Well, that's that. This summer, I thought this was going to be a "rebuilding season." And it was. From summer Ultimate in the park to NerfWars to pizza parties, from friends bringing friends to me visiting every freshman PE class, from 12 at opening practice to 60 before the JV season ended, we did rebuild this team. But it was day after day of these young men and women working hard (SO hard--...unless you were there you have no idea), and listening and respecting their coaches, and treating one another with trust and love, and committing to suffer together and push through together and most of all to stick together that something amazing happened. At today's state championships, this rebuilt girls team finished top 20 in the state for the third straight year. And these do-or-die boys went from pulling off a seemingly impossible state berth, our first since 1997, to finish top 25 in the state. I am proud of these kids and honored to be their coach. Thanks for giving me the best season ever. I hate to see it end and I can't wait for the next one to begin. You all are the best! Love you all.
We had 34 kids for the ice cream social Friday night! AWESOME! We picked up a number of new members at the event.
Cookies and cream was the big winner. Bowls of whipped topping looked like it came in second. Whatever floats your boat I guess...
After setting up the turf into into 2 Ultimate fields, breaking up into 4 teams, and cranking up the stadium lights, things were under way! For about 5 minutes! Then it stormed like crazy until finally I told everyone to go home. (I can only stand sitting in a locker room watching a bunch of wet kids play dumb games like Ninja for so long...)
I'd still call the night a success. We had fun, picked up some new members, and everyone survived. Good enough. WE WILL RESCHEDULE the Ultimate Under the Lights Tournament. But don't for get the Cookout this coming Friday. Che
After a long time away from the site, I have updated the Cross Country and Clipboard pages to reflect our summer plans for 2013. Furthermore, I have updated the Track page to reflect the results of a specacular and history-making 2013 season.
We've decided to skip a formal running camp this summer, and instead focus our energies into recruiting and team-building activities. We graduated a lot of talented seniors in 2013, kids who acomplished amazing things in both the NCHS Cross Country and Track & Field programs. Now it's time to recruit and train up the history-makers of tomorrow.
I sincerely hope each and every one of you reading this will feel welcome to participate in the fun activities schedule for July, regardless of your age or Cross Country intents, and that a strong team will form from this as we shift gears into the training of the new NCHS Cross Country team when school starts in August. See you at the events!
Top 20 was definitely realistic. In fact, the last time we went to state was in '08, and we got 23rd, so anything better than that would put us in the record books as the best girls' team in school history.
Top 15 was doable, too, even though everyone online had us projected to finish 18th. As a matter of fact, I thought, our 21:11 average from region day would have us cracking the state top 10, but it'd take a repeat of multiple-PRs on a non-PR course in a nutty crowd of girls all as good as us to do it. Not realistic. But if I sold the girls on shooting for a top 10 spot, we might be able to get in that top 15 area. Even better, let's go after Male, who I'm sure after getting by us at Regions was looking for a top 10 spot as well. (As it turned out, they showed up in shirts printed to say just that).
State races have a way of looking a lot worse than they are. I'm quite sure they feel that way as well. Typically, runners seriously underperform there. And after a good start by our leaders, things just turned into a pretty miserable-looking blur of elbows and ponytails. Lots of turns, girls packed everywhere, especially between the 21:00-22:00 5K pace, no room to move. Just as I warned them, if you weren't running agressive enough to pass, you'll be getting passed. The. Whole. Race.
Dani looked every bit the state veteran, fantastic from start to finish, and Jessie and Kelsey really turned it on the second half of the race. As if part of a plan (I can certainly take no credit for it), their patience through a rough first mile rewarded them with awesome second two miles, and season PRs. Crazy, considering the circumstances. They just ran remarkably great, ridiculous races. Kayla, Morgan, Shelby, and Bree worked their tails off to keep spots, and later picked off many runners by sheer will in the last 800.
Still, after the race I wasn't sure how we did, especially since I was greeted at the finish with more tears than smiles from the girls. It's really hard to estimate team performance at state, unless you're just freaky good, which we aren't. How would we stack up against all these great teams, or even just the other good teams? I knew our goal of top 10 looked every bit like the pipe dream I'd thought it'd be, but I was praying that top 15 might still happen. MAYbe.
Turns out it did, and much more. When I worked my way through the crowd at the results board, I was a little surprised I didn't see our name on the last page, which started with the 13th place team. Huh? Where are...11th. Am I seeing this right? 11th?! Like right-after-top-10-type-11th? I was elated. The top ten teams in the state, proving it in front of everyone on state championship day, with 30+ of the state's best teams represented on the line, and we're 11th. Not only did we crush that 18th-place-finish projection, we beat a lot of teams that had beaten us earlier in the season, including Male. A lot of really good teams. I ran back and told the girls to screams of relief and joy.
I've looked the results over probably a thousand times today, as if I'm trying to figure how it could have happened. But I'm not really. I just really like looking at them. Especially the team scores. I look at the top teams, the ten ahead of us, and some of these are really the elite programs in our state in my opinion. And there we are, right behind them. Maybe not among them, but right there. It's a good feeling.
It's a good team. Thanks, girls.
"Pressure" isn't strong enough a word somehow.
After the school split that created Thomas Nelson HS reduced our enrollment to 940, I was hopeful that the resulting drop from class AAA to class AA would put us in a more favorable region for making state. Heck, with this many seniors, I thought, we might even be able to compete for a region championship or runner-up trophy against smaller schools in a different region. ANY different region.
See, for a long time our region has been AAA (the large-school class) Region 3, which boasts state top-5 Manual and Butler for the girls and state #1 St. X and top-five Meade Co for the boys. There have been times when 5 of the top 10 teams in the state have been in our region, and only 4 get to qualify to go to state. Think about it: one of the top 10 programs in the state wouldn't qualify for the championship meet just because our region is so tough.
Both our boys team and our girls team are comprised of mostly seniors this season, seniors that have had to face one of the toughest roads to the state meet there is for their entire careers. Year upon year of frustrating post-season prospects. Year after year of looking at state meet results of teams that we could beat, or had beaten all season, but got to qualify out of a weaker region. But this year, after our reassignment to the medium-sized school class, our chances in a new region would be much greater.
Just one problem: we weren't assigned to the medium-school class. As it turns out, you have to wait a year after a school split to drop in class. So now we're still in one of the toughest large-school regions there is, and we aren't even a large school anymore. Now a number of our best runners, including one of our state qualifiers from last season, go to a school across town. Now my seniors get to face the probability of another heartbreaking region and frustrating state weekend.
In the face of all this, our boys team capped off the hardest-working season I've ever been a part of by running their guts out at the region championships yesterday. Yes, #1 St. X walked away with it, and #4 Meade was right behind as expected, but five of our boys set PRs despite nerve-wracking conditions, including senior captain Paden V., who dropped his season best by 40 seconds, and barely and I mean BARELY missed qualifying in an at-large spot. Landon, Will, Jonathan, and Winton all PRed as well, and Morgan still ran a good time despite stomach fits that had him puking on the line seconds before the starting gun. Sure, we ended in the same team place we have for several years now, but with no standouts runners to rely on, a better team average time, and a much better attitude. Our top 6 all broke 19, all but one (who got sick) PRed, and all were within 47 seconds of one another. Our boys truly are a TEAM, and THAT is the legacy our seniors boys leave our underclassmen. And that is far more important to me than sending an individual or two to state. On a team that epitomizes TEAM, one or two on the line at next weekend's state meet frankly would've felt wrong somehow. I'm glad it worked out like it did. We have a lot to be proud of, gentlemen.
The girls did exactly what I expected them to do. Take the next step in proving that they are the best girls team Nelson County HS Cross Country has ever produced. They didn't do it yesterday, as NCXC girls' teams have made state before. But they've set themselves up to do it next weekend. I already know they are our best team ever. I think they know it too. But it's all just predictions and potential until they do it. And they will. Better yet: do we have what it takes to crack the state top 20? I think we do, and yesterday proves it. Kayla's team-leading 20:22 is second only to the 19:58 school-record Daniella set in 2010. And Kayla is still getting faster every race. Dani herself was within 3 seconds of her season best. Kelsey and Bree both PRed--YES!. Jessie, Morgan, and Shelby all posted good times. The entire team came in under 22:40, something our earlier state-qualifying team couldn't touch. I believe we can do it--prove we're the best in school history.
Sure, making state is a great accomplishment, really something to celebrate. But it's just another footstrike of a race that's still unfinished.
Be have something bigger to do.
See you at practice Tuesday at 9:00.
My congratulations and heartfelt appreciation goes out to all my runners tonight.
The boys and girls both did everything we have historically needed to do to win back-to-back conference championships tonight. It took hard, gutsy races to do it. It was hard, and we did it.
Just one problem--tonight was the inaugural conference championship for our three new member schools: Thomas Nelson, North Bullitt, and perenially state-ranked AA powerhouse Bullitt East, who swept in here and nabbed both the boys and girls championship trophies and there was very little the other member schools could do about it but grumble. (I see AAA classification for 1,500-student Bullitt East in the very near future, and they'll be lucky to not end up in our spot in St. X-dominated region 3. We'll see.)
Oh, we tried to stop them. Our girls mounted an especially valiant effort, led by team-leader and eventual third-place-finisher Kayla M.'s fearless attempt to hang with Bullitt Central's state-bound number one, who's typically like a minute faster than her and she knows it. But ultimately it was their pack outpacing our pack to lead them to a 39-30 win over us. We were one strong new team away from another claim of our 11-team conference's championship. Good try, girls. It was a REALLY. GOOD. TRY. and we should be prouder of this runner-up trophy than last season's champion trophy. Really.
Guys had it even tougher. Bullitt East just handed it to us, all of us. Nobody was close. But we were the best of the rest, and it didn't come down to a nailbiter like last year, when it took a 6th runner finish to break a tie over Bardstown. No, like the girls, it was a better result, and this year from a harder-working NC team. Nicely done, gentlemen.
What will it take to get out of our region and on to the state championships this season? Basically, it will take everything. All it will take is all that we've got. But with both the boys' and girls' team averages both consistently dropping over the last three races, we've never been better poised to give it.
Going into tonight's Central KY Run for the Gold, I had to put my expectations firmly in check. We had run a good Hillbilly Run (as far as our times went) two weeks ago; then fall break hit, followed close behind by a "Welcome Back" home meet that produced times that were, let's say, less than welcome. Thanks, NCXC course.
Milesplit had projected our girls a close third, two points behind host North Hardin. But those projected results didn't include the addition of our two girls fresh out of soccer season, junior Morgan J. and senior Emily B. I felt pretty sure we could sneak up and grab that runner-up trophy if we played our Cards (pun intended) right.
Then three of our top seven runners couldn't make the race, for various reasons. Disappointing. We've worked hard this season, and the addition of tougher races for us means the trophies have been few and far between. On the bus ride there, I even told our team captain Daniella basically, "we coulda got runner-up, but oh well, just focus on your individual race and stay close to Kayla." I even told Kayla to keep Dani close in the first 800 so they could work togther. "All of you," I said to the team, "are to stay in contact with the teammate ahead of you."
In typical fashion, Kayla tore off the line at the gun like some bat out of Hades, leading the first 800 and separating her and Dani by 6 or 8 spots. No worries: Dani's strength is her second half. Then I saw Bree was back with a vengeance, and what is that! Morgan is right with her! Emily was not far behind to close out our scorers, and Sabrina was cruising at PR pace not far behind.
When the dust cleared, Kayla and Dani were again neck-and-neck in third and fourth, this time both rolling to PRs. In fact, 7 of the 9 girls who ran PRed. NICE! And none was more stunning than Morgan, who three races ago clocked her first season time at 26:58. Tonight she finished third on the team with a 22:04. Yes, you read that right. Amazing efforts produced amazing results, and to my surprise, we pulled out the runner-up trophy after all. The girls were thrilled, and had every right to be. I'm glad Coach Eeyore didn't speak to anybody besides Dani on the bus ride there!
The boys race followed, and they proceeded to put on a clinic about how running with a teammate will make you better. First Morgan with Paden, then Will with Landon (who together actually caught up with Paden), then Winton with Jonathan, then Joseph with Sean, then Spencer with Patrick. I mean, literally every varsity boy was elbow-to-elbow with another, pushing the pace. Iron sharpening iron. Listening, reacting, pushing, and pulling, they looked like the disciplined, smart runners they are quickly turning into. Of the ten of them, half PRed, and the others were mighty close.
I want to thank the guys for always listening to me. I appreciate your trust, and sometimes you just flat make me feel like I know what I'm doing, which is a good feeling for a coach to have. You fellas looked great tonight.
Great kids. Great effort. Great night. It's enough to make a coach proud.
UPDATE, later that night... You know, the more I think about this the more I'm realizing that if we'd have had our three missing varsity girls, we would've won the whole meet. GRRR! after all.
Well, it was still a good night.
I wanted a rewarding meet on a difficult course that we could run to win at, and the Desales LakeView Invitaional was just the thing!
I knew the girls would have a good shot at defending last year's Invitational title, but taking the line I must admit those athletic gals from Collegiate had me concerned. Once the race was underway, however, our girls placed themselves perfectly. Jessie ran great, just a second or two off her PR on a course that is nearly a minute slow for most runners. I knew she'd run well there; she seems to really like difficult courses (I told her she's kind of a sadist that way while we shared a run today). Kayla, Dani, and Bree were not far behind--it's clear my constant reminders to run in contact ("like a chain") are bearing fruit. But I was perhaps most thrilled with Emily's debut. Her fifth place time on the team sealed the win for us, and makes me really excited to see what she has in store for us. She's a huge pickup for us. HUGE. A tremendous competitor. Watch her times drop as she continues to catch on to this XC thing.
The boys captured the Invitational Runner-up spot, which might have been a surprise to some. Not me. Morgan showed some guts by taking the lead for a while, which was a fun experiment to watch. I've really got to hand it to him for going for it when it felt right. Like Jessie, Landon nearly PRed on the least PR-like course of the season. The rest of the boys basically saddled Paden. It's great to have him back. When the dust cleared, we were the second place team, with a lot to celebrate. But the coach in me had to remind them today how close we came to being the first place team. I mean, every one of our boys had a Desales kid right in front of him at the finish. I think if they'd have realized they were all sharing the same view--all looking at the backside of the same color jersey--we might have done something about it. But live and learn. It was a great lesson on an all-around great night.
Times keep dropping. Gaps keep closing. And this weekend brings a well-deserved break. Enjoy it runners. You deserve it.
After what I would call a pretty challenging start to the 2012 season, yesterday's Central Hardin Invitational may have been the shot in the arm I've been waiting for.
While the boys finished 10th of 14 teams, it was a very comeptitive meet, with state-ranked #7 Meade Co (who is in the region we're still stuck in, oh joy) taking the crown over 8 or so schools that will be joining them at the Horse Park in their respective state championship races come November. For our part, 13 of the 15 boys who ran yesterday PRed for the season. Improvement feels good. Two full boys' teams, 9 on the line for the JV race, and almost everyone running their best so far. A great day. Best of all, to see new guys like Derek and Grant ABSOLUTELY SMASHING thier previous best times. A HUGE congrats to you guys!
The girls finished an impressive 5th of 14, again against very competitive squads. Notice was served that when we put our full varsity team on the line, we can run with almost anybody. Region foe Butler just KILLED it, but among the 10 or so teams we beat were three from our region, including one that's bumped us from state spots for several years now. The girls are starting to understand that a state meet could be in our future, a state meet coming out of a killer-hard region in a large-school class we no longer ought to be stuck in, IF we work hard, pull together, and keep improving. Great to see Kayla back, and running her heart out like always, with Dani right on her heels. Seeing good athletes work together to achieve great performances makes me love being a coach. Great runs by Jessie, Breanne, and Shelby too! Thanks girls! (Now for those 6th and 7th spots...) Great to see a full JV girls team on the line. Big smile! 8 or 10 of our girls PRed, and the 4 JV runners who did did so by some of the biggest margins of the day. AWESOME JOB!
ATTENTION NCHS RUNNERS: I know we've been working hard. I know you walk into the trackhouse, look in the bulletin board for the day's workout, and sigh or moan or wish you could leave. But the results we've been working for are starting to roll in. Trust me. Stick to it. Keep it up. Sure, for me...sure, for you...sure, for the team...but most of all, for the team we CAN BECOME.
Looking forward to another great week.
A HUGE thanks to all the loyal NCXC boosters who came out to help host the inaugural running of our Ndurance Labor Day 5K. Congrats to all who finished the race. If you haven't yet, check out all the results on the "Labor Day 5K" page.
Great job by Coach Jessica Sparrow and all the ladies in the concession stand for getting both the team and individual results out so quickly. Great job by Tom Vernon and the course crew for not getting anybody killed. Great job by the timers and chute workers too!
If you worked the event and didn't pick up a shirt, stop by the trackhouse office this week and get one. THANKS AGAIN EVERYBODY!
Coach Dan Bradley has been working with Nelson County athletes in Cross Country since 1993 and Track & Field since 1995. An avid runner and sometime competitor, Coach Bradley was a USATF masters-level road race series gold medalist in 2010. He is also an English teacher and Journalism advisor at NCHS in Bardstown, KY, where he lives with his wife and their four children.
Check out Coach's quest for a USATF gold medal