Was everyone looking at the weather channel all week leading
up to the State cross country meet like I was?
I was hoping the thunder and rainy forecast would disappear and luckily,
that is exactly what it did. If you were
fortunate enough to be in the D1 Large or D2 Small schools, you started out the
race day with overcast and fairly nice weather.
It was a bit on the warmer side for racing, but not really bad. Then once the girls in the D2 large lined up
in their boxes, the clouds really started to break up and the sun was
shining. A nice thing usually. But with the humidity in the air and the
temps in the high 70's, wasn't the best sight for those getting ready to hit
the challenging course. But we got
through without any delays and didn't get soaking wet this year! Not a bad day of racing weather overall.
Now that I got the weather out of the way, I wanted to talk a little about some of the things I saw at this year's State meet. Cross Country has really been growing. Not just in TN but across the country as well. Maybe it's the charm of not having to collide into a competitor or smash your head into someone running right at you that makes this sport so appealing for people of all athletic abilities. That might be it, but I think it's more the comradery that you get to experience when you train side by side with someone through the summer heat and days of mud and rain. Or maybe it's just the amount of respect all these athletes feel for each other knowing they've had to train so hard to get to the point they are at this time of the season. The sport deserves the attention it's been getting lately.
One of the most exciting parts of the state cross country races is watching the start. You'll always see someone trying to dart out front like they're in the New York city marathon and want to lead the pack to get on TV or something... ok, I'm digressing... the mass start at the top of the hill as the athletes funnel into the first turn is truly a site to experience. I'm always at awe to see how they actually do funnel to that first turn. Probably a good thing they do since it's a short left down a quick drop and then a long long left turn...
Here's an interesting scene I experienced while watching the boys D1 large school race. Yep, it's the race where both Titus and Silus Winders of Henry County went 1 and 2 at the finish line. Something that maybe was done before in the D2 ranks but I don't believe it has ever been done in the D1 large school race. Just think, a few hundred athletes competing to get to run in this race at all the Region meets, then a couple of hundred athletes racing their hearts out to end up with two brothers finishing in a one two cap for the race. That's really something! But that's not the point I was looking at. While watching the race, I noticed a few of the Brentwood Academy coaches, parents and some of the athletes watching the race. They were cheering these brothers on. Yea, athletes from two different schools and divisions cheering on the athletes. The schools aren't even close to each other. But there they were, cheering on these two athletes and encouraging them all the way... and watching as TN history was being made. That is what cross country is about, the competition, the athleticism, and the overall respect for the accomplishment.
Of course, there are a lot of things with cross country that make the sport appealing to a lot of athletes. This state meet in particular is a very spectator friendly course. If you're willing, and energetic, you can watch your favorite athlete in several areas of the course by running back and forth. And if you are going to be a spectator, it's important to dress for the occasion... or maybe dress isn't the correct word.
Then of course, dressing to walk in the mud is important as well.
Like I said earlier, this is a very spectator friendly course. However, if you are ambitious enough, you can take that to the next level... like up a notch so to speak!!
Sometimes you have to be willing to climb a mountain... well,
maybe just a steep hill to get a good spot to watch your favorite athlete
And then, you may have to just stand around and wait until they get to the spot you picked to watch them pass... um... where are they???
Then there's the one thing we all try to avoid... the sag wagon.... Yea... the cart that follows the end of the line... mostly, the goal is to not find your way on that cart... but if you do, well, sometimes things just don't turn out like you want them to... such is life!
And if you are standing out around that last steep hill, which is about 600 or so meters to the finish line, you could catch yourself watching spectators rushing from one end of the course to another. It's almost like a tennis match as the ball goes back and forth over the net to each side... ok, maybe not quite like that. But it is a site to see all these people rushing from one part of the course to the other. And yes, they do that to cheer everyone on. Again, cross country... gotta love this sport!
But to finish off this article, I have to say there is something I saw at this cross country meet that I can honestly say that it is a first experience. All of us involved in the cross country experience know we've seen it all... lost in the woods... poison ivy... muddy shoes... muddy, well, everything... teammates carrying each other to the finish... you name it, we've seen it... but at the state meet, just as the D1 small school girls started lining up in their boxes, a marching band comes along.
Um... yep, if you were there, you definitely heard the band... I think it was Signal Mountain, but if I'm wrong, I apologize.. but no matter, a marching band came out to cheer on their team. Actually, they didn't just come out, they did what almost every spectator does at this meet, go from side to side to watch the athletes run by.
Yea, carrying those big drums... hustling from one part of the course to the other... Ok, if you're a runner and there is a marching band playing as you run by - how cool is that! I'm telling you, the hairs on my arms were standing on end hearing that, I can't imagine the adrenaline flow from the athletes as they run past a marching band playing away. It was loud... drums thumping... horns blaring... whoever had the idea to get the marching band out there, let's do it again next year... I loved it!! What a way to have the last two races of the day finish up... in grand scale for sure!
Oh, one other thing, as I was watching the last couple of races... those two guys, you know, the brothers... they were cheering on the last group of runners coming towards the finish line. Yep, Titus and Silus ran earlier in the long day of races but were still there at the very end cheering on the rest of the athletes... they knew some of the kids running, but not everyone... Oh, another thing... they had on BA t-shirts. Yea, we're here to cheer on everyone that runs cross country... no matter the school... no matter the level... no matter the time of day... cross country athletes stick together!
See you on the Grass... and maybe the track too!