With 12 races on the day, Thetford is the biggest meet we travel to, although Manchester does have more overall racers. Thetford is unique, however, with it’s eclectic music (they’ve played every genre!), second-to-none t-shirts, brutal course, and it’s set-up. No JV races, the runners are instead divided into races based on their projected times. So every runner has an opportunity to actually win a race, as Tristan did her freshman year when she placed first in the 4th seed race (I believe she is our only ever individual winner at Thetford).
With no bussing issues (I made sure to triple clear that Andover pick up) and an uneventful stroll along the course (stroll because Maizie was absent), the 5th seed races were underway in no time at all. Out on the course I saw Sharoll cruise by, looking strong, and then MacNeill...MacNeil...where are you, MacNeill? I walked backwards along the course asking the course marshals who run along at the end if they had seen a girl down, and they said “nope”. About then I saw the EMT 4-wheeler at our tent (uh-oh) and ran over to see MacNeill being packaged into a litter. Despite the scary sight, she ended up being fine, escaping with a few battle scars on her knees and a story for next year. Sharoll and Ashley ran great, although I did miss the rest of their race…
Most of our boys were entered in the 5th seed race, which gave a couple kids who had seen recent improvements a chance to shine. A favorite to score high in the race was Isaac, who being new to this whole running thing is improving by leaps and bounds. However, being new to running also means you are figuring out this whole strategy thing, and Isaac didn’t do himself any favors by starting out in about 50th place! After being reminded that only 15 people received ribbons, Isaac turned on the burners and placed 13th, even passing the guy with the full beard and earning the first ribbon of the day. Kick Of The Day goes to Tomas, who quite literally passed a clump of 10+ runners on the finishing stretch. Gutsy!
I’ll admit, I was probably more nervous for Tristan’s seed four race than any other (also Maddy’s, I guess), because we build Thetford up for Tristan all year long and I really wanted to see her be successful. Tristan and Morty have a special relationship. Anyhow, apparently Tristan was ready to go as she burst off the line and wasted no time establishing herself in the top ten. Super excited, I probably covered about 6 kilometers running from point to point to cheer her on. A thumbs up from her at the bottom of Morty the Monster assured me that either she was (A) feeling good about how the last mile was going to go or (B) sick and tired of all my “positive encouragement”. Whatever the case, she showed no signs of weakness and ran her best race of the year to snag ribbon #2 of the day, 9th in her race.
No boys in the 4th seed, so Maddy and Kate were the next to toe the line in the 3rd seed race. I mentioned I was nervous for this one too, which was because Maddy has recently become a Runner with a capital “R” (this involves running and thinking about running more than just at practice) and I wanted her to see the improvement that happens with increased focus and commitment. We were not disappointed, as she passed the 1 ¼ mile mark in 6th place (was she leading earlier? Maybe, I never asked, come to think of it). 6th place held until the top of Morty’s Monster where I was witness to one of the things that you can say happen in XC and in absolutely no other sport I can think of, at least those practiced by high schoolers. The girl two spots ahead of Maddy, 4th, suddenly stopped right where I was standing at the top of the hill and burst into tears, crying “I can’t do it anymore, I just can’t” over and over again. The saddest and most inspiring moment at the same time, she had absolutely found her limit. Then she found a little more, as the small crowd gathered at the top convinced her that she could in fact keep going, and that the top of the hill was only meters away. She went on to finish 5th, I think. We all have those moments, every XC runner, just not always so publicly. Anyhow, Maddy soon arrived at the top of the hill and then demonstrated that she is NOT a downhill runner. 6th at the top, 9th at the bottom, and 9th is where she would stay to finish, earning the third ribbon of the day. What about Kate? Well...Kate raced very good, wiped out near the finish, and crossed the line with a decent time. No worries, right? Wrong! I was flagged down a few minutes later by a volunteer and told that I had to go to the EMT tent pronto. Confused, I ran by the tent and asked who was missing, and Ashley wisely noted that Kate had not returned from the finish area. It turns out that due to her fall, Kate had earned herself a “flapper”, a cut that opens every time you bend your knee. She seemed overly eager to show it off when I arrived. This did in the end result in 4 stitches, so now we have another story to add to the legend of XC. It will be added to my “toughen up, kid” speech that I’ll inevitably give to someone. “...and she finished the race!”
The 3rd seed had three of our varsity boys entered, Christian in his Flash socks, Connor, and Ethan. Spectating, I had visions that I would wind up back at the EMT’s again. There’s Connor, where’s the rest? Turns out the first time I had just missed Ethan, but Christian in his Flash socks? Nope, I had given up waiting by the time he came by. In the end, Connor had a very solid race, so all wasn’t lost, but Ethan has had better days (it happens to everyone), and Christian was ready to hang his socks from the top of the baseball backstop. I’m still not sure how a pair of socks can slow you down by over three minutes, but apparently it’s possible. Donate those socks to some unlucky soul, please!
No entries in the 2nd seed races, and it was off to seed 1. Emma and Sophia representing MV for the girls, with DRen and MRen representing the boys. Three Reynolds and a York. Emma, I’m guessing, is not the biggest fan of Thetford. She ran great, but I do have a photo I can use to demonstrate what NOT bursting off the line looks like. She is just too nice sometimes! If she had a brother she probably wouldn’t punch him in the forehead like an unnamed teammate did to hers… It was two minutes faster than last year, and that’s the kind of improvement we want! Sophia also ran great, and it’s hard to complain about finishing in the top 4 of over 500 girls and running the fastest Thetford time in MV history, but there was something just a bit flat about the race. It’s all good, though, if that constitutes a less-than-stellar race, then just wait for the stellar one! Matt had a starting issue off the line, which pushed him to the back, but David got out like a bullet with the front pack. Like Emma, Matt ran fine, but nothing to write too much about. He just needs to stop falling and slipping at these races! David meanwhile, hung with the lead pack the whole way, which gradually spread out a bit over the final mile. Perhaps a little tired from the hard week of training, he finished a respectable 5th and joined the short list of runners who have broken 17 minutes at Thetford.