skip navigation


Suburban East Conference Championship Challenge

By Chris Babcock, 10/19/16, 8:00AM CDT


When you toe the line you think you know where you are. When the gun goes off you prove it.

Runners gather to reap the rewards of their hard work over the past season, by showing just how hard they can work.

Raising to the challenge

Some months ago I met some of this year’s cross country team for the first time. In these first meetings we got to know each other. They start out without knowing what exactly I am going to expect of them. Then they find out. And shortly after that they wonder whether or not they are going to survive to tell about it.

Those initial meetings brought us to today and the Suburban East Conference Championship Meet where they and their team mates would be able to once again test their resolve against some of the toughest competition, on a course that is not too challenging at first glance, but when you really put it together you can see there are enough rises and twists and turns at just the right moments to shake your confidence as you push onward with the pack, held together only loosely by a common desire to reach the finish line lying out there in the distance.

It has been a season with many trials and tribulations that have held their own rewards for seeing them through. And for some, today would fall short of the expectations shared on the bus ride to the start line. In the bigger picture of the season however, success had not eluded us. Goals that were set and not reached are still there for us next week; fuel on the fire that has been stoked and nurtured by a skilled fireman and his team. The train has not been derailed, and not even delayed. It rumbles on gaining steam as it realizes the last stretch is near.

Looking at today’s race as compared to a year ago on the same course every Raider girl who ran both races lost no less then 1 minute 20 seconds. Eighty seconds less over three and an eight miles; nearly 25 seconds a mile faster.

Leading that charge was Thea Gutzmannn (12) who ran 1:42 faster and moved herself into All-Conference by finishing 12th. Gutzmann is a patient runner confident in her ability to really put it on the line when she has to in the middle and late stages of the race. Like in past races this season today she laid in wait as the race developed in front of her. She was somewhere between 25th and 30th place at the mile. Then she just maintained. Like so many great runners - sprinters like Usaine Bolt - Gutzmann’s strength lies in her ability to no slow down as much as everyone else. That and confidence that when she needs it her sprinter’s speed with be there to help her in the finish.

Lucia Frias-Wackman (11), who wasn’t able to run this meet last season, toed the line ready to run off the rails in pursuit of what she thought might be a goal too far to reach. This was not the case. She was only three seconds short of her stretch goal and 24 seconds faster than she had ever run. Frias-Wackman’s racing partner, Molly Roberge (11), who has been a truly transformed runner this season running minutes faster than she had in her previous season in every race, found that today was a struggle and fell off the pace she and Frias-Wackman had set early on in the race. Her struggle, however opened a bridge for her teammates, Madison Veverka (12) and Irene Stringer (12) to cross into new depths of performance; each running 1:36 and 1:21 faster than a year ago respectively; as well as setting new personal best 5K times in doing so. Seeing their teammate just ahead was inspiration enough for this to happen. Besides giving her teammates that push, Roberge still ran 1:34 faster than last year.

It is funny the things that people remember from these experiences, often the details are lost or distorted, some runners will say they don’t remember their best races, almost like they had some sort of transcendent experience. May be. But what I hope that we remember out of this is that it is important to set our goals high, and risk failure; without taking risks little will be gained; and if you should miss your mark pick yourself back up and go for it again armed with the lessons your failure has taught you.