Archive for Thursday, October 20, 2005

The Fly Route

October 20, 2005

There's plenty amazing about Brittney Graff's recent run of cross country wins.

There's the fact that she just seemed to catch on fire two races into the season.

The fact that she's run against at least 315 runners, some of them very, very good competition, and she's beat them all every time.

I ran cross country once. I took the sport up in high school more because I knew I'd stand on the sideline in football than because I felt I had a God-given ability to blaze a five-kilometer course.

I was right, at least about the cross country part. I never blazed anything.

But in my time running, I gained a lot of respect for those people that do blow over the course.

Graff has been on fire recently. She set a personal best Saturday at Rim Rock, thought to be one of the hardest courses in the state. There wasn't even a runner near her.

Cross country's a tough sport, and the hardest part has nothing to do with how fast you can move your legs. The hardest part is deciding how fast you want to move your legs.

I wasn't very good at that part. I typically bounced between deciding to move my legs between pretty slow and very slow.

The mental aspect is the hardest part of running. Unless you've done it, you'd have no idea the feeling you get standing at the starting line waiting to torture yourself for 20 minutes.

It doesn't get much better when the race starts.

I've seen plenty of people crumple under the pressure. I often responded by taking my sweet time.

I knew one guy who flat out quit. He was running the 3,200-meter race in track and was just about to finish his seventh lap at the same time his younger brother was about to finish his eighth.

He didn't want to lose, of course, so he found an easy solution. He crossed the finish line and just stopped, acting like he had ran eight.

He never admitted he only ran seven. He never said he just quit. He never talked about it, in fact.

But trust me, he's not the only one who has ever seriously considered calling it quits in the middle of a race.

And that's what tells me that Graff's most important strength isn't in her legs or in her lungs. It's in her mind.

That she can continually meet challengers and continually show more nerves than they can is the most amazing part of her five-win run.

Things will only get harder now. She could win fairly easily at Saturday's regional in Hiawatha, but she'll encounter more like herself at state.

Graff's race won't be the only thing interesting as the Cardinals race at regionals and prepare for state either.

Eudora took third place Thursday at the Frontier League championship, but they really gained ground on De Soto and Baldwin.

Eudora's bottom two varsity runners, Elizabeth Hoese and Cara Seats, both ran good races. Getting that production from the bottom of the roster will make a big difference this weekend and when the team heads to Wamego for the Class 4A state championship.

Eudora has lost to De Soto four of the five times they've met this season, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if it's the slightly slower runners that make the difference at regionals.

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