Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Captain's Blog: The Road Home From State


By Jessica Xu

For Coach Small the goal is always getting the team to the State Championship.  The hardest part is always the ride home.  He likes to think of it as a four year project.  Four years of dedicated, focused training and countless miles.  Some days the girls would get to school at 6 am to get a run in before class, on rainy days they'd be jumping in the van ready to hit the trails, but every day they ran for each other. 

Impressed by the commitment the girls showed the whole season, even when the odds seemed to be against them, Coach Small believed his team could accomplish their goals if they trusted each other, their coaches, and their training.  When reflecting about the race at Woodward Park it was hard for him to put into words what it took for his team to get there, “It is difficult to comprehend what goes into making the state meet. For our seniors this journey began four years ago and is a culmination of putting in the work every day."

"Just for the chance to run in the State's most elite race means sacrificing some things they love, an intense dedication to accomplish their goals and focused training. It has meant persevering through the tough times and believing in your dreams even when they may seem out of reach. It means putting trust in coaches, teammates and the training. It means parents supporting something so many don't understand. All this just to run one race against the fastest runners in the state.  Still there are no guarantees."

In the end the Warriors raced impressively but slipped to 20th place after Kailey Eddy, a top runner for the Warriors, took a spill half way into the race that ended the team's hopes of a top 10 finish.  In addition Ashley Lara was not feeling in top form on the day but bravely ran for her team. 

“In this sport you can do everything right and there are still no guarantees. Years of training and dedication all come down to one 20 minute race," Small said.  "So when something goes wrong I feel like I let the team down. Like if we would have tweaked something here or did things a little differently the end result would be different. But the fact is there are things out of our control and sometimes you just have to accept that and move on.” 

“While I am happy with our team's performance I am most pleased with the commitment it took to get there. No one is cheering for you at 6 am or on those dark rainy days. Our girls ran for each other every day. That's what I'm most proud of.”

For Small, the hardest thing to accept was the fact that it was the seniors’ last race. “There's a moment along the way when the van gets quiet and it is in that brief split second you realize that this is the seniors last race. No matter how many times I've been there that car ride home doesn't get any easier.” 

DSC_0005Every trip down to Fresno for the state meet is unique. This year the girls experienced everything from Kailey’s unfortunate spill to Ashley learning to embrace the moment and her selfless desire to run for her team. “I felt like our team bonded through adversity this year,” Coach small said. 

It was a fitting end to the year as the girls once again came together when it counted the most. 

Coach Small enjoyed seeing his girls serving others this season with their care packages for the homeless. Eager to hand them out, the girls are always on the lookout for anyone in the streets in need of help, and Coach Small can always count on a package being stuffed in his face. But the girls will always be girls, and Coach Small will always finds himself looking for his team after running the course as the girls are stuck in line buying commemorative t-shits. The infamous state meet shop is known for its overwhelming crowd of people and hour long lines. 

Being the Coach of a varsity girls team, Small has always been baffled by their obsession with buying clothes, photo opportunities, and playing with leaves. 

A post-(state meet) race tradition Coach and his team always look forward to is the Dam Diner. Eating at the Dam Diner includes breakfast served all day long and creamy handmade milkshakes everyone can enjoy now that the season is over. The unfortunate demise of the Dam Diner left a hole in everyone’s hearts. Although Small was disappointed, no matter where they went the team was family, and “as long as we are together it is always a great time.” 

Now that the season is over Coach Small is back at home, a rare day off before planning for track season begins. That and the team can begin the hunt for a new secret diner that sells great milkshakes.


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