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.