Thursday, November 14, 2013

TNHSXC 2013 Recap

Year two began with high expectations.  Following our Class 1A debut as a newly opened high school in 2012 (boys team qualified for State as well as one female - Sadie M.) the stage was set. All of our student-athletes were returning as we had no senior class last year, and we were moving up to Class 2A and south to Bowling Green's Region 2 following a KHSAA region realignment.  Our team had grown in numbers and would peak by season's end at 32.  Most of the fastest core boys were the same, but the back half of our varsity girls squad was made up of many new smiling faces.
What happens when I leave my phone in the office - thirty or so random photos.
Our course was shaping up. 
The season began early with summer practices firing up in early June.  Attendance was outstanding, and I was already anxious for season to start (maybe not the school year, but the season).  The training plan was laid out, base miles were accumulating daily, and I was spending countless hours on the Cub Cadet after practice (often between my runs) mowing the XC course.  By the time our mandatory "dead period" came around, we had set goals, and I was feeling confident in our kids' abilities to carry on toward them.

We enjoyed free tickets to a L'ville Bats game thanks to my friend (head groundsman) Tom Nielsen.
School starts early 'round here, first week of August usually, which made for a long month of after school training sessions before our first contest on Labor Day weekend.  The new Region alignment had us competing at Ephram White Park in Bowling Green for our Regional Championships, and the only chance we would have all year to run on that course was August 31st.  Not really what I was looking for when scheduling the first meet of the year, but we loaded up and headed south.  The course is primarily gravel, which the kids did not like, but they ran pretty well despite the oppressive heat and humidity.  Hope S. made history as the first TNHSXC runner to ride in an ambulance as her body went into complete shut down due to her strong effort.  By 3:00 a.m. I was home in my bed.

Labor Day itself was the second running of the NDurance 5k here in Bardstown put on by my friend (who I coached under for six years) Dan Bradley.  My guys ran really well, especially Jarrett who ran right off my shoulder until we hit the track with 300m to go.  I managed to out kick the sophomore (he did race two days prior), and the effort was enough to get us across the line in 16:55 and 16:56 respectively - Jarrett's first trip under 17.  Things were shaping up.

The start of the first Popsicle Race four years ago.
Pictured are numerous TNHS and NCHS runners that now drive to practice! 
We hosted a number of events throughout the XC season.  Our three race series named the Weeknight Warfare XC Series and the fourth year for the Popsicle Races Youth Series would keep us hopping.  The first night of Popsicle Races saw 86 of Nelson County's youngsters brave 1, 2 and 3k courses on a quest for popsicles.  The series has ballooned to five races and has been the introduction to running for hundreds of kids.  Check out  The Weeknight Warfare Series saw great competition on three Tuesday nights.  The first one saw a lightning delay cancel the boys varsity race, but the second two came off without a hitch.  Tremendous school and parent support led to stellar events at a venue that I am very proud of.  Our kids took home a lot of hardware including team trophies despite the increasingly strong competition.  The third race, our Senior Night, saw eight full varsity teams toe the line.

Very proud and sad to see them go.  
Our harriers continued posting great results all season long, times were dropping consistently, and the Regional rankings held steady.  Boys were 4th in Region 2 2A and girls were hovering around 8th. From the night race at Run for the Gold in E'town, to the huge Trinity/Valkyrie Invite, to Hillbilly Run (best local finishers in boys and girls!), to the new races (for us) at Gatorland and Fast Cats (both were pretty bad beatings), our team battled through tough training weeks often racing on tired legs.   It was time for us to hit the key races, rested and ready to best the PR's that we had already bettered.

The MKAC All-Conference Team members - Jarrett and Tyler.
A cool Tuesday evening in October at the Hillbilly course was the setting for our Mid-Kentucky Athletic Conference Championships.  Our boys team minus two key soccer players (playing in their Regional tourney) lined up ready to throw down in what would be a tight battle for the runner-up spot.   Missing our usual number 3, we placed third only missing the Runner-up trophy by four points (we eventually forgave Nathan).  Varsity girls were a solid 5th and the middle school boys (future looks bright!) were fourth.  Two middle schoolers earned All-Conference honors and two high school boys also ran their way onto the All-conference team.  All that was left was one last race at the Central KY Meet of Champs (tune up for a few Region team members and last race for middle school).   Most of our Region team was resting that weekend awaiting the next weekend's Regional Championships - our most critical race of the year. 

Here's some of the Region crew.  Boys did it again - back to STATE!
While we would love to assume our spot at the State meet is guaranteed and to be able to place all of our emphasis on tapering for State, we had to qualify out of a competitive region (and against bigger schools than last year).  So, for the second year in our two year legacy, we honed our training on Region with a goal of qualifying for the State meet.  And, for the second year in a row, we did.  The boys qualified out of Region 2 2A by nabbing the 4th place team spot (top five teams qualify).  The girls ran a solid meet, and while we had hopes of running a few individuals into the five slots for non-team qualifiers, we narrowly missed.  Their season came to an end, but the boys would march on to Lexington with one more week to prepare.

It's an honor to get to go to the State Championships in any event, and our distance runners were the only ones to reach that pinnacle in any sports in 2012-13 (Boys XC team, one XC girl, two 1600m individuals in track).  Once again they proved to be the best student athletes at their respective sport at all of Thomas Nelson High School.  They represented TNHS well as they placed 19th out of 26 teams.  Our seed was 15th, and our goal was 10th.  So, we went four spots in the wrong direction.  I'm chalking it up to another growing opportunity and a fantastic season with new runners, new PR's and loftier goals for next year. 

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