Running on the grounds of a horse track in Portland, Oregon, the self named "Women of Steel," outran the competition to become NXN Champions, the defacto champions of high school cross country in the US. They defeated seven time champion Fayetteville-Manlius of New York by following the strategy that kept them undefeated in all competition in 2013: run hard, run strong, push and support each other, and live in the moment.
It sounds so simple, but as anyone who has gone through high school knows, nothing is simple in the teen years. There are injuries, illnesses, personal issues, and just life in general that can conspire against you or merely act as another of life's "hurdles." The Wayzata team had begun aiming for success at NXN in June. They planned, adjusted, and finally executed that plan on the frozen tundra in Oregon. The plan wasn't necessarily to win, just to produce their best efforts when they were needed. The proverbial mantra to run your best.
When Duluth native Kara Goucher informed them at the end of the race that she thought they might have finished second, they were momentarily happy with that. When they discovered they'd won, there was giddy laughter, joy, and a communal hug to celebrate. As Anna French, the team leader for most of the season and again at NXN, said, they were satisified that they had done their best, being the champions was just icing on the cake.
|The communal hug. Photo courtesy of Runnerspace|
|The Women of Steel|
On Saturday they proved it. Behind in the scoring through four kilometers of the 5K race, the girls made a final push in the last kilometer to snatch victory from defeat. Behind in the points tally after the first three runners on each team crossed the finish line, Wayzata's fourth and fifth girls outran Manlius' by 24 points. If they had scored all seven finishers on each team, Wayzata's 12 point winning margin would have increased significantly. It was a true team triumph.
When they get back to school on Monday, there will no doubt be some sort of recognition of their accomplishment, but most of the girls will already be moving on to their next goals in the classroom, for the basketball team, or the cross country ski team, and in Spring on the track. Fame is fleeting, but the feeling of accomplishment from their triumph this weekend will last. The shared experience, the bond that they have with the team and the coaches will last even longer.