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Silhouettes and the Whispering Pines

A pistol is fired in an open field as a bird soars high above. Spikes immediately cultivate the mother Earth; turning up fresh dirt as life springs anew. Hundreds of runners create a thunderous roar as they gallop off into the great unknown. Cheers die down. Spectators can be seen hurriedly traipsing off to every corner of the course in silent understanding; cognizant of their surroundings as to not interfere with the stampede looming in the distance. This is the awe of the Rim Rock Classic. A race that can only be spoken of in terms of grandeur and glory.

This race is one of the more grueling of the season in part due to the quality of talent that amasses at Rim Rock Farm. The other reason for it's arduous lore rests behind the debilitating weather that usually accompanies this particular weekend. Last year, races were cancelled leaving runners and parents disappointed. Some teams did not return this year for the fear of possible heat related cancellations. But, to combat the issues of last year, organizers decided to hold the meet over the course of two days. With a stroke of luck from nature, the cool temperatures had runners ready to seize the day! Carpe Diem!

We rolled out of Lawrence High School at 3:45 PM; some runners on the bus, some in the van. Not much was spoken about the race itself, rather it was the blaring music coming from Sydney's speaker that had everyone jacked. And by jacked, I mean I was jacked to get to the meet so I could get away from anything and everything that was bellowing from that tiny -- yet incredibly loud -- speaker. The two miles of gravel road leading to the hidden oasis was clouded with dust from the masses en route to the meet. Once we arrived and had everything set up, our C-Team . . . or, I mean C-People, took to the course to study and break it apart into manageable slices. And whatever they did must have worked.

Once that gun clack echoed in the distance, our runners knew what they had to do. They all raced -- not ran -- to their hearts content. Fueled by the chilled temperatures, our Chesty Lions blitzed the first two miles before coming face to face with the dreaded third mile; the toughest of the course. But did it hinder them? I could not tell you, because nearly everyone came across the line in a new personal record or season best time. That, or they were only a few seconds away.

As the races concluded on Friday, the sun started to shut it's eye on the World and saunter beneath that majestic horizon. It was sublime. The kids gathered for a team photo to encapsulate this rarity. It still brings a smile to my face the way the universe greeted our runners after they poured their hearts out on that historical course. The fiery hues of yellow and orange contrasted with the darkening blue sky had everyone at the farm suspended in time; catching a glimpse of the serenity.

And then we went and ate CiCi's.

Saturday morning was met with the same wondrous temperatures that preceded it the night before. Due to a bus delay, we gathered up our Junior Varsity harriers, packed them all into the vans and high-tailed it out of there. We raced our way to the farm as the sun peaked over that gorgeous, eastern skyline. Teams could be seen walking the course as we crept our way to our parking spot. Dew lain crystalized over the tall grass; crunching beneath our heavy feet as we made our way to the tent. Our home had started to thaw; perspiring beads of water that had started to run and plummet to the ground. Looking out over the vast prairie, silhouettes could be seen jogging to and fro -- some walking. But their breath could be seen emerging from within, forming a plume, and then coalescing with the frosty air; overtaken by the cold.

Our Junior Varsity runners had heard about the performances of their C brethren the night prior and knew that the pressure was now on them to show up and perform. After they completed their customary warm-up, the ladies took to the line. Nerves dissipated as the smoke left the pistol and the sound soon followed. They were off and running. Cruising over the course, the ladies found themselves exceeding their own expectations. The last 400m came sooner than they realized and they made the push to lengthen their strides. They fought hard in the homestretch and most of them walked away with some sort of record or best. If they didn't, it was not for a lack of trying. Everyone gave a full effort and it showed. The same could be said for the JV boys as they took off in the second race of the day.

As I have been mentioning, everyone held strong over the tough terrain that Rim Rock had to offer. If anything, a lot of kids believed that they should have used more energy at various points in order to either lower their times and/or gain positioning that could have put them into medal contention. But again, their efforts were awesome nonetheless.

After the Junior Varsity teams finished up their cool-downs and basked in the soft breeze that flowed through the team ghetto, it was our Varsity's turn to reap the benefits of the brisk weather. Making their way to the starting line and doing their regular routine, the team could feel the anticipation growing with each passing minute. What could they do? Would they PR? Everyone else had, so why not them? These were questions that were going through our (the coaches) minds -- if not the runners' as well. Our Lady Lions were first up to test their might. As the gun rang out in the distance, the horde of excited runners leapt from the starting line and into the torturous battle ahead. As our gals meandered their way over the hills and around the bends, it was easy to see that they, too, would be having great days. Exiting the woods and onto the Jim Ryun Skyline, everyone was starting to make a final push and the girls were no exception. Maddie was the surprise of the Varsity runners as she crushed her previous best and comfortably landed in the mid-22s for 5k. Most of the ladies broke out of their shell and reaped the rewards. They now know what it feels like to reach that new, next level of pain which is what will be needed to successfully compete at later meets like Regionals.

As the ladies enjoyed their post-race libations and recollected the exciting details of their races, our Varsity boys were next up to showcase their grit. I was thrilled to see the boys' huddle to pack more vim and excitement than in meets previous. Maybe all of the success had trickled their way and they started to believe that this, too, was their day to shine? What happened next was something out of a fairytale. Our boys competed. They fought for positioning. They fought on the uphills and the downhills. They crested the skyline in full stride and continued to push. It was an amazing and exciting site to behold. It has been a few years since Lawrence High has had a boys team that showed vigor towards racing. Every one of them either PR'd or set a season best. And afterward they exuded a confidence that had some of them so excited that they started to say things like, "We could go to State. The boys team could go to State!". And that statement is very true.

That statement is very true for both the boys and girls. If they can continue to grow as racers and learn how to compete and trust their fitness, then yes, they could very much go to State. But we need to take it one week at a time. This was a very special weekend that we the coaches keep thinking back on (even though it has only been a day). We won't forget this weekend, but we know that every weekend has the potential to feel this way. Hopefully the teams will see this potential as well. It's fun to compete. It's fun to be exhausted at the end of a race knowing that you gave it your all and there was nothing left that you could have done. And that is probably the biggest thing that we ever ask of our runners: leave it all out on the course, that day. There will be a sense of accomplishment and reward, not from PR-ing or medalling, but from knowing that you had nothing left to give; much like this weekend. Thank you.

Photos are up in the "Photos" section! Check them out! Results spreadsheets are also posted!

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