Head coach Kyle Kepler talkes about the regional championships and the state of the program.
Nov. 12, 2007
NCAA Mountain Region Championships
November in Utah can bring just about any type of weather imaginable. The Regional Championships usually bring out cold, crisp temperatures at the very least and snow, rain, sleet, and gusty winds in more challenging years. The weather this fall has really been pleasant and it held up as Weber State (40 miles north of our campus) hosted this year's championship meet. It was 50 degrees and sunny at race time and the course was flat and dry which meant fast times were on the horizon.
I was extremely happy with how our last weeks of preparation for this race went. The girls were healthy for the most part and in good spirits. We drew a great starting position on the far right side of the start line as you looked out onto the course. The gun sounded and the race began. Our group got out to as good a start as we had all year. They got in the race the way they needed to in order to compete well.
Our front two runners (Alyssa and Lauren) went through the first K in 3:23. That is about 10 seconds faster than normal, but they looked comfortable. The rest of our top five were not far behind and we had a good pack. At half way we still looked pretty good, but I could tell that our freshman, Lauren Lewis, was beginning to labor and show some signs of fatigue from the fast start. She is a tough kid who I knew would do her best to hang on.
Kellie Anderson was really beginning to move and took over the number three duties at that point. Lauren Endersen and Chelsea DiGrazia continued to run together and pick people off who went out too hard. Our other two runners were still running okay at this point, but I knew that Becky Mackelprang was having an off race. Even though we send her out a little slower than the rest of our group, she usually runs the back half of the race extremely well. She just couldn't seem to get it going.
Number seven was true freshman, Alexis Davis who walked on to our program, but earned this spot because of her hard work, and how much she has improved this year. She is very intelligent and skipped seventh grade, so she is still only 17 and running against a bunch of women who are 18-24 years old.
At about 4K Alyssa was obviously having a great race and was approaching the top 25 which would garner her all-Region honors. Kellie and Lauren Endersen were near the top 50 and Lauren Lewis and Chelsea were in the top 60 and running well.
The complexion of the race changed at the 5K mark. Alyssa was 27th, but with four girls right in front of her and her great footspeed she was set up for a great finish. Kellie was hanging on well and Lauren Endersen (also with great foot speed) was setting up for a great kick. Chelsea continued to run a strong pace and move forward. Unfortunately, the early fast pace had really caught up with Lauren Lewis. She is a fighter and never gave up, but finished well back of where she had all year. She actually fell going around a turn in the last 800 meters and had to pick herself up and get going again. Lauren felt bad about her race, but we all know she ran her guts out. I can't fault a freshman who made an aggressive mistake. She knew she had a bit of an off meet at conference and wanted to prove to herself and her teammates that she was better. On this day she just simply tried too hard.
We believe Becky is in the early stages of developing asthma as it exists in her family. She said she struggled from the beginning of the race to get all the oxygen that she needed. At the 5K mark, she was really struggling, but determined to finish which she did. Alexis was having a great race and gaining great experience in a high-level meet.
The five girls who were feeling good also finished the best of any race this year. We were flying by people and gaining points. Our front four all finished in the top 55. Alyssa was 24th and all-Region. Lauren and Kellie both finished in the top 50 (47th and 49th) and Cheslea was 55th. Through four runners we really had a great team race. Lauren struggled home in 96th. Alexis wasn't far behind in 101st and Becky finished 117th. In the team standings we were 11th (same as 2006) although we scored 30 less points than we did a year ago, had an all-Region runner, and we were only 18 points from finishing seventh.
It was a very tight team race. It would be easy to try and figure out where those points could come from. However, all of our kids gave the best they had on this day. We had the right attitude and we were aggressive from the start. I can't fault a group who really came together and finished the way we did. We came into the meet ranked 13th, so we did move up a couple of spots. Our kids gave some of the best efforts of their careers with our top four all securing lifetime bests. While we just missed out on a great team finish, it was still a tremendous day for our program. <,p>
We moved forward and with everyone returning next fall, the goals will be set very high. I'm not big on "woulda, coulda, shoulda," but we know where we stand and the potential we have. Our girls continue to understand the importance of consistency and maintaining great health.
It's amazing to think another cross country season has come to an end. Indoor track meets and second semester will be here before we know it. It was another fun year with a great group of young women. Each group is different and presents unique challenges. The future challenge for this group is to continue to increase their miles while maintaining good health and focus.
We'll talk to you again next fall!