2023 Cross Country
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!
1. Alex - 16:22 @Home
2. Ryan - 16:44 @Dawson
3. Jay - 17:08 @Dawson
1. Andrew - 18:50 @Dawson
2. Noah C - 19:34 @Home
3. Tyler - 20:22 @ Home