Country School runners earn four All America citations.
The Country School thoroughbred runners hoofed it to Lexington, Kentucky, horse capital of the world, for the National Junior Olympics Championships and won the Triple Crown by earning four All America citations, with all seven runners racing with tenacity.
As the runners slept the night before the racing, devastating tornados touched down and caused over 100 deaths in Kentucky and surrounding states, with high winds and rain creating havoc for the race organizers.
Racing for their school as individuals and their club team, Litchfield Track Club, the students slid around on a course that was muddy and rutty while a couple felt cruddy among their muddied buddies.
After an hour delay because of thunderstorms and rain, Liv K. was among the race leaders in the 2K, running a tactical race while enduring a stomach cramp but sprinting gamely on the final uphill to the finish. Liv finished eighth in the United States to become only the fifth All America in the Country School’s history. (Robbie Cozean earned the first three himself.)
In the 9 and 10-year-old race an hour later, which covered much of the same course that Liv’s race just beat up and made muddier, Anna G., Tillie K. and Laila G. charged off across the rolling hills and through the puddles.
Running stride for stride or right nearby each other for the entire race, Tillie and Laila performed superbly, triumphing against many of the same girls from 45 states they have raced over the years. Having injured her calf six days ago and not able to train, Laila’s physical therapy paid off as she finished with a tremendous sprint on the final uphill against three competitors to finish fourth and become All America for the second time.
With her spikes full of mud and her guts full of steel, Tillie dug deeply throughout the last 800 m, charged the uphill, and held on strongly for 9th place, earning All America for the second time and finishing in the same place she did two years ago in Madison, Wisconsin in the National Championships but running 3K now, not 2K. Tillie’s achievement is remarkable because of the training time she missed when she strained a calf muscle in the Connecticut Junior Olympics three weeks ago and didn’t run for a week.
Anna G. was racing in a National caliber meet for the first time and exceeded all expectations her coaches had for her. Anna navigated the slick course to find better traction when she could. Moving up throughout the race, Anna tenaciously held her position in the final uphill sprint in front of her parents and teammates to finish well in the top half, 128th out of the 266 competitors.
Going to the starting line in the 9 & 10 year old boys division as the sole competitor for The Country School, Tash F. ran his usual brilliant strategic race. Tash passed competitors on the inside of curves, took advantage of their flailing on the uphills, and finished in 130th place out of 258 competitors in his first-ever national championship.
Like many of his teammates, Tash earned from his proud parents a commemorative sweatshirt, emblazoned with selected motivational quotations. While watching his older friends race, the warmth of the sweatshirt was much-needed as the rain came down, the gusts bringing a wind chill factor of sub-freezing.
Luke S. was also running in his first National championship but, as a competitive skier, is comfortable with high-stakes racing. Donning his longer spikes and stripping off his sweats for the 3K tract, Luke prepared himself on the starting line, looking down the straight 700 meter start against 368 competitors. Passing others and being challenged throughout the race, Luke ran a smart race and “left it all on the course” as he surged across the finish line 122nd, completely out of breath.
Captain Anna V. provided impressive leadership by teaching all her teammates how to adjust to life’s vicissitudes. After announcing a delay to Anna‘s 13 & 14 year old race for 30 minutes, the officials reversed their decision and sent everybody off at the original time without notifying all competitors. When Anna went up to stretch for her 2 o’clock race, she discovered the race had already started!
But, wanting to get as muddy as her friends, Anna switched to run in the 5K (3.1 miles) even though that meant racing entirely against only 9th, 10th 11th and 12th grade girls.
Bang! The starting pistol goes off and at the 400 meter pole Anna is 83rd out of the 129 high school competitors. Her teammates and one of her coaches watched her move into 77th place, then 65th place after 1 mile. After 2 miles, with her muddy spikes grabbing, Anna had moved from 60th place to 57th place, steadily picking off her competition under threatening clouds and a 25 mile an hour wind.
Running almost a mile longer than she had planned and trained for, Anna took the last hill with the commitment we’ve seen all season that makes her one of the top Middle School runners in New England, passing another girl to finish 21st among the 17 & 18 year olds and 26th among the 15 and 16 year olds, earning the 8th All-America distinction in Country School’s history.
The students used all their training from this season and ran outstanding races, making themselves, their families, their coaches, and their school proud. And with typical Country School modesty, none of the runners chose for their new sweatshirt the available quotation at the merchandise booth: “I’m so fast, your mother cheers for me.”