Oh my goodness!!! SCAD XC Year 1 is officially over. I have so many emotions about this first season with the bees but the primary two are relief and appreciation. While this season held some new and unexpected challenges for me, it also had so many new and unexpected joys and achievements! A few weeks ago, while in the hotel at nationals actually, I did a full season recap of everything up until the national meet so check that out for previous details. Nationals was such a cool experience so I thought I'd do a photo & emotional recap here.
The #1 women's team goal all season was to qualify for NAIA nationals, which would happen at conference two weeks prior. We grinded all season preparing for the venture and punched our tickets by winning conference and having a perfect score, making conference and school history!! It was so so exciting. After all the excitement, the next morning I woke up and it hit me - I'd actually have to compete at nationals. And not only that, I'd also have to finish finals a week early and travel almost 3000 miles to Vancouver, Washington (where it was being held), before a super quick turn around to go home to PA afterwards. It was one of the craziest weeks of my life, and handling everything that came with the incredible opportunity was perhaps a tougher challenge than the race itself. There were moments that weekend before we left when I had the rare feeling that I truly did not know how I would do the multitude of hard tasks ahead of me. I shared my overwhelmed emotions with those around me and my coach, and with wonderful support and a ton of planning, all of the SCAD qualifiers made it to Washington three days before race day.
There were so many highlights of the trip between the running experiences and just living life at such a crazy time in such a crazy new place! Vancouver, WA was a super cool place, not only for its stunning scenery, but also its interesting geographic location. I'd been to Oregon before, but never that far northwest so seeing a new city was a blast. We arrived on Tuesday before the Friday race, so the team had a few days to relax and explore the area. We went on some beautiful runs, ran the course, did some city exploring around Portland and Vancouver, and did lots of good hanging at the hotel.
After valuable discussions with my coach, we determined that the #1 goal going into the nationals trip was to be emotionally stable and enjoy the full experience as much as possible. As much as this trip had the ultimate purpose to competing in a huge race, the experience could be much more than that if I viewed it as such. Racing at nationals, especially as part of a nationally-ranked team, is a privilege and honor that I was trying to take in fully while still not putting pressure on myself. This was a tough balancing act. With a lot of mental and emotional preparation, as well of course as the usual physical prep, I toed the line on Friday, November 17th, 2023 in Vancouver, Washington at the NAIA National Championships - ready to go.
The race itself was one of the toughest I've ever experienced, but I tried to treat the whole thing as a learning experience. The course was very difficult and over-distance, so I had to view my finishing time as somewhat irrelevant and just race for place and competition. With God's strength and a ton of focus, I finished in 99th place! Top 100 was far-off in my head before the race, with my goal being to finish top 175, so 99th felt so so sweet. With some quick math, my finishing time was about equal to my previous 6k PR on a harder course, so overall I was super pleased with the whole experience! I was also second on our team and it was so special to share a race that big with teammates, since that still feels new to me. More than that, I was able to be mentally strong, not freak out by being overwhelmed during or before the race, and support my teammates on a huge stage. The Lady Bees finished 16th as a team with our highest ranking since 2005! It was an incredible day, followed by two hectically packed travel days.
Another super cool part of the trip was that my best friend from high school, Anna, was able to come and cheer us on at the race! She goes to college about 90 minutes from Vancouver, so as soon as I knew that we were going to nationals we made plans to see each other that day. It was such crazy luck and so special to have her there at the race! We've traveled so much together already so sharing this new place was so fun and sweet.
XC Nationals was an incredible experience that I'm so thankful for!!! It was such a big opportunity and I'm satisfied to have taken advantage of it and ended my freshman season with a bang. I truly do give all of the glory of my season to God, as I feel still so blessed to even be in Savannah and on this team. It was His plan that I'm there, and His plan that we made it through. I'm already getting hungry for indoor track, but for now I'm going to enjoy some relaxation and training back at home in Pennsylvania. ;)
Below are photo highlights of the trip and race! Enjoy and thanks for following along. 💌🐝