Pam Staton, a senior cross country runner at Loyola, is the Women's Cross Country correspondent for the HLN Blog.
Wow, time flies! Last weekend we had our annual Lakefront invitational at Montrose Beach which is our only home meet. This meet is always one of my favorites—running, family, friends, music, and the beach setting...combined—I couldn't ask for more. It was indeed a bit chilly but perfect racing weather. We had a team pasta dinner the night before the race and Jena Brown made us all goodie bags with good luck cards (what a sweetheart). Most importantly, we were confident that we were fit, healthy, and our team dynamic was better than ever!
The morning of the race the girls met to put elegant strings of gold and maroon ribbons in our hair...thank you Holly Rhode...who agrees with me that you have to look good to race stellar...haha. Gina Valgoi also braided the side of my spunky ponytail. So cute! I am going to make this my new racing hairstyle...hope you don't mind Gina.
We found out before the race that we were going to have to run without our superstar senior, Jessie Morgenthal. However, someone had the brilliant idea of cutting up her bib number and having each of us pin a part of her bib to our jersey...so that's what we did. We all raced with a piece of her in our heart...now that's a true team.
We went out hard...staying a little behind the front pack. Jena Brown ran a tremendous race and finished 21st in a time of 18:34, with sophomore phenom Jen Rock also running great and finishing right behind Jena in 23rd with a time of 18:39. I was next to cross the finish line, taking 30th in 18:52, while Gina Valgoi took 41st in 19:02. Holly Rhode, Kelly Egan, Catherine Crisler, and Jenn Bane also raced well and rounded out our team's fantastic effort. I know Caitlin Ferry was itching to race as well, but it's also important for her to be healthy for track season. Colleen Donovan, who we are without this season, was also able to watch the race along with Danielle Locasio and Alison Rack. You girls are missed!
The men's team also ran extremely well and finished in second place. Ben Reifenberg led the men's team and finished 6th in a time of 25:14, running in the lead pack the entire race...amazing. Josh Stein finished 11th in 25:36, Ryan Kuphall placed 17th with a time of 25:41, and Matt McCabe also raced very well and rounded out the group with a 21st-place finish, running 25:49. Danny Docherty, Jon Shepherd, Mike Janusek, Ned Brady, and Peter Grimson also contributed greatly to the team.
The home crowd was very special. It was great to have most of our family and friends there. My wonderful parents even brought my dog and I know he enjoyed every minute of the experience...being in the spotlight and in all of my senior recognition pictures. He especially loved when we did our dance post race. The men's soccer team even came to watch, standing at the top of the hill shouting "L-U L-U" each time we passed. Their presence and enthusiasm was very much appreciated.
On Saturday, Jen Rock, Gen Binnie, Alison Rack, Gina Valgoi, Kelly Egan, and myself went to the Chicago Marathon Expo. It was a worthwhile endeavor and we all had a great time. Jen Rock and I headed straight for the Nike attire and spent a good amount of our money there. Jen and I actually bought matching black long sleeves and spandex. I can't wait to wear them to practice and be twins with Jen!
Other highlights of the expo included seeing the new foam roller that TP Therapy just released, getting free posters, and Alison Rack buying a Power Balance bracelet. Haha, she wasn't completely convinced until they tried 5 different flexibility tests on her...all of which took us by surprise. I also saw PAWS Chicago. I had no idea they even offered a running team option for fund raising, but now I'm all over it, being the animal lover that I am. And, of course, making a lunch out of free samples can't be beat. Ahh, the joys of the expo.
On Sunday, some of us girls went down to Gen Binnie's apartment and walked a couple of blocks to the marathon. We watched some of the race, and then jumped in and ran our long run. It was so much fun despite the chilly conditions. Afterward we ate at a cute cafÃ© called "Pick Me Up" and then headed back to Loyola to finish up a great weekend.
Being a senior, everything is my "last," so I'm confident we can carry this momentum and endless positive energy throughout the whole season. We've had some great training, and now it's time to trust our fitness and go after some goals. Each meet will be a challenge...but a fun challenge. We'll take one step at a time, preparing for each meet. This weekend we are headed to the NCAA Pre-National Meet in Terre Haute, Indiana.
I can't wait!