Cross-country champs comes but once a year. Okay, I won’t go too crazy on that sentiment because technically there are LOTS of things that come but once a year…for instance 9:36 on 11/25/11 only comes but once a year too, right? Haha.
But because there are plenty of seasons wrapping up here I wanted to do a post. Yes, for all the NCAA fans those cross champs happened on Monday. Congrats to all the great college showings there! Living in California, during high school I really associated Thanksgiving weekend with the State Championships; California likes to be all special and be the VERY last state to hold their champs and it is tomorrow.
Along with that, the National High School meets are starting the rounds; there will be Nike Team Cross Champs (NXN) as well as the first few Footlocker Regional Meets. Now, even though I’m FAR graduated and becoming a geriatric, I still get a little excited buzz when I think about all these meets.
Especially in high school, the first time you go to any of these events they seem, in a word: Epic. We’ll just say Nike does know how to do it right and you start to feel a bit like a rock star…and being a sport where you’re not exactly thought of as holding that status, it feels weird. Oh, and did I mention the schwag? Ya, that’s not a bad deal either.
So, to all those athletes and teams prepping for these big races: Good Luck. I’ll just say a few things, some words, and some fond memories:
* CA State Champs: I don’t know what the weather forecast is in Fresno, but my Soph year it was a mud slide, some real cross country. What’s great about cross is times really can get chucked out the window (varying courses and conditions do that) and it’s really competition…vying for the win, getting one more spot higher to help your team’s score. Get gutsy.
* State Champs again: the night before my Junior year my coach said some rather inspiring words that I still remember today — “The first mile is just about keeping the nerves in check…be smart and don’t go out too fast, but get out fast enough that you’re not stuck behind so many people that you then have to weed your way to the front. The second mile is tactical…stay smooth and strong, start thinking about moving up and putting yourself where you want to be. The last mile is heart…how bad do you want this?”
* Footlocker West: my Frosh year this thing blew me away. I was in runner-dorkette awe, I lined up and remember looking to my right and left and seeing harriers that were idols to me. Looking back I’ll just say this to anyone: on the starting line we’re all equals. Sure, there are people that may be faster or in better shape, but on any given day you don’t know what the future holds. Remember you belong on the starting line and race for yourself, race your best.
* Footlocker Nationals: I only got to go once, but think about regionals on steroids. (please people, know I’m joking, there are no actual drugs involved here…haha) Live it up while you’re there, relish those freebies and meeting the pro runners that rock…soak up the experience. Be focused on the race, yes, but don’t be so intense that you ignore how lucky it is you get to be there…so have fun. That is what cross is about too. Have fun (actually I always liked the distractions before because they help limit getting overly nervous), and then when the start gun cracks, go for it. You can be both: a person and a racer…and in that racer role you can be fierce and ‘out for blood’ but after you cross the line you can be the nicest person in the world. The athletes I respect the most are like that…they can kick your @$$, turn around and congratulate you, and cool-down with you all in the span of an hour.
Good luck racers, and even if you too are a ‘geriatric’ far removed from high school or college cross country don’t worry you can still be excited for these guys. PLUS…the USATF rounds are still to come and the road racer warriors are never to be ignored.
1) What is one of your fond memories from high school or college? If you race for a team it can be about that but it doesn’t have to be.
2) Any words of advice you have for anyone going out for a race?