Up at 4:00 AM in the Embassy Suites Hotel in East Peoria, I really did not have a problem sleeping the night before this big day of the state cross country championship race. I’m usually up at 5:00, and last night I actually went to bed at least an hour earlier than usual. There just wasn’t a whole lot to do here last night.
I took my computer down to the lobby to use the internet outside the closed Starbuck’s internet cafe. The only people around were hotel staff and one dressed up couple; the woman was carrying around a big tall fancy drink glass. “Couldn’t sleep?” a hotel worker asked.
“Just up early,” I said.
I checked my email, read the Bulls score and story from last night, scanned the weather report, and did some schoolwork, posting an assignment for my senior Journalism class to Edline. I wondered how they did on the test I left for them when I missed class yesterday to drive down here.
Then I brought my computer back upstairs, and I went for a run. It had rained overnight. It was in the 40s, but not too bad once the running got me warm. It was still dark. The rain will soften the course a little bit, but the rest of the day should be dry according to the weather report.
Two years ago when we brought our team, it occurred to me what an advantage the coaches who bring teams here every year have over those of us who are still learning the ropes. That year I got terribly lost trying to find the Avanti’s in Washington, turning a 15 minute drive into an hour detour. Last night I got lost navigating the maze in East Peoria around I-74, but we got there without too much trouble. We did have a long wait for a table, however. Next year we will get there early before the rush.
Yes, we are already talking about next year.
But first, this year. I put our two runners Jack Keelan and Chris Korabik back in their room at around 9:30, after we spent some time at dinner with their somewhat raucous teammates. Jack remarked on the way back to the Embassy Suites that it had been a good idea to have the boys who were not running the race stay in another hotel. Their energy level was high; Korabik and Keelan were trying to conserve theirs for the race the next day.
We had arrived in Peoria at 1:15, going directly to Detweiller. Keelan and Korabik had run the course. They visited race box number 10, where they will start. I had a longer conversation with Rob Heselton from Jones College Prep, along with shorter ones with Mike Newman from Illinois Prep Harrier and Dyetrack.com and Bud James from Chicago University High. Then I attended the 2:00 required coaches meeting with the meet officials. We got some instruction about using the new bib chips. Key piece of information: Don’t put a pin through the chip part of the bib, because then it won’t work.
After we checked in at the Embassy Suites, Keelan and Korabik took it easy in their room, and then they took a walk to the nearby Walmart for some supplies—crackers and Gatorade. One big question for tomorrow, considered carefully later over dinner, has become whether to use the goo or the gummies.
It did occur to me that Keelan and Korabik seemed a little bit lonely in the big hotel without teammates. We left school early, missing classes for most of the day. The rest of the boys came down later, required to leave after school was over. It would have been a different trip—and a very different group with the same boys—if the whole team was competing.
The support group here also includes our captain from last year Patrick Santino, who came in from Miami of Ohio for the big weekend in Peoria. We ate dinner last night with Patrick and his father, Bill Santino, and then we sat with the fourteen boys (including two more Santino brothers, Brian and Dan) and assistant coach Steven Bugarin who arrived around 7:30.
The plan for this morning is to head to Detweiller around 10:00 with Keelan and Korabik. We brought our team tent canopy, but on my run this morning, in a little bit of drizzle and cold, it occurred to me that our comfortable van might be a better place for them to spend their waiting time at the course. They want to see the big 2A boys showdown between Jones College Prep, Belvidere North, and Glenbard South at noon. But otherwise they will lay low. Hiding out in the van might be a good way to keep them in a secluded place with restricted access (a suggestion from another coach) so that they can relax and do better race preparation.
They each have their race plans. Korabik will simply position himself in the early part of the race to give himself a chance to race for an all-state spot. I will try to give him an indication of his race place as early in the race as possible.
Keelan, one of the favorites to win the race, has picked a race plan. He wants to win the race—and he wants a fast time. He will run aggressively.
At 6:30 AM, the lobby of the Embassy Suites was still empty. As I did my flexibility exercises, a woman hotel worker politely asked me for some suggestions on working out her upper arm muscles and getting better definition. It was my first coaching of the day.
On the one hand, the hay is in the barn. There is not much more to do. On the other hand, there are some things to do today to close the deal. Maybe a big part of the job today is just to keep people away so that Keelan and Korabik can focus on what they have to do.
But step one will be to see if I can maneuver our van through the traffic and find a good parking place in the middle of the morning at Detweiller.