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Smooth Sailing vs Shipwrecked

Running a cross country race is much like going sailing. Sometimes the seas are calm, sometimes the seas are rough, and sometimes the seas are outright unforgiving.

Smooth sailing is when everything goes according to plan. Sometimes that is an entire season. Other times it may be a handful of races. I have seen girls that have had the kind of year that they could only have dreamed of and some have the kind of races that will stick with them a lifetime.

Rough seas are when you don't have the kind of race you wanted to, but it wasn't a complete disaster. Maybe it was the race where you got beat by someone that shouldn't have beaten you, or the race where you left the finish line knowing you could have done better.

When the seas are completely unforgiving it can leave you shipwrecked. I have seen girls drop out of races due to injury and have seen seasons put on hold due to injury. I have even seen girls go through a season struggling to deal with the mental aspect that running distance races can do to you. Storms can come up suddenly in life. Storms often produce doubt and doubt can be a precursor to fear. Fear then leads to unfulfilled goals. It is how we deal with these storms that allows us to grow as a person and as an athlete. Being shipwrecked is not always a bad thing. There is a story of captain Hernan Cortes who set sail to Veracruz, Mexico in 1519, to conquer the new lands. Upon landing in Veracruz, he ordered the men to burn the ships. He basically wanted to remove the option (or temptation) to retreat. Leave no option of turning back and commit to the way forward. You must continue to forget what is behind and strain for what lies ahead. That is the struggle we all go through when coming out of the storm or when we feel stranded on an island.

As the cross country season winds down, I have seen all of the above in terms of sailing. There has been smooth sailing, some rough seas and even a few shipwrecks. The meet at Haddonfield this year was without a doubt the coldest I ever remember that meet being. All twelve runners saw season best times with Meghan Carroll and Belle St. Jean both dipping under 22 minutes for the first time ever. The JV squad then finished their season running at Dream Park in the Oly. Conf. JV Championships. Only two runners that day saw their season best times, but considering the course was more challenging than Haddonfield, it was an impressive showing. Casey Wrightson was our top runner at 22:21.

Next up for the team was the Group IV Sectional race. A steady rain had left the course rather wet and this was the point of the season where you either race well or the season comes to an end. Last year the team placed 4th to advance to the State Gr 4 meet. This year looked to be difficult to get through with only two runners from last year's squad in the race. There were a lot of questions and not too many answers. I knew that for the team to do well, someone was going to have to rise to the occasion. Rise is exactly what the girls did. Four lifetime bests and three other consistent races saw the team place 3rd, which is our best showing since 2011. Kate Rathman led the charge finishing 2nd followed by Nicole Clifford 5th, Alyssa Blackmon 20th, Sophia DeLuca 35th, Kayla McAdams 57th, Jaden Sweely 58th and Adriana Sommese 72nd. Needless to say, there was some great sailing along with a few turbulent waters, but definitely clear skies were overhead this day.

The State meet was now our next destination. The best of Group 4 were all going to step off the starting line on a very slow Holmdel course. Not slow due to the difficulty, but slow due to the course being very wet. This meet saw all three scenarios play out. Some left feeling shipwrecked, some had to get through some rough seas and even some had the race of their lifetime. For the team, the season ended on a note that we didn't want, but for Kate Rathman, she earned the right to one last race at the Meet of Champions. Despite Kate not having the race she had wanted, she still managed to hold onto the 10th wildcard spot to advance. Kayla McAdams was the one that had the best race for us running nearly a lifetime best at Holmdel at 21:50 while being our #3 runner. With everyone returning next year, I hope this meet leaves everyone a little hungry for what they could accomplish next year. In two days, Kate gets to run with the best runners in the entire State. What a huge accomplishment for this junior as she makes her second MOC appearance in cross country.

At the start of the season, Coach Petruzzi and I didn't know what this year's team was going to be capable of. I don't think either of us could have picked the varsity top seven but it does show what hard work and perseverance will do for you. I couldn't be more proud of what the team was able to accomplish this season. You have once again shown why the program is a top 10 program in south jersey.

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