This is my first blog of the 2012 season. As of now the season is 1/3 over and overall, I have to say I’m very excited about how the season has started off. As anyone that has been around cross country knows, 90% of the season is based on the summer. We had 3 guys that put in a ton of work over the summer, logging over 700 miles, and even attended the camp hosted by the University of Wisconsin. Seniors Pat Maguire and Anthony Maciag, as well as junior James Durkin, committed themselves to being the best they could this season and have earned the honor of captains. When school started, we put in a very hard two weeks of training that included doubles 3 days a week and topped out between 80-85 mpw. The end of the “two a days” was just before our first meet at Lyons Township. I knew the guys would be a little tired and have some heavy legs for this race, but I still felt that they could run near the front and have some success. The meet would feature some good competition with a number of state qualifying teams from the year before.
We did not run a full team at this meet for a few reasons. One being our small team, and the other our #4 runner, senior Sean Waters, had some bad luck the week before. I was ready for Sean to have a great season. He had really worked hard and was in good shape. However, Sean had a little collision with a vehicle on a run. He said he was fine aside from some bruising and a little pain, but found out he had broken his femoral neck bone (I think I got that right) and would be unable to run for 5 weeks. This was a major setback for our team. I do have to say Sean has been nothing but a fantastic teammate throughout this ordeal. His influence at the practices and meets is irreplaceable.
The weather at Lyons on September 1 was practically perfect. It usually is very warm. Last year they even had to cut down the distance of one race as a precautionary measure. Pat Maguire and James Durkin ran together comfortably for the first mile in about 25th-30th place, with Anthony Maciag around 50th. Each guy moved up extremely well and they finished 6th, 7th and 23rd. Durkin’s time of 15:31 was a big PR. Maguire’s time of 15:33 tied a PR, and Maciag’s 16:07 was a huge PR for him as well. It was a terrific start to the season as Coach Molenda and I were very happy with their performances.
The following week we were at Reavis. This week we did plan on having a team compete (6 runners). The course at Reavis is a slower one due to many turns, even a couple 180 degree ones. Once again the top 3 ran incredibly well as we placed 3 runners in the top 5. Maguire was 2nd (16:02), Durkin was 3rd (16:04), and Maciag was 5th (16:26). Senior Brendan Baker had to drop out of the race in the first mile after rolling his ankle. Junior Tim O’Connor wound up 43rd and senior Steve Macke was 64th to round out the scoring. Our total was good enough to place 2nd as a team in this meet.
The next week, we broke up the team. I took the top 3 runners to Peoria’s Detweiller Park to race in the biggest meet of the regular season and get some experience on the state course, while Coach Molenda took the rest of the team to the Connelly/Polka Invite hosted by St. Ignatius and Fenwick at Turtlehead Lake.
We stopped for breakfast at 6:00 A.M. before taking the trip down I-80. Once again, the weather provided ideal racing conditions. We were assigned box 11 out of 70 teams. This meant we were on the inside and had to make sure we didn’t get boxed in on the first turn. The guys definitely took advantage of the day and ran an absolutely remarkable race. Durkin got out well in about 4:53 for the first mile and held his own. Maguire and Maciag were at right about 5 minutes, which is right about where we talked about them being beforehand. I was able to see them about 5 times during the race, and I got more pumped up each time they passed. Durkin had his best race ever and finished 27th in 15:11. This was a PR by 20 seconds for him and almost a minute faster than he ran at the same meet a year before. Maguire moved very well the second half of the race; he said he felt “too comfortable” for the first half and wound up 55th in 15:25, also good for a personal best. Both Durkin and Maguire’s times earn them a spot on Br. Rice’s All-Time Leaderboard. It’s hard to say who ran the best that day, but Maciag’s race has to be right there. He finished 107th in 15:49. This was a PR for him by 18 seconds and over a minute better than last year. Needless to say, I was ecstatic with the races these 3 guys turned in. This may be as good as a top 3 I’ve seen since I’ve been coaching. Perhaps only the 2002 team (CCL Champs, 13th in state) led by Cunningham, King, and Hague were better. It definitely was a great day! I told the guys we’ll have to eat the same breakfast the morning of the sectional meet.
The workouts as a whole have been going phenomenally well. I’ve been keeping track of our Tuesday interval sessions for the past few years, and each of the top 3 guys have been making big strides. They are consistently working together and helping each other out, and it is paying off. We found out last season that great workouts don’t always translate into great races. However, these three guys are starting to learn to race, and just as importantly, learning to race with confidence. I’m very excited the way these runners have progressed, and I only expect them to get better when it counts at the end of October and November.
We did not race this past weekend. This Saturday, September 29, we travel to Montrose Harbor for the Loyola Lakefront Invite. This is my favorite meet of the year for a number of reasons. The course provides an absolutely beautiful view of downtown Chicago. Also, it is a high school and college meet. I, as well as the team, get to see some alumni race at the next level. It is a great opportunity for them to see how competitive and fun the collegiate cross country atmosphere is.
My next blog will not be until after the Catholic League Championship. If you’re interested in watching the Crusaders race at a nearby location, both Regionals and Sectionals are scheduled to be held at Midlothian Meadows (155th & Pulaski).
In addition at this Friday’s Homecoming football game, the Athletic Department is naming the state qualifying Cross Country teams from 1987, 1991, 2001 and 2002 as honorary captains. Also, this year’s “Circle of Champions” inductees will be announced. Receiving this great honor are former standout XC and Track alums Jack Malone and Mike Billish, as well as long time Head Track Coach Bill Gleeson. I look forward to seeing many former runners there for a fantastic night. The weather even looks promising!! Thanks for reading, and Go “Running Ugly” Crusaders!!!!