- Sean Tait
...And Then There Were Three
Chanel Wins, Abi Podiums and Kiara is off to SAs
The final day of August saw the best athletes in the Western Cape come together in the Western Cape Schools Cross Country Champs, to fight it out for national honours. We had 7 of our youngsters taking part between the ages of 10-17. These days are super tough - Racing against competition that you have never seen before...not knowing if you are fit enough to achieve a top six placing, and slot to SAs, it's essentially the fear of the unknown. Even for those that have been here every year, there is always a change in the state of play. This post is a brief documentation on the triumphs and the falls (unfortunately all too literally) of our young athletes.
Chanel ran a very clever and tactically (almost) perfect race. She sat in 2nd position for the first half of the race, just behind the front runner. She then decided to have two little digs at the half way point and at the start of the final kilometer, but both times the gap was closed, as the pack of three led the race. It was then at 400m to go that Chanel put in a full blooded attack to try to get away clear. Although the gap was only about 3m or so, it was a gap that never really looked like closing as Chanel kicked into overdrive down the finishing straight to secure the Western Cape Champs title. This is an incredible achievement - It's difficult to quite put these kind of things into words!
Abi ran her own race. She knew pretty early on that she couldn't quite match the pace of the two early leaders, but in the same manner she managed to draw some distance between 4th and 5th place, the group containing sister Kiara. In the final half of the race nothing much changed, the relatively small, but decisive gaps held their shape as all the girls were literally on the rivet. Abi claimed a 3rd place podium slot, coming in only 3s behind 2nd place...
...while Kiara put in her somewhat trademark finish line sprint to sew up 4th place, only 3s behind Abi. Another super impressive performance from both girls. Their placing earns them a slot at SA Champs in a few weeks time - Their household was no-doubt a happy one this weekend!
The Dark Side of XC
Cross Country is not just about success, there are always tough moments in sport. Jake started off looking super strong, running comfortably in 2nd place, but at 400m into his 2km race his stomach issues reared their head and Jake was left standing still completing the gastric-emptying process. Then, left 4th from last place, he began the storm. He carved his was through the field, blowing his way through some of the best athletes in the Western Cape. By the time Jake got to the end of the race he had moved up from about 50th to 12th. Not good enough for a slot to SAs, but a sign that the talent is there.
Carolyn and Jess started out in a large and excitable field of 10yr old girls. Unfortunately Jess was squeezed in and ultimately tripped up at a point of narrowing in the first 200m. Jess got back up quickly, but she was severely out positioned and was really up against it to try get herself back to the front of the race. Carolyn was finding the pace super fast, but was doing really well to hang onto a top 10 position at just over the half way point.
Then Carolyn was tripped (in an accidental coming together) from behind and landed hard on her left side. She was pretty sore and visually upset, but in the meanwhile Jess was trying to do damage control and was powering to the finish to come within the top 20 - A great first showing, all things considered. Carolyn decided that she wanted to finish the race - She walked the last 700m holding her bruised arm. It was an example of such incredible courage.
Saving the Best For Last
We coach a wide range of athletes. Some have the talent to win at the very highest level, but some don't. All we are ever trying to do is see that each athlete achieves their own potential. Megan is perfect example of somebody who absolutely made the most of her talent this season.
Megan came 8th in WP Champs, so naturally expecting to finish top 6 this weekend in an even stronger field was not something that was worth getting too worked up over. Instead we told Megan to treat the race as a time trial. Pace it. Forget about racing. Forget about positions. Start out slower (comparatively) and finish with absolutely everything you have. Let the positions take care of themselves and gain any positions that she can in the last kilometer. Megs ran a really strong race, finishing 14th overall, which included winning a sprint of three to the finish line.
This is an incredible performance, but what was more incredible to note is that Megan ran a pace 15s per kilometer faster than any race that she has run this year. 15s PER KILOMETER. You don't find that kinda improvement on the shelves at the grocery store. Megan absolutely squeezed out everything she had on Saturday, not because 14th place gets anything that 60th doesn't, but because 14th was the absolute limit of what she was capable of, and it takes a lot of things to go right to achieve that.
Over and out
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