Three years ago, in November of 2010, we brought our Saint Ignatius boys cross country team here to Peoria for the Illinois High School Association state cross country championships. Driving our team van, I got really, really lost trying to find Avanti’s on Washington Street outside of East Peoria. The thought struck me at that time that the coaches who bring their teams here every year have a significant advantage over those who don’t, even in terms of knowing their way around the neighborhood.
We have added a trip to the First to the Finish meet as a regular part of our schedule. We have many of the logistics for the Peoria trip worked out now. We know our hotel preference, the Embassy Suites in East Peoria, and I had reservations made in the summer for November.
But we did not qualify anyone on our team for the 2011 championships. Last year we missed an opportunity to qualify our team, but we did come to Peoria with two qualifiers, one who was the state champion that day.
Bringing a team is different, though.
This year we are here with a team. It has gone pretty well. But as a coach, I still feel behind on the learning curve.
We do have some routines, and we have made some logistical improvements. When our Ignatius soccer team moved on to the semi-final of the 2A state tournament with a morning game scheduled for Friday, our principal Brianna Latko decided to give the whole school the day off so students could attend the game.
It helped us to get on the road a little bit earlier then we might have if the boys had attended a couple classes on Friday. Getting on the road early got us to Peoria early. We were on the course at 1:00. I attended the mandatory coaches information meeting at 2:00. We were at the hotel by 3:00. At 4:45 we were on our way to Avanti’s—and I knew the directions. The boys were hungry early—we had a late breakfast but skipped lunch—and after a visit to Walmart, we were back at the hotel around 7:00. Most of this could not have gone better than the script. There are a few things we need to do better.
We have other routines here at the state meet. It is Saturday morning at 6:30 AM—and I am writing a blog post. As the state track meet and at the state cross country meet it is my habit to wake up early, as I normally do, and then go for a run—which is not a regular part of my daily schedule at home. It has also become a routine to write the early morning blog post.
We have some time on this morning because as a 3A boys team, we do not run until 2:00 PM. We discussed taking a shakeout run this morning with the boys, but they didn’t like the idea. “What did Keelan do last year?“ they asked. Our senior co-captain Chris Korabik, who made this trip and ran with Jack Keelan last year, told us there had been no shakeout run.
There will be no shake out run this year.
Breakfast will be at 8:00. We expect the boys will be hungry after the early dinner. I’m not sure we have reported this anywhere, but last year, after his championship run, Keelan had suddenly depleted in the half hour after his race. It was bad enough that he wasn’t sure he could handle the awards ceremony and photo session. He had eaten only a small breakfast, it turns out; the 2:00 race does not make eating lunch possible. He was much better after eating a banana.
We have talked to the boys already about the importance of eating a good breakfast. We have energy bar supplies to feed them something before the race.
There have been a few more lessons already this year. It is too early, however, to start looking at next year.
We have a race to run today. We have a plan. We would like to become one of those teams that surprises people in Peoria. We hope that we have learned how to do that.
And we want to be a team that comes here every year.