This was by far Emma's best cross-country season yet. She came off a strong track season and pushed to get back into shape after being in Jerusalem for 3 weeks and a car accident that followed. If there is one word I would use to describe Emma's passion for running it is DETERMINATION. When something unexpected falls in her path, she simply finds a way around it. This season she ran smart, and it paid off. Of the 6 meets she participated in, two of them she came away with a championship win. She ran at elevation for all 6 meets and yet, one of her best meets, was actually at 9,000ft in Crested Butte.
Emma's season started out with one of those unexpected situations. The day before the first meet her shin started bothering her. She showed up to the meet and was contemplating whether to race or not. She made the decision to start the race and listen to her body. By mile 2 she knew that she needed to stop, so she did. Even though it wasn't in her nature to stop, her ability to listen to her body so she could be healthy for the entire season showed her growth and maturity.
This race is the most popular race every season since it is at lower elevation and a fast, flat course in Denver. Emma was the only one from her team fast enough to enter the Sweepstakes Division. So, all by herself, she warmed up and did her drills. It's not always easy to feel all alone when you are racing but Emma never wavers in her determination even though she walks to that starting line without any teammates. She ran this race smart and was able to pull a 6 second PR from last years' time on a relatively warm day.
Emma was ready to crush this race and was all pumped up before she ran. From the start to the very end, I could see the fire in her eyes, and it was marvelous to watch. For most of the race she was right behind the lead girl but during the last 800m of the race she started to pull away and kept running faster and faster so that she would have a big enough lead to the finish. Sure enough, she held that lead and came in 1st to win her very first HS 5K. It was such an amazing finish that a spokesman for the Gazette came over and interviewed Emma. As cool as that was, it was even more impressive when we saw the paper the next morning and found she and the lead boy were all over the sports section of the Gazette.
Usually, the team heads to sea level for a mid-season race but this year the coach decided to go in the opposite direction and head to higher elevation for a different kind of challenge. It would have been nice for Emma to have raced at sea level, but this race ended up being a fun one for the team to participate in. At 9000ft, the team set off on a half paved, half trail 5K run through the town of Crested Butte. I loved how they had all the teams lined up 100ft before the starting line and then one by one the announcer called each team to the starting line. It was fun to see the Pine Creek girls run together as they prepared for their elevation 5K. The organizer at the start line got a little mixed up and didn't order the girls on the front line correctly and since Emma's team was one of the last couple of teams called to the starting line she didn't get pulled like she should and was a few rows back when the race started. That didn't stop her from jetting out and making her way to the front of the pack. She and another girl from Heritage HS led the race from start to finish. Emma pulled away the last 1/2 mile and finished with a 1st place finish in a time of 18:44.70. She had a 12 sec. lead over the second-place finisher. This race marked the second 1st place finish that Emma has had this season. She was thrilled to be able to perform so well and to be able to meet Emma Coburn who is a World Champion and Olympic medalist in the steeplechase. Even Emma's club coach, Lisa Rainsberger, was there to cheer her on. It was a great race and one in which she will always remember.
Meet #4 - Regionals
This is always the most important and most nerve-racking race of the season. Only the top 15 and the top 3 schools qualify for the State Championship. We were not worried that Emma had the ability to make it into the top 10 but wanted to make sure she felt good and didn't have anything unexpected happen during the race. With a lot on the line, she approached this race like a fierce competitor. She held her own against the Air Academy girls who remained the #2 girls' team in the nation at the time. Not only did she place 4th against a really competitive field of runners, but she broke an almost perfect score by the Air Academy girls' team, and she got a PR for the course. I couldn't have asked for a more perfect race for Emma to close out the main part of her season.
MEET #6 - STATE CHAMPIONSHIPS
The State Championship course in Colorado is one of the hardest high school state courses in the nation not only for the elevation that these kids are running at but also the hilly nature of the course. This year we were blessed with cooler weather than previous years. Emma was the only girl from her team to qualify to run in the state meet, however, many of her teammates came to support her and cheer her on. They even made the sweetest sign for her. As she made her way to the starting line for the last time during a state XC race, she was focused and probably a little nervous. Her head was in the game, but she had been struggling emotionally that morning. She went out and ran a good race, getting a 15 sec PR for this course, but missed being in the top 10 by 2 seconds. She was crushed that she missed being in the top 10 for the second year in a row but thrilled that she was able to snag such an amazing PR. In the end, Emma should be so proud of all that she accomplished this season. It really was her best season ever!