Andrew here, who likewise moved up and away. David's kick through here was particularly notable, using the momentum of the passing runners to move nicely.
I was able to catch a couple of their finishes. Tyler's strong kick was able to overtake a Stevenson runner in the final few steps, after closing hard on him in the last 100! Noah C. and Joan had superb moves as well, and Deonta totally smoked a Stevenson runner who tried--but failed--to match his surge. Alex finished as our first man at 18:16, followed by Jay at 19:00, Tony at 19:43, Adam at 19:51, and Jarek rounding out the top five at 20:06. Andrew followed closely (20:17), followed by Tyler (21:00) for his first top-seven finish! Joan was next at 21:33, with Deonta's excellent kick bringing him home in 22:10. Noah M bring himself home with a great kick for 22:48 with Airimus doing the same right behind him at 22:53. Steven C. fought hard against a pair of Stevenson athletes right into the chute for 24:14, followed by Jimmy (23:44), Robert (25:15), Steven G. (25:22), and David (38:24).
It was a positive "reset" day. Most the athletes came away with a little energy still in their muscles and happy with the opportunity to have a choice in how they wanted to run this day. There were numerous moves made on the field, great kicks all-around, and a positive energy as we departed the field. I am very proud of the way we approached today and looking forward to racing for real on Friday night!
Peoria Invitational 9.30.23
The annual pilgrimmage downstate is always one of the high points of the season. I cannot describe how challenging it was this year to pare to just a handful of Varsity runners, since this great pack of men has been making significant progress and competing with each other in ways I hadn't thought possible. Limited by the number of hotel rooms we were able to book, I took nine total men down with me to Peoria.
The long road trip commenced in excellent weather and decent driving conditions, but some road closures and long detours added on extra time. We got down to the course right at sunset (reminding myself that next year we need to leave earlier), with a cool evening approaching and the light slowly fading across Detweiller. We went out for our usual shakeout, but as the sun went behind the hills, it darked very quickly. Mile one wasn't bad, but at the two mile mark I could barely see what was in front of me and nearly called it off. The men were game for the last mile, however, and we cautiously ran in near pitch-black to finish it off. As we stretched the brillant full harvest moon was on full display. Heading back and checking in, we enjoyed a great dinner and conversation, followed by team goal-setting. With new Varsity jerseys, we turned in ready for a great day ahead.
The next day started out cool and humid, but the temperatures predicably climed pretty quickly. By the time we got to the course in the morning it was in the mid-70s. A good warm-up and check-in followed, and before we knew it we were on the line and ready to go. I challenged the pack to get our hard and go with the current of this race, and let it carry them to a great finish. While we haven't run in heat in several weeks up north, the 82-degree race time felt a little intense (the day finished in the 90s!). In the field of three hundred, we got out well. Alex led our pack with Ryan just a few yards behind him in the first mile; Jay was about ten behind him. Jarek, Adam, and Tony packed together and Orion was just a few meters back. At the mile mark we were in most excellent shape and running cohesively.
The next mile took a toll. Coming out of the back field, Alex led our pack in about 40th place. Jay advanced to our second man as Ryan faded back with the onset of bad knee pain. Adam, Jarek, and Orion were holding very well together, and Tony and Ryan were now packed behind them and fighting as best they could. A scan of the two mile splits showed considerable slowing across the team. Coming through the highway downhill stretch one last time, Alex had opened up well and was using the free energy of the hill nicely. Jay was rolling hard as our second, still, and Jarek had advanced nicely to run as our third. Orion led Adam and Tony, and Ryan struggled as best he could to finish the tough race.
Alex had a fantastic stride, coming through the line with a PR 16:13 in 81st place. Jay worked hard through the line as our second man at 17:40, followed by Jarek at 18:13. Adam barely outkicked Orion to land a second behind Jarek at 18:14, and Orion ran a lifetime PR 18:19. Tony was right on his tail at 18:21, and Ryan brought it home at 18:34. The Bees placed 34/44 teams.
It was a tough day. We went in with great expectations and excellent goals, but the race unfolded rather differently than we had hoped. The conditions were humbling, but we also rose to meet them as best as we could. The hard first mile was a great achievement, and the close pack racing today was the best we have done all season. We discussed some excellent opportunities, and I believe we truly learned and grew from today's experiences. This pack turned a corner today in their racing experience; while it wasn't wholly welcomed overall, the race's lessons are crucial as we take this team forward into the last races of the season. I'm proud of the efforts, I'm grateful for the bonding, and I'm excited for the opportunies ahead.
JT INVITE 9.23.23
With a gorgeous sunrise and an optomistic air, we set out for our second crack at the Grant course. We traditionally run well at the JT Invite, and were collectively very excited to return to the course. Over the course of the morning's three races, we would chart a mixed bag of successes, and come away with a clear pathway forward for the latter season's racing.
The F/S pack took the line first, in absolutely perfect weather. They got out in great form from the gun, attacking the hill with vigor. Headed into the mile, Noah C. was racing as our lead man and looking great. A great pack followed: Airimus, Tyler, and Noah M. were packed closely, with the Stevens just 20 meters back. Jimmy was just behind them and racing well, with Caleb hot on his heels. It was a great start. In the second mile, Noah still held our F/S pack lead, and Tyler had put on the afterburners and Noah M was racing well as our third, followed by Airmus, Steven C., and Steven G. Caleb was battling it out with two white jerseys, which he passed nicely on his last trip up the hill. Noah drove home as our first man, charting a huge 19:20 PR! Tyler rolled in next, dropping a second for a lifetime PR 20:21 as well. He was followed closely by Noah M (21:10), and Airimus for a 21:29 lifetime PR! Steven C. followed at 22:12 and Steven G. at 24:25. Caleb finished well at 24:56, followed by Jimmy at 25:57. The Bees placed 8/10.
The Varsity was up next and in good spirits. I have challenged this group to go out fast, and they have been doing just that. Today we went out a little hot, and had a harder time sustaining that we normally do. Still, we ran a gutsy first mile. Ryan and Alex led the pack out into the first mile mark, with Jay right behind them. Tony, Adam, Jarek, and Andrew rounded out the pack and looked great coming up the hill the second time. By the time they rounded the field, though, we were in rougher shape collectively. Jay overtook Ryan, but Tony had moved up a couple positions headed into the trail. On the final uphill, Alex led once more and Jay was racing well as our second man. Ryan kicked well up the hill as our third, followed by Jarek now as our fourth. Coming into the finish, our times were a bit slower than we had anticipated. Alex kicked in first for a 32nd place ribbon and excellent finish of 17:31. Jay had a great kick next for 18:23, followed by Ryan at 18:37 and Jarek at 19:11. Adam rounded out the top five at 19:38, followed by Tony (20:12) and Andrew (20:42). It was hard-fought throughout, with the Zee Bees earning 10th/15 teams.
The last race was the massive coed Open race. I had challenged these guys to make a mark today, and I was really impressed by the starts. Orion went out with assertive energy, leading our pack. Joan was our second at the mile mark, with Alexis and Deonta racing well together in the middle of a large pack. At the final uphill, Orion had a great pace and continued to lead our squad. Joan was next, followed closely by Deonta and Alexis. They kicked well into the chute. Orion surged in at 19:05, with Joan at 21:07, Deonta at 21:40, and Alexis at 22:10. We didn't chart a team score with four guys, but they collectively ran a great race.
We celebrated three nice lifetime PRs today, and on the way home discussed how the tough day of racing fell short or the expectations of many. But this is an important stepping stone in the progress of our season. We all went out hard, which tells me we can keep building endurance for the second half. We are taking risks on the course. While it wasn't the outcome we had anticipated, we worked the day. I am confident we can continue to grow and develop over the next weeks on the road to Conference.
VHAC Quad 9.19.23
It had rained all day by the time we got on the bus for our second quad meet, and we didn't really know what to expect out of the course. We haven't actually raced on the Vernon Hills course since 2018, and at that time I was less than impressed with the drainage of the athletic fields we ran around. I prefaced the day with one word: "adapt." We can out there with the objective of running workouts for the Varsity guys, and running our best efforts for the balance of the team. I had hoped that this would enable us to make some gains on the soft terrain and work on strong finishes.
Waukegan did not come to the meet, so we squared up against Warren and Stevenson. Despite walking the mile loop and seeing quite a bit of mud and standing water, the guys were in great spirits with the task ahead of them. When the gun went off, they rolled out and started the workout. Stevenson was clearly racing their home course, and Warren was also doing a workout. I headed over to catch our packs at the mile mark. While the packs I had put together had fragmented a little, there were a number of guys running their workout splits faster than intended--but with huge grins. Ryan, Alex, and Jay were our first pack to go by, waving and high-fiving the crowd, and still running faster than their target. Tony was next, followed by Jarek, who always is dead-on with pacing. Deonta and Tyler packed nicely, with Steven C., Orion, and Joan close by. The rest of our packs were dispersed between large Stevenson groups. David had a particularly good start today, racing his first three mile race. We were in good shape.
On the next laps, Ryan and Alex wouldn't stop smiling and Adam and Tony were racing closely together. Andrew and Noah C had packed close by Tyler and Deonta, and Steven C. and Alexis were in close proximity. Steven G. and Jimmy were together, and Airimus just behind them. While they were working hard, it was clear that most of the team was having a good time in the muddy conditions.
Ryan and Alex were first across the line for the Zee Bee pack at 18:06 and 18:09, followed by Jay (18:24), Adam (18:48), Tony (19:11), Adam (18:48), Orion (19:33), and Jarek (19:59). They were followed quickly by Andrew (20:25), Noah C (20:32), Deonta (20:55), Tyler (20:58), Joan (21:27), Noah M (21:33), and Alexis (21:46). Next were Steven C (21:59), Steven G (22:58), and Jimmy (23:14). For Jimmy, this was a Season Best time, beating his previous SB at Lake County this year! Airimus (23:35), Caleb (24:05), and David (35:27) rounded out our pack. David set his 3-mile PR tonight, racing a particularly strong final lap all alone and surging in for a fantastic finish. Congratulations, David!
Today was less about the final score and more a positive reset for the team. It was a positive mental day, showing the men that they can run workouts with strength and translate this into racing work. I hope that this confidence and progress will provide a great foundation for the next races where we truly need to break through. We adapted, we had fun. It was a wonderful night.
I don't think I've ever seen weather this nice for a race at Warren! We traveled in overcast, cool temps to the O'Plain campus for the annual Bill Dawson Invitational. I'd like to think that Bill had something to do with it, gracing us with arguably the best opportunity for racing in the twelve years I have coached this meet. With the team in good spirits and hungry for the flat course, we took the short trip to Gurnee and prepared to throw down.
The Frosh-Soph raced first and there was still a heavy dew on the ground. They got out fast and in great form. Andrew led our Zee-Bee pack, racing in the first mile in the top thirty. Tyler was next, racing neck and neck with a tall Schaumburg competitor, followed quickly by Steven C. and Airimus amid a large Fremd pack. Noah M was just behind them, with Steven and Caleb packed nicely together. In the second mile we were still racing quite well, but with the hard starts were starting to tire. Andrew and Tyler continued to lead our pack, and Noah M had packed nicely with Steven C; Airimus was making great progress about 30m behind them. Into the final 400, I saw great efforts to reset and sprint into the stadium. Andrew led our pack all the way across the finish line, placing 70th and racing 18:50 in a nice comeback race. Tyler had a great finish as our second man at 20:34, followed by Noah at 20:43--a lifetime PR! Steven C. and Airimus rolled in quickly at 21:23 and 21:56 respectively, followed by a monster Season Best race by Steven G--22:52! Caleb finished in excellent form as well, rounding out our pack at 22:58. This is a huge lifetime PR for Caleb, breaking his best time from last year by nearly a minute!
Our Varsity raced next, seven men strong. The energy was palpable on the line, and our men were hungry for success. At the gun, they sprung out quickly. Alex led our pack at the half mile mark with great open strides, followed closely by Ryan and Jay. Tony raced as our fourth man, followed closely by Adam, Jarek, and Joan. Things spread out a little in the second mile, with our same order intact but with a little more space between them. On the third mile, I caught them in the loop right before the stadium and was very excited to see fast times on the stopwatch as they dug in and surged toward the finish. Alex was in the low 15s, but unfortunately missed the final turn and left the stadium. He was able to correct this and finish well at 16:33, but undoubtedly would have earned a PR otherwise. Ryan was right on his heels, racing a huge PR 16:44! He was followed closely by Jay at 17:08, with Adam throwing down a 17:55 Season Best that is just seconds off of his lifetime record. Jarek was next, also running a Season Best 18:09, just seconds off of his lifetime as well, followed by Tony's monster lifetime PR 18:10! Joan rounded out the pack, dropping over a minute in his first Varsity race and racing 19:00! With these great finishes, the Bees placed 15/21 teams.
Our final pack raced in the Open race. Usually it's heating up by this time and this race is a toasty one, but today it remained quite temperate! From the gun, our three men went out well. Orion raced the first mile in the top thirty, followed by a great start from Deonta and Alexis as well. There was a lot of movement in the second mile, and I saw each of these guys make nice passing moves on the slight downhill segment. By the second half they had tempered a little, but were working hard. Orion worked in as our first finisher at 19:21. Deonta followed with a great Season Best 20:12, and Alexis finished as our final man at 21:19, just seconds off of his lifetime best. It was a hard-fought race, with nice finishes.
We charted six lifetime PRs and six Season Best races today. The Warren course is always a great opportunity for fast racing, and today was no exception. I worked the team hard leading up to this, and despite some heavy legs, we worked in excellent form. Everyone finished on empty, and I cannot ask a whole lot more than that. We had strong finishes, and many guys went out taking a risk in the first mile. I am very excited by the progress made in this race, and look forward to this next Saturday where we get to do it again at Grant!
It would go down as one of the best home meets I have ever coached. Not only was the weather perfect for racing--mid 60s--but the course was in wonderful shape and the team that came out today pushed hard after a week of recharging to do great work. We welcomed Lake Forest, Lake Zurich, and Stevenson today to the Shiloh battleground, where the setup quickly took shape as our team took care of the flagging and logistics. Huge shout-out to the Park District for the amazing haircut mowing job, which made the course a perfect opportunity for fast racing. While we did not get to break down or stride due to the official calling everyone to the line early, we were as ready as we needed to bee. With the long whistle and the gun, over two hundred competitors rolled forward, with the Zee Bee pack fighting for position.
Our starts were fantastic! Alex and Ryan put themselves in the top pack at the 1200m mark amid a pack of Stevenson runners, with Jay following behind a large pack of blue. Tony took a great risk early on, racing as our fourth man and just 30m ahead of Jarek. Orion was next, racing in good form and catching two runners at the corner of the Leisure Center; Adam rounded out our top seven just steps behind. I was impressed to see Deonta next, working out of a pack of Stevenson runners, with Noah right on his six, followed quickly by Joan and Tyler--both of whom looked to be on PR pace! Airimus and Steven C were next, followed by Alexis and Robert's solid teamwork. Noah M, Steven G, and Caleb rounded off the pack in the immense field.
I caught them next at the midpoint by the pool. While the leaders had pulled away, Alex was racing extremely well and holding a great pace. Ryan was bracketed in by LZ runners but holding strong as our second, with Jay passing four people as he rounded the corner next to me. Tony was holding as our fourth, followed by Jarek and Orion, both with a little distance on each other from the last time I saw them. Deonta and Noah had packed solidly together and were racing on each other's shoulder, and just behind them Joan was competing hard. He passed a brace of LZ athletes with a wide turn around the red flag. Tyler was also having the race of his life! His form was solid and he also passed a pair of Stevenson runners by the pool. Airmus had put some distance on Steven but both looked good, and Alexis threw down a surge that greatly startled a Stevenson runner and would produce one of the most iconic photos of the day. Robert and Noah M were packed well, and Steven G. and Caleb were racing in close proximity. We were doing well!
I caught most of the guys near the 400-to-go corner of the Leisure Center. While they were certainly tired, I appreciated each runner making a marked effort to reset and accelerate in the final stretch. Alex completed the best race of his life to date, finishing at fourth overall with a PR time of 16:22--also earning the #8 spot on the Top Ten record board for this course! Congratuations, Alex! Ryan was next with a great reset and kick, running a 25s Season Best 17:24 finish. Jay kicked well as our third man at 17:56, just five seconds over his best this season. Tony locked in our fourth scoring spot at 18:40, followed by Jarek at 18:56 as our fifth. Orion finished just behind him at 19:08, wrapping up a great race that matched his Season best from Deerfield and just six seconds off of his lifetime! Our seventh was Adam at 19:16, with a great kick into the chute.
Noah C flew in next at 19:34, just four seconds off of his lifetime PR, with Joan fast behind him at 20:05--a 9s PR and the completion of a hard-fought race. Tyler had the race of his life as well, dropping a monster 1:04 to run a PR 20:22! Deonta finished well right behind him at 20:30, earning a 22s Season Best. Alexis followed at 21:09, a 6s PR, with Airimus racing a lifetime PR 21:33 just after him, a drop in 42s from his time at Lake County! Noah M was next at 21:45, a 54s Season Best, followed by Steven C at 22:38--a 17s lifetime PR! Robert was right on his heels, racing 22:47--this earned him a huge Season Best by 4:35! Amazing! Caleb and Steven rounded off our pack at 24:16 and 24:26 respectively, each showcasing a nice kick into the finish.
We had a lot of fun racing tonight, and a lot of personal achievements to celebrate. While we lost in points to each of the other teams (missing LF by just one place) we showed great fortitude in how we embraced the course and raced the large field. We charted six lifetime PRs and five Season Best times today, and saw Alex earn a spot on the Top Ten board. I am so proud of the work that went into the night and cannot wait to see how we perform at Warren this weekend! Great job, Bees!
Rebel Invite 9.2.23
Some days are just tough ones. This Saturday is going to go down as one of those days, but an important step in our team's development. The days' heat was already setting in in the high 70s when we traveled out on a sunny morning to UW-Parkside's course for the Rebel Invite--a hilly, challenging course that ranks as one of the best in the country. We had practiced up here the week before and knew the reality of hill challenges; the heat factor was looming in everyone's minds as well, and we were pretty hard hit by a sickness going around the team. Despite these, we showed up to compete and--hopefully--have a little fun in the process.
I told the guys that times don't matter on this course. It's a 5k, and it's hilly. But what truly matters is how we compete. Our Varsity was to be eight men, but by the time we hit the line there were only six feeling well enough to race. They went out hard with the cannon's boom, and I was pleased to see how well they raced the deep grass of the open field. I caught them at the midpoint, with Alex again leading our pack and passing a Reagan runner in the first steps of the second-half hill. Ryan was next, using the downhill effectively, with Jay not far behind, fighting off a runner in green. Adam had locked in our fourth spot, followed by Jarek and Tony. Tony visibly was having a tough time, but gamely working into the second half.
I posted up at the 3-mile mark to get times as they headed into the final 160m to finish the race. Alex came through at 17:47, finishing well at 18:18. Ryan had a monster kick here, running 18:19 at the 3-mile and 18:46 overall. A minute later Jay slung around the corner, racing 19:15 and finishing at 19:50. Adam raced in as our fourth (19:47/20:20), followed by Jarek (19:52/20:26), and rounded out by Tony (20:35/21:11). Our Varsity raced hard and finished 10th of 16 full teams.
I got back just in time to send the Open racers off. It felt a little warmer at this time, and a number of guys had pulled themselves out. Still, we had five courageous men on the line: Deonta, Robert, Jimmy, Noah, and Airimus. They had fantastic starts as well, and I was proud to see them surge across the field and vanish up the hill. At the midpoint, Deonta led our pack, with Airmus racing well as our second man. Noah was next, holding off a pair of Elkhorn runners, followed by Robert, who was holding off a pack of four and showed a great reset into the second half hill. Jimmy rounded out the pack with a little space to work with, but his form looked great.
In the final stretch, Deonta surged around the corner and into the last straightaway, still leading the Zee-Bee pack. He passed the 3 at 23:06, closing the last 160 with a great kick for 23:38. Noah and Airimus both passed the 3-mile in quick succession and with mighty acceleration (23:33/23:38), with excellent finishes--Noah at 24:08 and Airimus at 24:11. Jimmy made a second-half move that over took Robert, runnig 26:39 at the 3-mile and finishing at 27:09. Robert had an aggressive finish to his first race this season, passing the 3 at 27:22 and finishing at 27:55. We were able to lock in a full team score today, placing 14th.
It was a tough day to race, and this course seldom provides opportunities for PRs. I spoke at length about the other ways we can measure success in the ways we compete. I was proud of the efforts on the course today, and the work in the heat. Many guys were running at a limited capacity due to lingering sickness, some today felt like the challenges were too great. Those who raced had great starts and made important moves. This may not have felt successful at the time, but I guarantee that this is a formative experience that will stick with us this season. Those who conquered Parkside can truly race any other course we will encounter--especially the hilly Libertyville course later on. Recovery from today is going to require focus on hydration and rest, but we have a whole week to let it soak in and get ready for our next race--our first Quad! Great job today, Bees!
Art Campbell Invite 8.30.23
We had an absolutely perfect day for our first invitational of the season. This had moved from the usual location at Waukegan Sports Park to the Grant site at Bulldog. This was met with much excitement, for despite the hill that we run up three times, the course is remarkable in the flat sections and downhill trails. The temperatures were in the mid 60s and the sun was out--the scene was set for great racing!
Though the women were pressed for time, we arrived with adequate time for our ten-man Varsity to get their warmup in and stretch. Unfortunately, a number of guys found themselves in poor health today, with congestion preventing them from running. Joan wasn't able to race, but we had nine other men take the line, some racing the first Varsity race of their careers. From Box 3, we surged out with the gun and into the trails. The pack went out really well. I had asked them to pack or pair up in the first mile before breaking away, and on the second uphill I was pleased to see close racing. Alex led our pack nicely, holding a position in the mid 20s on the field. Ryan had a slight lead on Jay, followed by Tony, Adam, Orion, Jarek, Andrew, and Noah in quick succession. We spread out in the next lap a bit as fatigue started to settle in, but Jay and Ryan were racing together and Tony had just two strides on Adam.
At the final uphill, Alex led our pack with the best pacing I have ever seen from him, and Jay was racing as our second man. Jarek was holding on just behind Orion, his congestion presenting a major challenge. I was particularly impressed with how we attacked the hill when tired--watching Andrew and Noah reset their arms and charge up was encouraging. As they rolled toward the finish, Alex passed me at 16:12--the fastest in his life--and surged into the finish for a major lifetime PR and 28th place finish 16:48! Ryan had moved up past Jay to finish at 18:03 as our second man, and Jay had a great kick as well for 18:10. Ryan's kick surged past seven other competitors in the final 100m! Adam locked in a great kick for 18:41, racing a Season Best time! Tony was our next in with a great kick as well, racing 19:06, followed quickly by Orion at 19:12. Jarek rolled in well at 19:29, followed by Andrew (19:41) and Noah C. (19:47). We had excellent kicks today but were severely hampered by the health issues; despite these odds, we placed 13/16 teams.
The Open race was up at the end of the racing night, with the temperatures cooling down significantly and the shadows lengthening against the beautiful sunset. I was excited to see these guys prepare, and they did a very efficient job of taking care of their warmup and stretches, getting to the line with plenty of time (this is what I love to see!). They were hungry and, from the gun, attacked the course in good order. Deonta went out hard, leading our pack in the first mile and refusing to relinquish the lead. Into the first mile, Alexis was racing well as our second man and Tyler our third. Steven C and Airimus were racing near each other, and Roby, Caleb, and Jimmy were packed in very close proximity and did great work on the hill as well. In the second mile the challenges were certainly setting in, but our pack was racing very well. Deonta was holding strong, and I saw a number of really nice moves around the upper baseball fields--Airmus, Caleb, and Tyler made very assertive passes here, with Airimus working right up to Steven again by the time they hit the trails. They stuck together well in the third mile, with Roby gaining nicely right on their tail. Jimmy was holding on to a Lakes pack, and Caleb shot past a Wauconda runner on the final hill rep.
Deonta was first in the chute, leading the Zee Bee pack with a huge 20:52 Season Best, dropping over two minutes from last week. Alexis was next with a great kick and 21:36 time, followed by the best kick I have ever seen Tyler throw down--he finished very well at 21:57! Airimus accelerated with his signature kick, racing a lifetime PR 22:15, dropping 10s from Deerfield! Roby finished just behind him at 22:34, with Steven C our sixth man at 23:14. Jimmy was right on his heels, kicking well for 23:22--a Season Best by nearly 90 seconds! Caleb finished an excellent race at 24.13, earning a great Season Best as well in the first race of his season! Well done, Bees!
This was a great night of racing. While the Varsity beat themselves up a bit on some slower times than they wanted, the fact that they raced with the heart they did speaks volumes for their dedication. They bug going around the team certainly impeded performances and took many guys out of racing altogether, and those who raced at depleted engery still did a tremendous job. The individual achievments were many, and I was very pleased to see the guys start their kicks at the early mark I pointed out. The shout-outs on the bus took us all the way back to Hunt Club Road as we celebrated the wonderful performances and the inspiration conveyed to each other in the races. "You all raced well, and made this a great night," Coach Tolliver summarized, and I'm not sure much more needs to bee said. I am very proud. Nice work!
Deerfield Opener 8.25.23
After two days of record-breaking heat and a reschedule of the meet to Friday, the temperature finally broke into a pleasant 80-degree day for our season opener at Deerfield. We approached today with great anticipation, excitement, and energy. With a few objectived laid out before us, we arrived at the usual course around DHS to take on Mather, Warren, and Deerfield.
David took the line by himself in the two-mile race. This is a very tough endeavor; with no teammates around, it was up to him to dig for the strength and race solo. Shelving any negative doubts, he warmed up and took the line. With the gun, he went out hard for a fast start into the first loop. The heat and racing challenges weighed heavily, but David put all he had into the course today. His finish was particularly notable as he sprinted through the finish for his first race completion at 26:58. Great work, David!
The remainder of the team took the line later on for the men's three-miler. The temps had cooled significantly by then and the shadows were lengthening with the approaching sunset. The spirited breakdown and final stride did much to dispel the butterflies the pack was collectively feeling, and when the gun went off they shot off in excellent form. Coming around in the first 800, Alex, Ryan, and Jay were working in the lead amidst a large Deerfield, with Alex commanding the field by fifteen meter. I was proud to see the energy and risk--these guys meant business! Not far behind, we had a fantastic pack: Jarek, Tony, Adam, Andrew, Orion, Joan, and Alexis. Steven C. and Roby were racing meters apart, with our men looking great.
I saw them next around the 1.2 mark. Deerfield had worked up on Alex and Jay had surged ahead of Ryan, but all were working well. Adam, Tony, and Jarek were holding strong together, with Orion and Noah not far behind; Deonta and Joan were at each other's shoulders. Airimus was holding off a large Warren pack that had enveloped Alexis--one blue runner was clearly trying to emulate Noah's great sunglass style. Tyler had one of the best race starts I've seen in his career, leading Roby and Steven C.
In the second half, the field inexorably began to spread out, including our packed runners. Alex still commanded our top spot, followed by Jay, Ryan, Jarek, Tony, and Adam; Andrew and Orion didn't let themselves space out, and were nicely holding a trio of Warren runners behind them. Roby and Noah M. showed nice resets at the second mile mark and were working with great fortitude.
Alex surged in as our first runner at 17:06, breaking his lifetime PR from last year by a second and placing 14th overall! Ryan and Jay sprinted in next, Ryan logging 17:49 and Jay 17:51 with excellent kicks. Our next three were in quick succession: Jarek came home as our fourth man at 18:23, with Tony right behind at 18:27--earning a lifetime PR as well. Adam was right behind him at 18:42; Orion surged in as our seventh man at 19:08, just seconds off his lifetime best as well. Andrew and Noah C were just up the field, sprinting in together for fantastic finishes. Andrew earned 19:36 and Noah 19:38; for Noah this was a huge lifetime PR and his first sub-20 race! Joan was next at 20:16, earning a lifetime PR by over two minutes from last year's best and throwing down a monster kick. Alexis was just behind him at 21:25, earning a lifetime PR from his Bee Linked time; right on his heels and a second away was Tyler at 21:26, who also earned a huge lifetime PR (not to mention a celebratory pickle from Coach Tolliver).
Roby and Airimus were next, both completing their first XC races and setting their first PRs. Both had excellent kicks in the final stretch, with a particularly robust takeoff from Airimus. Roby ran 22:24 and Airimus 22:25. After them, a large Zee Bee pack surged around the field and into the chute, led by Deonta (22:37) and followed quickly by Noah M (22:39), and Steven C (22:55)--for Steven this his first race and PR as well. Steven G followed at 23:59, with Jimmy rounding out the pack at 24:56.
It was amazing to see the weeks of hard work come to fruition in the first race. The Bees raced well. We charted ten lifetime PRs and the rest were Season Best efforts; we beat Warren in points (Deerfield won and Mather did not have enough scoring runners), and came away with many successes. The bus ride home was a fun celebration of accomplishments--all those who ran their first races tonight came away with new understandings of the sport, and the entire team came away with a sense of pride. For every man, it was an honest, tough experience, from which they did not falter or shy away from. I like the head-on approach to racing we showed tonight, the risk-taking and moves made on the course. The packwork in the first mile set us up for a good second half; the kicks at the end were strong. We have set a high bar of excellence for ourselves this season, and I cannot wait to see where we take it from here. Great job tonight!
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1. Alex - 16:03 @ Lakes
2. Ryan - 16:44 @ Dawson
3. Jay - 17:08 @ Dawson
1. Andrew - 18:18 @ Lakes
2. Noah C - 18:24 @ Lakes
3. Tyler - 18:32 @ Lakes