DetweillerDetweiller Park is know for a lot of things: Fast, fan-friendly and most importantly, the site of the IHSA State Finals in cross country.
The First to the Finish Invite Saturday, Sept. 14 is the first of consecutive weekly meets on the course until the big show Nov. 9. It's almost like a state-wide unofficial "welcome to cross country" meet, where you finally start to learn things about teams throughout the state that up to this point either haven't raced, or at least haven't raced full-strength—just like us.
The first time I was ever at Detweiller as a "qualifier" was the 2007 State Finals with our boys team. I had been to Detweiller before 2007, but only as a fan. As a high school runner (both Coach Muth ['00] and I ['99] ran for YHS) I never qualified for cross country state.
I remember the feeling of driving the YHS mini bus up Route 29 from Peoria and seeing the course unfold over to the left. The flags, the fans already there in droves. If you've never been to a cross country meet and you make Detweiller your first, you might assume every meet has a carnival-type atmosphere. The positivity is everywhere.
To you this may just look like some random park, but to many XC fans, it's so much more.
Every time I get to approach Detweiller, I get to relive that feeling—that honor—that so many others get to experience. I can only hope our athletes feel the same sense of exhilaration when they see it for the first time, too. Maybe they think it is just nerves now, but I think down the road, they'll remember differently.
First to the FinishI've been pumped up for this meet for three weeks. Now that it is the night before, I am seriously questioning if I am actually going to sleep tonight, or if I'll be brewing some coffee and looking at the last six years of race results from this race, compiling them, and sending the spreadsheet to Muth who will probably be doing something similar.
Finally, a chance for our varsity.
With our home meet on Aug. 26 cancelled due to excessive heat, the First to the Finish Invite is our first varsity meet. This should be meet No. 4 on our schedule, but our JV team traveled to Seneca last Friday and we had another JV triangular meet with Kaneland and East Aurora canceled this past Tuesday.. again, due to excessive heat. I type that as I am now sitting here in a sweatshirt and it is 45° outside, but I digress.
On both the girls and boys varsity races, there are 52 teams. That means the field will be at least 364 athletes, but I have no doubt there will be 500+ in each race.
Further, 13 or the top 25 teams in both divisions, ourselves included (Girls are ranked 1st and the boys 6th in 2A), will be at this meet. While the meet is broken up into 1A, 2A, 3A and boys/girls races, 2A (our division) steals the show at this meet every year.
I could go into the breakdown of the meet more, but why recreate the wheel when Mike Newman of DyestatIL.com has already done it? Check out his meet preview here.
What I'm most excited for is to see our athletes run on the state meet course. Such valuable information is gained for us as to where we are, where we are going, and what we could potentially be.
Further, it's a chance for some of our younger athletes to prove themselves—our varsity gets so much publication, but at the end of the day, they make up only 14 of our 80+ athletes. We have numerous groups within the team, and there are so many little stories that emerge on a daily basis. If so-and-so has a good meet, this could be the tipping point to move up to the next group and the next challenges it provides. It is very exciting to see the mini-stories, and I hope to share many with you this season after an admittedly slow start.
Muth shared the goal times he had for his (varsity) group, and I shared with him the goals I have for my group today. Both of use wondered aloud: "are we being too aggressive [with these goals]?" I have some doubts, or I wouldn't have asked it myself, but seeing how hard our athletes have trained this season, I can't imagine if the athletes don't hit the times, they would be all that far off. I have a little more anxiety I suppose because my group is not as experienced as Muth's, so there is more potential for a goouttoofastandcrashandburn outcome for them, but like I said, how we have been training, I am feeling pretty positive.