Saturday, September 17, 2011

Tama Hills, 9/17/11

There's something about actually running in the first race of the season that shifts your perspective on practice. What I observed in my middle schoolers during our practices this week (following the first meet last Saturday) was an intensity and determination that simply hadn't been there before (or at least, hadn't been anywhere nearly as obvious). Gone were the complaints and gripes about how far we were running or how many hills we were doing. Instead--quiet, focused effort. A lot of this has to do with how much potential the team sees within themselves. It means a lot to them to see this potential reflected in the meet results, and it means a lot for them to hear such affirmation from myself and Coach Rudd.

This year, I'm setting up a system of 'ice cream times', similar to what Coach Rudd does for the high schoolers. Simply, we examine the times that the kids ran at Tama Hills, and based on their personal records, we set goals for improvement--a time that they can shoot for; something challenging, yet attainable with hard work. This goal is their 'ice cream time', and if they reach it or beat it, they will be rewarded with an ice cream bar. A simple reward, but it helps to make their improvement more concrete, more visible. Ultimately, I don't think it's really about the ice cream. Yes, they'll enjoy the cold treats, but today, I heard so much joy from nearly every single one of my runners ("Coach, I got my PR by ___ seconds!!!") that I know they're slowly adopting the mindset of competing to do their best for the sake of doing their best.

Here's the write-up that I posted on the CAJ website. I'm proud of my runners.

The Middle School boys had an outstanding day on the 3.3K course at Tama Hills, bringing in their first win in three years (edging out YIS). Every runner on the team had a strong showing, and all ran their personal best except for top runner, 7th grader Kenji J., who maintained his pace from the first meet with 15:29 (down a mere four seconds from the previous week).

Callum M. (7) ran a 15:53, a PR of 40 seconds. Isaiah S. (8) ran a 16:33, a PR of 38 seconds. Ryu K. (7) ran a 17:51, a PR of 2:18. David B. (7) ran 18:18, a PR of 1:53. And, taking the record for most improved time, Jeremiah S. (6) with a time of 21:18, a PR of 3 minutes.

Though the girls had to automatically forfeit due to an incomplete team, the two 6th graders improved on the same high level of promise that they showed in their first meet last week.

Ha Eun K. placed 13th with a time of 17:08, a PR of 12 seconds and Angela L. placed 45th with a time of 18:55, a PR of 50 seconds. Now, if only we had three more girls...

The high school girls continued to improve and impress on the 3.3K course today. Our top three girls are rapidly becoming a force to be reckoned with in the Kanto Plains, and may well develop into the core of one of CAJ's strongest girls teams ever. Runa S. (10) placed 9th with a time of 15:01, a PR of 52 seconds. Ria K. (11) placed 10th with a time of 15:04, a PR of 35 seconds. Misaki N. (10) placed 13th with a time of 15:06, a PR of 38 seconds. With a mere 5 second span separating these three friends, I have no doubt that they will continue to push each other, improve, and entrench themselves in the top 10 as the season wears on. If two more strong runners join next season to round out this trio, the CAJ girls could be looking at a Far East title next fall!

The CAJ boys ran well this week, and though they were edged out by YIS, the relatively young and inexperienced team continued to build their identity on the 4.4K course. Tsubasa K. (11) lead the team, placing 8th with a time of 16:39. He was followed by Ryan H. (11) who placed 19th with a time of 17:34. Kye A. (10) improved 15 seconds for a time of 17:40. In his first race ever, Shin M. (12) placed 23rd with a time of 17:47. Ken N. (10) placed 53rd with a time of 19:23 and Daniel Y. (9) showed promise, placing 64th with a time of 19:43 (a 63 second improvement over last week).

Overall, it was a very good day and the atmosphere was one of excitement and joy, as so many runners improved significantly over their times from last week, and even their personal records. Some critics fail to see the point of cross country and question the sanity of those involved in the sport. Though I doubt I could ever make them understand, I simply point to the pure joy of running and noticing tangible improvement each week. It's a beautiful feeling as a runner and as a coach, it's so meaningful to see your runners asking first "Did I run my best today?" rather than worrying about placement and comparing themselves to the other teams, or to their teammates. This, I think, is how a cross country runner brings glory to God. As the team mantra goes... "Soli Deo Gloria!"

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