Well folks, Hayward Field in Eugene was everything we thought it would be! An incredible facility, in a great city, full of unbelievable talent. The seats were cushy for the spectators, while the track was smooth and hot and fast for the athletes. I would HIGHLY encourage everyone to go watch a track meet at Hayward Field if you ever get a chance.
I went back and looked at results from Junior Olympics in the last several years - the truth is all of the races this year were SIGNIFICANTLY faster than they have ever been. Is it the shoes? Is it the facility? My guess is that the chance to run at Hayward Field attracted talent that would otherwise have not made the trip. (And the shoes definitely helped.) That being said, everyone from our region struggled more in their races than is typically the case. Does everyone remember Kristin Chen (9-10 girl with a bright lime shirt who destroyed everyone all season)? She didn't even make the final.
Nevertheless, our valiant Hawks took to the track and gave their all. First up, David competed in the 9-10 boys 800m qualifiers on Wednesday morning. Arriving with plenty of time to warm up and check in, David got a chance to tour the facility and warm up area and with Elias' help he was ready and checked in like a champ. One of the main challenges of this year's Nationals was that they didn't provide heats prior to the check in time, so we couldn't talk strategy based on who each athlete was going to run against. Last year, a time of 2:35 made the final, which was only 6 seconds faster than David's PR. With that in mind, David's goal was to run under 2:40 and see where he landed. Unfortunately, it took a sub 2:30 to qualify for the finals this year, and so David was unable to progress. He still ran hard and had a great time at his first track Nationals.
Next up, Norah also competed in the 800m prelims on Wednesday. Again, without knowing who she would be racing against, it was difficult to coach her for her race, but she had her plan and knew she needed to win her heat to advance. Last year, a time of 2:21 earned a trip to the finals, and so Norah was aiming to improve by one second and run 2:20. Unfortunately it wasn't in the cards for her to improve, and though she gave it her all she was unable to advance in the 800m.
On Thursday Norah ran her second race of the meet, looking to qualify for the finals in the 1500m. Last year, runners only had to break 5 minutes to get to the finals, and so we thought Norah had a great chance to advance. But the competition was fierce this year, and it took 4:51 to be in the top 12 and compete for All-American in the final. Norah, though not feeling her best, still bravely entered the field of battle and did her best but ultimately fell short of qualifying. Again, the times the kids were running in this meet were unreal. Not just the winners, but the depth of amazing times was something I've never seen before at a JOs - regardless of age.
Elias also ran in the 1500m prelims following Norah's race. He was confident that he could make the final, and went into the race feeling good and ready to do his best. Despite taking second in his heat, however, he missed the 12th fastest qualifying time by less than 1 second, finishing 15th overall. Again, last year 4:32 was the last qualifying time - Elias ran 4:23 and was left on the outside looking in. It was a tough blow for him, but he knew he did his best and we were proud of him no matter what and so he shook it off and refocused on his next race.
Finally, Elias competed in the 3k on Saturday morning. He knew by now that he was surrounded by faster, older boys and that they were going to go all out. He was determined to hold on as long as he could and hopefully finish top 8 in order to grab an All-American hat. Last year the 3k was won in 9:25, with second place finishing in 9:32. While Elias had only run 9:28 this year, he was confident he could improve on that and felt good about his chances in the race.
Everyone knew the leaders were going to go out hard and keep the pace fast - no one would have guessed how hard or how many there would be in the front pack. By the first 1,000m, a lead pack of 10 all ran under 3 minutes (that is sub 9 minute pace), and Elias was right in the middle of it. As the group came through the mile in 4:41 (Elias' fastest mile on Strava) they were still 10 strong and moving like a runaway train. No one seemed able to break away and no one was willing to drop off. It was crazy.
The group went through the 2k mark at 6:08, everyone jockeying to stay in as long as they could. With one lap to go, the pack finally burst apart and three kids pulled away from the rest. Elias fought with the last two in the pack, desperately trying to get on the podium, but was just too spent. He rolled into the finish with a 9:23 (5 second PR) and in tenth place. Ten seconds later the rest of the field started to finish, having been out of the race almost from the gun.
When you watch the video of the finish of the race, one after the other runner just collapses to the track once they finally stopped running - it was clear they had all just run their hearts out. The winner ran 9:03, with 2nd and 3rd running 9:04. 8th place was 9:20. It was amazing, and I'm sure that every runner in that pack felt the way Elias did - just lucky to have been part of such an amazing competition with so much heart and drama and RACING; it was something to behold.
So that wraps up the 2023 Delta Hawks track season - and what a successful and fun season it was! Now we move on to cross country, and for you dreamers out there - it is time to start thinking about Kentucky in December, the site for the JO cross country nationals. Let's see what the hawks can do this fall!
Delta Hawks Coaches