Wow. The 2014 Cross Country season is over. First of all, congratulations to all of the national qualifiers from Florida who are lucky enough to have one last race! Go and make us proud in San Diego and Portland! I know I speak for everyone when I say that there were some great races this past weekend and I am so excited for everyone who ran PR’s or ran the race of their lives.
However, my season has now come to a close. I have learned so much this season: about this sport, about being on a team, and most importantly, about myself. At the beginning of the season, I expected my track experience to seamlessly translate into cross country. My favorite event in track is 3200 and how would adding another mile be that different? I quickly learned, however, that cross country is truly another sport.
I’ve never dealt with any sort of injury or health problem before and I did not really know to handle them. My issues were minor, but they were enough to scare me, especially during races. After a few very difficult experiences, I had to look inside myself to really figure out why I run. It’s not because I’m fast (because I have been pretty slow in the past), it’s not because I always win (I have two third place state medals proving that), and it’s not because of my parents or friends (I am the only senior on the cross country team and my brother golfs). I run solely because I love the feeling of competing: not just with other people, but also with myself. Over the summer, at the Princeton Cross Country Camp, a renowned cross country coach gave a lecture. One thing he said stands out in my mind: “The race is sacred”. Along the way, I lost sight of my love of the race, and it was no longer sacred. I was too worried about my left leg going numb to really enjoy the experience. I had to realize how lucky I was to be able to take part in races, instead of fearing them.
At the FSU Pre-State Invitational, I was able to do that, and I rediscovered why I love racing. With realigned hips, balanced electrolytes, and renewed spirit, I was ready to go. My coach had trained me very hard that week, with the purpose of tiring me out. Without any sort of taper, there was no way I could put any pressure on myself. It was one of the most fun experiences of my life. I was able to cross the finish line and finish in the top 10, even after coming through the first mile not even in the top 30. From there on, my season improved dramatically and with every meet of the post season, I became more and more excited for the state meet. I had a great experience at states, even though it was a tad cold for my taste. Wow, I will really have to adjust to much colder weather next year. Top three at the state meet had been my goal since the end of track last year, and it’s always nice to reach a goal!
At Footlocker Regionals, it really hit me that the season was over. I just started cross country, I’m not ready for it to be over yet! Though I didn’t finish quite how I wanted, I can’t complain about a PR. I saw so many people that I have grown close to this season and witnessed some great races. McAlpine is a really fun course, and North Carolina was beautiful. It’s nice to see a change of seasons every once in a while! Overall, Footlocker was a great experience, even if I teared up a little while driving home: not about my performance, but because cross country is over.
The most important thing I learned this season was that there is only one thing you can control during a race: your effort. You cannot control other people, the course, or even your own body sometimes (I think my left leg has proven that). But if you are giving it your best effort, there is nothing to regret. There is nothing in the world quite like the butterflies on the starting line, the pain in the middle, and the satisfaction of crossing the finish line. It truly is sacred. Unfortunately, we all have to wait until track to feel this again. I’ve already started writing down my goals and I’m sure everyone else has started thinking about their own. Based on everyone’s cross country season, I think Florida is going to have a very fast track season!
So, farewell 2014 cross country! The next time I will be lacing up my cross country spikes will be in college. I recently committed to Princeton University, a place that I consider the perfect fit for me, and I consider myself very lucky. I have loved seeing where my fellow seniors are headed to as well. Congratulations to every one who has committed! For those of you who haven’t, know that you will love wherever you end up, or in least that is what every single college freshman has told me! In two weeks, I will be a second-semester senior, with only one high school season left. I wish I could say I could give in to the senioritis, but unfortunately, I have AP Calculus AB/BC to worry about. After getting finals over with, I’ll spend my break listening to Christmas music, training, and dreaming about shiny new track PR’s. I hope everyone else does the same.