Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Road to State: Vanessa Giacalone

DSC_0447Vanessa Giacalone loves cross country.

Perhaps it is the individual pressure to perform day in and day out. The purity of how in the end it is you against the clock. Or maybe it is the team bonding and friendships you forge when you partner with someone in a common goal. Maybe it is the sense of peace one experiences while out running out on the trails, a euphoria and beauty that is captured upon the top of a conquered mountain or the end of a long day.  Ask her what is is that she loves so much about the sport and she'll tell you: she loves it all.

Vanessa started running competitively in 6th grade when her Physical Education teacher suggested she give it a try. She joined the Junior High cross country team and has never looked back.  "The thing I love about running is how I can do it for the rest of my life," Giacalone said.  "It's a great way to clear your mind, especially after a stressful day of school.  I love how it is a great workout and a the end of the day it is up to you as an individual to put in the work."  

But it is the team aspect she most enjoys. "It is more about team than you might think," Vanessa said. "It's really not about one person, but what you can do together."

Cross Country is a collective of individuals all relying on one another to be at their best.  And that is the team aspect that Vanessa loves most.  Standing on the starting line others are depending on you and it is in that moment that "team" is defined. Everyone counts, everyone is relied on. 

Vanessa had a solid first year coming on strong at the end where she had breakthrough performances at the WCAL and CCS Championship, earning her the team's Freshman of the Year honors. She followed that breakout season with an impressive track campaign that saw her dip under six minutes for the mile.

She put in some quality work over the summer and motivation was high at the start of the season. But to start the school year she learned that she would need to delay the start of her season. “My biggest struggle for me was having surgery right before the season started and not being physically active for three weeks.” Giacalone said. “ The one thing that kept me going were my teammates and coaches who have inspired me to not give up and continue to train hard so we can achieve our personal and team goal of qualifying for the state championship.”

DSC_0130The comeback trail hasn’t been an easy one. Not only was the late start difficult she had to make up for lost time. She knew she had to be patient, put in the work and trust that it would come in time.  But as the season's end neared she felt rushed. After a bad race at the second WCAL meet the sophomore’s returned seemed questionable.

Vanessa did not need to look very far for inspiration. She found it in her teammates. “The one who inspires me the most on this team is Ashley Lara because she never gives up, even through all the injuries she has had throughout the season,” Giacalone said. “The way she trains and leads our team when we get off track inspires me to be a better runner and teammate.”

Vanessa has never gave up, persevering though the setbacks and will compete this Saturday at the California  State Championship at Woodward Park in Fresno.

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