Coach Gleich writes...
"Last Dash for the Stache at Fatima"
After three weeks of beautiful fall running weather we knew that ‘payback’ would come. All of us had been watching the forecast for the entire week and 3/8 and 1/2 inch spikes had been purchased for the coming rain. We had made the long trek to Westphalia, Mo. the previous Sunday to tour their course, so the athletes all knew what to expect at District. The Fatima head coach had been so kind to meet us that Sunday afternoon, explaining to us the challenge of the long hill (we run it twice) and noting that “this course runs about 30 seconds slower than the State course.” As Latin puts it, “praemonitus, praemunitus”, to be forewarned is to be forearmed.
Knowing the concern our athletes had with the 110 mile journey to Linn for districts last year, and the fact that this year the trek was even further, Mr. Fiala suggested that we consider going down to Jefferson City the evening before in order to avoid the long journey the morning of the race. This turned out to be wise advice, since it gave us another opportunity to tour the course Friday evening, while still getting a great dinner and a quality night of sleep. Our athletes were rested and ready when they rose Saturday morning to the steady drizzle that had soaked the course at night.
Priory drew a great lane (#5) in the center of the field, but that lane, like all the others, was a real slip-and-slide by the time the fourth race arrived. Our athletes had again scoped out the hill as well as the sharp turns to see just how muddy and wet things were between the girl’s races. As we had predicted, the first time up the hill was not going to be the issue. It is the second time up, when you are really tired, that the mud gets you. Given the conditions of intermittent rain and drizzle, and long puddles on the areas where you crossed roads, Fatima had done a great job of trying to make the course runnable. Dozens of sacks of diamond dry had been used on the hill and several turns received repeated applications.
Staying with the schedule, the starter called the Class 3 athletes to the line and fired the gun right on time. As predicted, Brocato from Owensville and Murray from Westminster moved to the front right away. They had both run under 16:40 earlier in the year and were set on making a run for the district championship. To the coaches’ surprise, Jake decided to go right with them down the first straight away, through the puddles, and into the turn by the soccer field. The quick start pulled the athletes from Westminster, Owensville, Sullivan and Priory along with the flow. Fatima’s course is unique in that it is divided into two distinct sections, which you run twice. The first 1000 meters consists of several turns around fields, but it is absolutely flat until just after you cross the creek. That is when you sense that you are not in Kansas anymore, and you begin the hill ascent. For the next 500 meters you are either on a rolling hill or a significant grade running off the grassy fields into a tunnel between the cedar trees caked with dirt and mud. By the time the top three runners hit the base of the hill Jake, Carter (Brocato) and John (Murray) were within three strides of each other. Thomas and Luke were with two other Westminster runners about seven seconds back, while George was just behind them. Alex, who never starts out fast, was about five seconds behind George, followed by Drew and Kyle.
Once in the woods, you don’t see the CC athletes again until they come flying down the hill on a 400-meter descent off the crest. By this time Alex had caught George and was situated directly behind Westminster’s 4th and 5th men. Jake, Luke and Thomas were still right there with the top three Westminster runners. It was clearly shaping up into a three horse race, as Owensville had their top five all in the top 20 places. Our strength, though, is how we pack so we were confident that we could split Owensville’s runners. As they crossed the creek and hit the flats for the second time, Westminster’s #2 and #3 runners surged to close the gap on the top three guys. Both of them edged ahead of Thomas and Luke as they circled the first field and ran along the highway. Alex, however, had continued to move and now was clearly ahead of their #5 runner, but about three meters behind their #4. George was just off the pace following behind Alex. Drew and Kyle, with steady cadence, had moved ahead of Westminster’s sixth and seventh men.
About 3500 meters into the race you cross the creek again and ascend the hill the second time. By this time Jake was still hot on the heels of Murray, while Brocato had opened up a 10 meter lead on the field. Westminster’s #2 and #3 had closed the gap and on the leaders, attempting to make it a solid threesome. Luke and Thomas were still running together stride for stride, but a Sullivan runner had snuck in front of them. Alex was gaining valuable ground on the field as he left both Westminster runners behind and set his sight on two other Owensville runners. George, too, was getting a second wind as he closed on Westminster’s fourth man.
We had talked a lot about ‘bending the hill to our will’ the second time up, knowing that once you crest it you have 650 meters of down hill and flat into the finish. That made all the difference, as Jake emerged from the tree line just ahead of Murray, pushing the pace all the way down the hill. Luke, too, was “feeling good” as he used his huge stride to push ahead of Thomas into seventh place. While Westminster had taken charge of places 3, 4 and 5, Priory had 2, 7 and 8 with Alex charging down the hill ahead of the two Owensville runners he was hunting. That put him well ahead of Westminster’s #4 and #5. George, too, had gotten the best of them, so we had five ahead of their #4. Drew was hurting from his groin injury and so could not take a full stride coming down the hill, though he did hold his position. Kyle pushed past a Pacific and a Borgia runner to move into the top twenty-five.
Standing just ahead of the final pass across the creek, one could see just how treacherous the footing was getting. Sullivan’s #1 runner in sixth place almost took out the pole at the turn after colliding with it. Both Luke and Thomas swung wide as a result, narrowly missing running into the creek at they ran a tightrope around the S turn. Runner after runner stepped gingerly around this precarious spot before they opened it up down the home stretch. It was clearly too tight to tell the outcome at this stage, but it was now a two horse race as Owensville only had one runner, the leader, still in the top ten. Jake continued to pour it on, opening up almost a ten-meter gap on Murray to speed home solidly in second. Luke hit over drive and decided to go after the Sullivan runner, rapidly closing the space. Though he did not catch him, only 8 tenths of a second separated them. Thomas followed right behind Luke. Now both Priory and Westminster had three runners home at this point. The outcome of the meet would be determined by the next two runners from both teams, and Priory had the right stuff on this day. Alex and George accelerated into the chute, both finishing in the top 15, ahead of Westminster’s fourth runner. Drew and Kyle came home right behind their fifth runner.
It took about 15 minutes to sort out the final score, since it was too close to call. Coach Rebello had us winning by a narrow margin, but that was unofficial. When the final sheets were posted on the concession stand, the Priory guys jumped for joy. The score was 39 for Priory and 46 for Westminster, with Owensville third at 58 points! To the credit of both qualifying teams the fourteen competitors all congratulated each other on the quality of the racing. “Good job” was heard all around. All three top teams had brought their ‘A’ games to a very challenging course. While no PR’s were set, everyone knew that today was all about place. Priory ended with five All-District runners. Jake was 2nd in 17:24, Luke was 7th in 17:45 followed by Thomas in 8th at 17:52, Alex came across 11th in 18:06 and George rounded out the top 15th with 18:19. Drew and Kyle were 22nd in 18:52 and 24th in 19:00.
Priory also took our second seven down to see and run the course. Led by Andrew Latuda, first alternate, the Priory runners shot off the line as the final race began. By the time they had made the first circuit through the mud, it was a pack of red and blue chasing a lone runner. No more than three second separated Andrew Latuda, Anthony O’Sullivan, Greg Rolwes and Jacob Conard. Brian Koch and Robbie Frei were not far behind. Joseph Pollnow was again unable to run, since he just did not have the knee flexibility required to run up the steep hill. The positions stayed constant, though the top five opened up a large gap on the field. Brian had to slow some as we later discovered that he had developed a very large blister on his heel. As with the Varsity, the second foray up the hill separated the leaders from the followers. Priory came home in a burst of energy with Greg Rolwes leading our pack. Greg was 2nd in 19:36, Anthony, Andrew and Jacob quickly followed in 3rd, 4th and 5th with times of 19:47, 19:49 and 19:52. Brian was 11th in 20:26 and Robbie came home in 13th at 20:53. Looking at our JV times, our top four runners would have finished in the top 36 in the Varsity race. That is saying something about the team depth.
This week we head to State with our captains’ sights set on a top four finish. That will take a mighty team effort and several new PR’s. Given our District effort on a muddy, wet, slippery and hilly course, we know that our times will be faster at State. Our seniors are confident that they have one more ‘great’ race left in them. For now they take satisfaction that they get to shave off Mr. Gleich’s moustache again, and that Mr. Oberle’s beard will also disappear on the first Monday of the new term.