We had an amazing weekend at Clubs in San Francisco. The men were 16th and the women were 19th, and while those results may seem disappointing given our aspiration to put both teams in the top 10, I can assure you that I am extremely proud of our performance. Every single one of the 24 athletes who competed for GRC ran to the absolute best of his or her ability, and they all gave absolutely everything they had for their team, and that's all I can ever ask for. Clubs gets more and more competitive every year (consider that in 2006, the last time the meet was on this course, Luke ran 31:12 and was 19th, and this year Phil ran 31:04 and was 59th), and we competed toe to toe with the best runners in the country, and came away with our heads held high, secure in the knowledge that we represented GRC with distinction. I'm already looking forward to next year in Tallahassee, when we'll have another chance to compete as a team in a national championship race, and show what we can do on the big stage.
In the men's A race, Phil ran superbly, and his placement of 59th was the third best finish for a man at Clubs in GRC history. Phil beat several national caliber runners in what was clearly his best performance in a GRC jersey, and we're going to see much more from him on the track this spring. Mike also ran an excellent race, placing 70th in 31:14. Mike is not a XC specialist, but he has run the 3 best XC races of his life at Clubs the last 3 years, and Saturday was the best of the bunch. Luke is an outstanding XC runner and was right with Phil and Mike for the first half of the race, but his injury induced lack of race sharpness caught up with him in the latter part of the race, and he finished 98th in 31:40. Luke did everything he could to come through for his team, and he left nothing in the tank, and I was very pleased with his effort, and his leadership. Cabell continued his breakout year with an excellent 32:06, a 10k PR, which is most impressive given that the course was challenging and muddy, not to mention slightly long. Matt Rand overcame an illness this week to run a very solid 32:11. Balmer had yet another strong performance at Clubs, finishing in 32:36, and he unleashed his trademark kick in the last 300, and picked up several important spots for the team. Sam had a tough day, finishing in 32:39, but he fought to the tape, and also picked off some guys in the final stretch, even though his tank was on empty. Tex Paul ran a very solid 32:48, which was by far his best race in at least the last year.
The women were led by Frances L, whose stellar 70th place finish, in the excellent time of 21:35, was the third best finish ever by a GRC woman at Clubs. Frances has an extremely bright future, and she is going to be a force for GRC on the track and in XC for a long time to come. Maura was 87th in 21:55, which was unquestionably her best performance ever in a GRC jersey. Maura prefers longer distances on the roads, but she proved once again that she has the range and toughness to excel in XC. Hannah, who was 129th in 22:30, fought to the tape despite not being herself because of a health issue, and she did everything she could to help her team. Hannah will be ready to roll on the track, where she will be looking to crack the GRC top 5 list in several events. Kara ran an extremely gutty race, finishing in 22:54, and even though 6k is at the top end of her range, she ran hard from the gun and kept fighting to the end. In what may have been the last major race in her outstanding GRC career, Susan ran a very solid 22:59. Susan was our first major woman's recruit, and her leadership has been instrumental in building our women's program into the juggernaut it has become. Chelsea gave an extraordinary effort to finish in 23:03 off of very limited training due to nagging injuries, and when she is able to combine the competitive fire she showed on Saturday with consistent training, she will be a major contributor on the track and in XC. Sara is still in the early stages of her return to racing after her severe injury, and her time of 23:56 was a very encouraging sign on the way back to full fitness. Keely took a big step up in the level of competition, and a big step down in distance, and acquitted herself well, running 24:33. I was particularly proud of the tenacity with which with the women competed because before the gun went off, they knew that they would not be able to meet their goal of a top 10 finish due to the late scratches of Katie and Tina, both of whom would have been major contributors, which left them short-handed in an extremely competitive field, yet each of the women who got on the starting line ran extremely hard for each other, and for their teammates who were not able to compete.
The inaugural men's B race was an unqualified success as the guys delivered an excellent second place finish, beating several teams whose A squads beat us. More importantly, their strong performance prevented me from looking like a clown after I argued vociferously at the coach's meeting the night before that our B team belongs in the A race. Kyle led the way with an excellent 18th place finish in 33:07. Kyle's tactics were superb as he moved up steadily throughout the second half of the race. Sean went out hard and hung tough in the last mile to finish 26th in 33:32. Luk ran a very solid race, finishing 35th in 33:55, and showed that he has the strength to make a successful transition from the 800 to longer distances on the track. In his first XC race since his freshman year of high school, Chris ran an excellent 34:15, which is a PR. Chris also moved up steadily throughout the race, and looked like a guy who's done this a lot more recently than 15 years ago. Dickson ran a very solid 34:24 in his first hand effort since MCM. Tom had a tough day, finishing in 34:24, but he's had a great season, and is in great shape, and will be ready to make some noise on the track. Greg ran a strong 34:45, and he is also fit and ready for a big track season.
In his masters debut, Wertz and I both learned a valuable (and in his case, painful) lesson about how competitive the masters race is on this level. We knew it was going to be tough, but not nearly that tough, and because we did not appreciate the quality and depth of the field, based on my ill-advised instructions, Dave was a little too aggressive early, and he paid the price for it late. Despite being out of gas by 4 miles, Dave hung on as best he could, and finished a very respectable 35th place in 34:09. Now that we've got a full understanding of what he's up against, Dave will be ready for redemption next year.
There is practice at BCC on Wednesday at 7:15, so meet for the warmup at 6:30. If you're interested in coming out, let me know, and we'll get a plan for you.