Monday, November 19, 2012

All States report from Steven

(A few all state race photos by John Keklak)
2012 XC race photos by John Keklak

Newton South All State 

Northfield Mountain Recreation Center 11/17/2012

Lucrecia Aguilar and Rebecca Grusby represented the Newton South girls cross country team in high fashion at the All State Division I Championship.
The All State championship rotates between sites in Eastern, Central and Western Ma. every three years.  So while each course is 5,000 meters in length they are all very different and the Northfield course is the most difficult by far.  The first 1,100 meters is a climb straight up a mountain ski trail and is so steep at points that you can walk it almost as fast as you can run up it.  That is a brutal way to start a race as it really drains your reserves right from the start.  Much of the rest of the course is flat or downhill, but it has a lot of turns and bounces you back up hill in several places.  Two more steep short hills come in the last 1000 meters when the spent athletes are exhausted.  Many races have been given up in that last part of the course.  The course tends to run between 35 and 50 seconds slower than the other two course depending on the strength of the runner.  In the team aspect this course tears apart good 1-5 teams spreads that normally are less than a minute.  Peabody won the All State title with a 3 minute and 42 second spread and Lincoln-Sudbury was 2nd with a 1 minute and 24 second spread and both are double that of what they normally run.
As a coach I am glad that this course only happens once every three years.
My feeling is that it is too tough of a course to be a fair one and that many types of runners will struggle here even if they are in great shape and run a smart race.  We have won All State as a team on this course and had other top 3 team finishes so my feelings about this course are not based on the outcome of our team, but rather the fairness for all kids and teams. I wish this course would be moved or changed.
Having said that, I feel that Lucrecia ran a very solid and courageous race placing 68th out of 182 racers which had all qualified from Divisional meets.   Her time of 20:44 was well earned and our entire team is proud of how she represented us.  Lucrecia is also very level and comfortable. She was a great help and influence for Rebecca.  Lucrecia has no trouble leading by performance, but she also has really helped her young teammate achieve. We were a smaller team than we would have liked, but we functioned as a great team today.
Rebecca ran a stellar race to place 5th in her first All State Championship as a Lion in a truly great time of 19:07.  Rebecca has now run the best All State meet that we have had a 9th grader run.  Rebecca now is 5th on our 5k all time list with her 18:18 time last week in placing 2nd in the Ea. Ma. Division I State Meet.  Her 5th place also ties her for the 5th highest placing for a Lion in All State.  We have had girls place 2nd three times and also 4th and 5th and a number of girls in the the top ten.  But those kids took several seasons to get to the point that Rebecca has achieved in her first season.  I knew that she was special when I watched her in middle school by the savvy style of her races as much as by the incredible times that she was running.  She has exceeded all that any of us could have hoped for and this was a great day for her.  Rebecca is extrememly coachable and is joy to be around.  Her fun loving demeanor is embraced by the team and often is a boost.  What a great start and so much to look forward to.
The thing that is most amazing about Rebecca’s performance is that she did it off of less background by far of any girl in the top of the field.  I have never had a girl run so well off of this amount of training.  I do not want to give the wrong impression as Rebecca has done some very hard work outs and is very dedicated to training and very willing to push herself.  In fact I have seen very few kids with her love for racing or her instincts to run the right kind of race so early in her career.  But she has still not taken a run over 5.5 miles which is her longest run to date and she averages less than 4.5 miles a day.  Her long run is shorter than an average run of the caliber that she competes with. This says two things.  She has done a remarkable job of being among the best in state with a much smaller base of training and that she also likely has a great up side still to come.
Rebecca has beaten the girls that placed 2nd through 4th during the season and beat two of them last week at Division I and ran faster than the other as well over the same course.  But this course takes such a strong base to be successful on and her 5th place on this course in many ways shows even more talent and focus than any wonderful race that she has run.  19:07 on this course is a great time that ranks 18th all time on this course among all that race here as it hosts invitationals, Western Ma Division I and II and All State.  To run so controlled, fast and determined on this course as a 9th grader is impressive.  
 It is also the fastest time run on this course by a Newton South girl.  It should be noted that the course changed and 1999 was the first time this course was run so 5 All State meets have been competed on this course in 1999, 2003, 2006, 2009 and now 2012.  Our best teams, our 1998 team which ran a top 5 average of 19:06 for 5K and our 1998 team which set the state record with a top 5 team average of 18:44 did not run on this course so they did not get chances to lay down fast times here.  Still there have been 5 State meets here and this year seemed to have the deepest field that I can remember for a long time. The course prior to 1999 was a much more forgiving course as the change that came that year was to add about 500 meters of hill to the start.  The course prior to 1999 was a more reasonable course and much less taxing than the current one

Steven M.

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