The first race of the cross country season was this past weekend. There was a strong tension in the house Friday and Saturday morning. The first time stepping on the line for a season will do that. We arrived at the venue about 3 hours early so we could watch the D-1 boys race. Marco has a bunch of friends in other schools and he wanted to watch them race. It was good to see these boys race but it made for a long day for Mom and Dad.
This was only the 3rd Varsity Cross Country race from Marco. He started last year as JV and made the Varsity team at the end.
I love the line up at a cross country race. Each team finds their spot on the start line and burns tension by doing drills and strides. When the starter gets all the teams back in the corral and gives instructions it's a beautiful thing to see. 120 or so boys bunched together ready to explode. For this race teams could only put three runners on the line. In theory the top 3 on each team get that spot. Marco was in the second row. The gun wen off and it was madness as usual. This particular course funnels down rather quickly and then 200 meters or so after the start there is a 180 degree turn. So the start is everything. At about 400 meter I caught the leaders coming through and sitting in a bunch about 3-4 from runners from the front was Marco and the boys. They had a great start. The next opportunity to see them was just before the 1 mile mark. The bunch was broken up a bit and a great deal more runners had moved into the front. I'm guessing Marco and his Senior running partner were now in the top 25. After the 1 mile mark they have the hill. Most people struggle to walk up this hill. It's beautiful to see all the heads bobbing up and down from afar. We caught the boys coming down and it was amazing to see that Marco and his running buddy were still side by side and now sitting 10th and 11th. It pays to be small on the big hills. That unfortunately works the opposite on the down hills. The big boys made there move with 1/2 mile to go on the slight down hill and Marco lost some ground. He finished 19th overall and 3rd on his team. He was only 2 places and 1 second behind being second on the team. It's hard to tell because they don't post grade at the results table but looking at faces I think he was in the top 3 for underclassmen.
A couple other ways to look at the results. He ran with a group of boys for 3 years before high school on a club team. He was always the 8th or 9th runner on that team. 6 of the boys from that team ran in different races on Saturday and Marco had the 2nd best time of the group.
It's clear, when the light came on last Spring it has stayed on this fall. He is into this running thing and showing what we've always seen in him. A natural flow for running.
But that's not even the cool stuff. What's even better to me the father is to watch him after the race. He spent the rest of the morning giving fist bumps and encouragement to the JV boys. Being a great teammate is just as important as improving as a runner. It's fun to watch his leadership grow on the field.
To cap off the great day he went to a party that night. It was at the house of a runner from a different school. He and his teammates were invited as were 3-4 other schools. They hung out until 10pm eating pizza telling stories and just continuing the cross country bond.