Today was an interesting day. The boys got the day off while the girls got a fairly brutal introduction to high school cross country (of course, for die-hard XC-ers, that's the best kind).
So, to the South we went today, to race NH #4 ranked Oyster River, Portsmouth, and St. Thomas. What was a fairly pleasant day in Penacook was a muggy sweatfest in Lee, where the race was held. A brand new course, we were the first to ever race it and experience the wonderful rolling hills, muddy holes, and sweltering sun of the orchard. Bonus - winner gets the course record! What looks flat on Google Maps is Most. Certainly. Not. Beautiful though! The girls were first to the line, and after hollering their way through the season's first pre-race cheer (pretty sure some were lip-synching), the largest group of MV athletes to toe an XC start line were off. Executing the pre-race plan to perfection, Sophia9, Sophia10, Emma, Maddy, and a bonus runner in the form of Samantha formed a nice tight pack through the first mile, somewhere in the teens of the race. Not too far back was a second nice bunch, made up of Nicole, Cassidy, Bea, and Theresa. The rest were strung out through the field, looking alert and competitive. Shortly after the mile mark Sophia9/10 and Emma started carving up the runners in front of them, chit-chatting about the pleasant weather as they closed in on the front running Oyster River girls. It became pretty much every girl for herself behind them, with some (especially from other teams) just struggling to finish. By mile two, and one to go, the tandem Sophia's eased past the lone surviving Oyster River girl to take the lead, while Emma was not far behind with fight in her eyes. MV girls ran very strong up the hills today, although the top of the hills is another story (you know who you are :). There was another coach there who made sure to tell me one of her training "secrets" - "I train them to run over the top of hills." Um, thanks for the tip. That workout is coming. We have to keep some things up our sleeves. Maddy was continuing to run well throughout the race, as she is essentially the best hill runner in the world, while Samantha earned her "tough girl" patch and hero status on the big hill, not only overcoming a big moment of doubt, but then passing multiple runners over the final mile. That last mile by Sam-a-lama was the key to the team score at the end. And don't look back, because Carlie, fresh out of her two year retirement, was sneaking up on the entire field all the way to the line.
In the end, the Sophia's took 1st and 2nd (Sophia9 by a nose, although both were credited with the same score), while Emma followed closely, giving MV a 1-2-3 finish. Believe it or not, but Maddy ran over 2 minutes faster than her first race last year, and finished a very solid 14th. Samantha rounded out the scoring with a 21st place finish, amazing since a mile earlier it was a question of whether she would finish at all. Looking effortless down the final straightaway and placing 6th on the team was Theresa, barely holding off "firefeet" Nicole, who closed out the varsity scoring. Going 1-2-3 is hard to beat in XC, but there is still a gap that we need to work on back to the end of the scoring, and the results were uncertain. Finally, the tally came out...St. Thomas 4th with 67, Oyster River 3rd with 58, Portsmouth 2nd with 55, and MV coming away with the win with 40!