Welcome back to The Real Illinois: good news edition. In the last post, readers were able to see how seasons ended for Andrew, Henry, and I. You were also able to see how Jackie was able to achieve her own personal goals for the season, but that was not the ending to her story. Two weeks ago, Jackie and her Trinity University team went to DIII Nationals in Terre Haute, Indiana. I was there and it was a beautiful day for running, but I’ll let Jackie tell what actually happened.
Hey everyone! Thank you for hangin’ in there and for keeping up with me all season. I hope you enjoyed reading this blog as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Now who wants to hear about the Division III National Championships?!
The Thursday before Thanksgiving, my team and I made our final trip of the season to the National Championships. I was really unprepared for the whole event and I could not figure out why I wasn’t nervous. I actually wanted to be nervous but I could not muster it up. I was excited to race in such a large competitive field, but I had no expectations for myself. It’s a really weird feeling to achieve your goals because then it seems like there’s nowhere to go from there. The general sentiment on the team was “Yay we’re here! ..Now what?”
By the time Saturday rolled around though I gained a greater sense of purpose and my competitive edge was back. The attitudes of my teammates however were all over the place. We had girls cracking joke and dancing at the line, while others were too nervous to really talk at all. I tried my best to just stay focused on doing well in this one last race.
I was also really excited to see my mom, grandma, and coach from high school. It was cool that they were all able to make it out and see me. ALSO got to see Zach, Michelle, and Evan, which was awesome! It was so nice to have support from friends and family. Especially ZACH because this is what we talked about all summer (on our weekend and post-work runs) and then all the sudden it was here in real life!
Anyways, back to the race.. When the gun went off there was a stampede of girls in front of me. I was warned that there would be no “bad” runners to beat, but still I don’t think anything could have prepared me for the sinking feeling I experienced when I realized my whole team was in the back ¼ of the field. I panicked, we had such a great season and I didn’t want it to end in disappointment.
According to the results my team was in 18th place at the 3k mark. That must have been the time that we all really started to move up while other teams fell back. Our 2 front runners worked their way to the top 50 and ended up about 5 seconds apart for 43rd and 51stplace. Rosemary, a girl who battle a stress fracture all season, finished 80th. I worked the entire race to get closer and closer to my teammate, Jessica, who was only 50 meters ahead of me. I decided that if girls were going to pass me then they were going to have to work for it.
Going into the final straight away there were people 3 deep on either side screaming their heads off. I sprinted as fast as I could because I was not going to lose 20-30 points for my team by getting passed in the final straight away. I finished a couple seconds behind my teammate Jessica to round out the top 5. My coach told us we were 11th and we all started cheering and going crazy inside the gated chute. We really could not believe it. Even though there was a scoring error and the team was really 12th we are all still really happy with how we placed because we were only 10 points outside of the top 10. None of the girls on my team expected a finish like that. I guess the biggest factor was that on that day, at that race, we all showed up and ran our very best.
I am really proud of the way my team competed this season. I already can’t wait for next year. We graduate no one out of the top 7, and 5 of us will be seniors. I plan on training even harder from here. I know that with the right amount of work and dedication we can achieve anything… and by anything I mean a top 3 team finish next year. But for now I guess there’s just track to think about… BRING ON THE STEEPLE!
When I came up with the idea of The Real Illinois, I was not too sure what was going to come of it. My original intentions were to have an additional way to keep track of the activities of my summer outside of my running log. It was a way to keep my thoughts straight and find a way to maintain some balance in the most hectic summer of my life. From there, the idea evolved to include a few of my friends. I was not able to keep in contact with them as much as I wanted to, so I thought it would be interesting to see what they were doing in print. While I knew for the most part all about Jackie’s summer from consistently training with her, it was great to see how Henry was doing in his new environment and how Andrew was doing in a foreign city.
Over the course of the summer and eventually when school began, I was unable to maintain my original consistency that I wanted. I knew going in that that was going to happen, so I wanted to make sure I at least provided monthly updates and a way to see how the seasons culminated. As one can see, for the majority of us (Andrew, Henry, and I), we did not obtain the direct results that we wanted. Between injuries, lack of sleep, and just leading the lifestyle of a typical college undergrad, the training that was built up and worked on so hard over the summer went down the drain. Luckily, Jackie was there to keep providing updates on her fantastic season. And that is what I wanted to see. Ideally, Henry, Andrew, and I would have had the seasons we trained for and been contributing members to our running groups, and team in general. But, that is how it is with running; it is not always ideal, however failure one season can allow lessons to be learned, and hopefully success the next season. Jackie has found her niche. She has found what works and what it takes to be successful and be an integral member of her team. That helped push Trinity University to a 12th place finish in the country. The remaining three of us… we will find that niche and keep trying to get to that next level.
My hope for this project, this blog-ography as I kept calling it over the summer, was that someone would find it interesting, relatable, and a little bit comforting. I am not sure if any of the four of us knew what we were getting ourselves into this summer. As 20-year olds, we were preparing ourselves for a future of running and working and this was just the first taste. Once many people get into the real world, running and other forms of exercise fall to the bottom of their totem poles of priorities. Regardless of the reason, they become sedentary. That represents over 50% of our country now. I know this was just a brief 3 month sample of trying to maintain a steady routine of running and working, but what the four of us showed is that it can be done. Also, the guys that I worked with and ran with at Takeda (Rodney and Rob) slammed that point home, as did all of the other former alum and contributors to The Real Illinois over the past few months. Running is not something that has to be an activity that you participate in high school and college, and then that’s that. Running is a lifelong outlet that brings balance to people’s lives. I think it brings the balance necessary to relax and get away from that cubicle and put that 40+ hour work week behind you; the tv sure does not do that. Not only that, running does not require fancy facilities, scholarships, and the best resources for success. What matters is the enthusiasm, and the work effort that a runner brings to the table, as well as the environment one finds themselves in. As a captain on her team, Jackie and other members promised dry seasons to their teammates. They accomplished that and look what happened. It’s little things like that that made the difference and I hope over the course of the last few months that we were able to demonstrate that.
As for the future of The Real Illinois, it is up in the air. There may be occasional updates, but there are no promises for what is in store. It was a summer project, and maybe it will be a summer project again next year. I hope that all the readers enjoyed reading it as much as the rest of the contributors and I enjoyed writing. Until next time…
“Success isn’t how far you got, but the distance you traveled from where you started.”
– Steve Prefontaine