The Journey of a Lifetime

Michael Gross and Aidan Sarazen Friday November 2, 2012 – one day before state. The Latin cross country team gathered together for one last time at the school, anxious to embark on the journey of a lifetime. For the first time in school history, both the girls and guys team were headed down to Detweiler Park in Peoria to compete in the Illinois Cross Country State Championship. Before the season, expectations were low since both teams had lost varsity runners. No one thought that this could be a historic season, let alone one of the greatest seasons in recent memory. A remarkable sendoff in the assembly left the Latin runners filled with tremendous energy, excited to represent their school the next day. Next stop: State. Four hours later, the bus pulled up to the site of the race. The runners began to feel a slight nervousness, anticipating how they would feel the next morning before the race. Several of the teams had already begun their pre-meet practices, as the Latin runners got their first glimpse of their incredible competition. The team then filed off the bus, tired from the long ride, and began their last practice of the season. They ran the last 800 meters, the last 400 meters, then the last 200 meters preparing for the feeling of crossing the finish line – something they would experience the next day. After a light practice the team headed to the hotel to check in to their rooms, shower, and get ready for the team dinner, the final team dinner of season. The tables were filled with many nervous runners trying to put the right food in their system that would best prepare them for the race. Later that night, the team met all together in senior captain Brian Dhingra’s room, as they got their numbers for the race the next morning and proceeded in pinning them on their jerseys. Before they left, Brian had an inspirational message from former captain, Britt Henderson, letting the team know to take advantage of the special opportunity they would have the following day, and to not think about what would happen the next couple years, but to think and live in the present. Following the message from Britt, the guys team returned to their own rooms to mentally prepare themselves. After a restless night due to powerful nerves, each Latin runner awoke, put on his or her uniform for a final time, and headed down to breakfast. Pre-race breakfast consisted of bagels, energy bars, and water. Other teams were also staying at the hotel, and many of the Latin runners gazed across the room and sized up the competition. Once everyone finished nervously nibbling the measly breakfast, they filed out the front door of the hotel, back onto the bus. Following an anxious bus ride accompanied by a beautiful sunrise, the runners exited the bus into Detweiler Park. The air was crisp, the ground was firm, and there wasn’t too much wind. The girls team immediately started their warm-up, as their race started at 9:00 a.m. They ran the course and stretched, while the boys’ team walked the course. Twenty minutes before the gun went off for the girls’ race, the national anthem rang out throughout Detweiler, accompanied by numerous singers and marching bands. Hundreds upon hundreds of fans had flocked into the stadium to watch the races. At 9 o’clock sharp, the starting gun went off. A mob of around 300 of the most talented female high school runners in the state of Illinois charged out of the starting boxes. The crowd erupted with cheers. The lead truck sped around the first turn, swiftly followed by the girls. About a mile into the race, the Latin team looked strong. Victoria Bianco and Abigail Nadler were in position to be all-state, and the other five runners were moving up the pack. As another twelve minutes passed, the leading girls began to rush up the final uphill. Within this lead pack of elites, Victoria and Abigail were right there. As they crossed the finish line, Victoria took 9th, and Abigail took 18th. Not only were they both all-state, but they also both broke the former school record of 18:06. The rest of the girl’s team finished valiantly, allowing for the team to finish 20th overall. While the girl’s race was taking place, the Latin boys cross-country team was warming up and stretching at the same time as they cheered on the girls. Once the last finisher of the girl’s race crossed the finish line, all attention turned to the boy’s race. The race announcers called the teams to the starting line at 9:45, fifteen minutes before the start of the race. Uniforms, bib numbers, and spikes were checked. The Latin team did its final warm up runs off the starting line. During the last runout, the team huddled around in a circle where team coach Dan Daly and captain Brian Dhingra delivered a motivational pump-up speech. The inspirational words gave the Latin runners the confidence needed to have a successful race. The runners gathered back on the line and tried to remain calm. Then, the gun went off. Each and every athlete sprinted off the line, following the lead truck. Around the first turn, the Latin team was condensed in the middle of the pack. Senior Andrew Nadler led the Latin boys, and kept pace towards the front of the pack. The boys ran an extraordinarily intelligent race, pacing themselves well despite the fierce competition. Starting off towards the last place spot, Latin worked its way up to 15th place by the finish, only two places behind last year’s 13th. This was an impressive finish not only because the team lost four seniors, but also because the team’s second runner, Jacob Silverman, was unable to make the race due to his sister’s Bat Mitzvah. Andrew Nadler ended up breaking the previous school record of 15:47. Besides Andrew’s tremendous performance, each Latin boy set his personal record for three miles. The journey down to state was both successful and fun. Both the boys and girls teams performed at their peaks, executing the races especially well. The state experience was unbelievable for every member of the Latin team, coaching staff, and fans. The Latin School of Chicago Cross Country team will be back next year, looking to perform even better at the 2013 state meet.]]>