Sunday, December 08, 2013

Wayzata's "Women of Steel" Win Nationals

Last year the Wayzata girls cross country team learned that they were more than just the MSHSL Champions.  They learned that they had the potential to go a lot higher.  On Saturday they proved it.

Running on the grounds of a horse track in Portland, Oregon, the self named "Women of Steel," outran the competition to become NXN Champions, the defacto champions of high school cross country in the US.  They defeated seven time champion Fayetteville-Manlius of New York by following the strategy that kept them undefeated in all competition in 2013:  run hard, run strong, push and support each other, and live in the moment.

It sounds so simple, but as anyone who has gone through high school knows, nothing is simple in the teen years.  There are injuries, illnesses, personal issues, and just life in general that can conspire against you or merely act as another of life's "hurdles."  The Wayzata team had begun aiming for success at NXN in June.  They planned, adjusted, and finally executed that plan on the frozen tundra in Oregon.  The plan wasn't necessarily to win, just to produce their best efforts when they were needed.  The proverbial mantra to run your best.

When Duluth native Kara Goucher informed them at the end of the race that she thought they might have finished second, they were momentarily happy with that.  When they discovered they'd won, there was giddy laughter, joy, and a communal hug to celebrate.  As Anna French, the team leader for most of the season and again at NXN, said, they were satisified that they had done their best, being the champions was just icing on the cake.

The communal hug. Photo courtesy of Runnerspace
Everything is kind of larger than life in Nikeland, as the sporting goods company does it's best to treat the horde of high schoolers who are invited for VIP treatment at Nike's campus in Beaverton like visiting royalty.  They tried on shoes, they met with Nike personnel who showed them what went on in the development of the company's products.  They were interviewed by various media on the upcoming event.  It was like Super Bowl week, only this featured high school cross country runners.

The Women of Steel
 The Wayzata girls had dinner on Thursday night with Nike's resident Minnesota athlete, Kara Goucher.  Noting the weather forcast of freezing temperatures, Goucher told them that they "should feel empowered" by the conditions, not challenged, as the weather in Minnesota was much worse.  The Wayzata team was ready.  They had used the requirement that each team entered in the race to send a team photo to have a bit of fun.  The Wayata girls donned Clark Kent glasses and the blue shirt with the big red S under their letter jackets and called themselves the Women of Steel.

On Saturday they proved it.  Behind in the scoring through four kilometers of the 5K race, the girls made a final push in the last kilometer to snatch victory from defeat.  Behind in the points tally after the first three runners on each team crossed the finish line, Wayzata's fourth and fifth girls outran Manlius' by 24 points.  If they had scored all seven finishers on each team, Wayzata's 12 point winning margin would have increased significantly.  It was a true team triumph.

When they get back to school on Monday, there will no doubt be some sort of recognition of their accomplishment, but most of the girls will already be moving on to their next goals in the classroom, for the basketball team, or the cross country ski team, and in Spring on the track.  Fame is fleeting, but the feeling of accomplishment from their triumph this weekend will last.  The shared experience, the bond that they have with the team and the coaches will last even longer.


Chad said...


Another question for you. Do you know if there's been any talk at MSHSL about changing the rule that doesn't allow these kids to be coached by their normal coach? I'm sure that rule was put in place long ago and there's probably a good reason for it. But now with Footlocker and NXN, there's a lot more opportunity for these kids to compete after the State meet. Seems to be logical that you'd want them with their normal coach.

jdf said...

I'm sure it's been up for discussion. Whether or not any action will accompany the talk is the big if. Ironically having a Minnesota team win the NXN title could easily be seen as a reason not to change the rule as if they can win with the rule in place, why change it?

Chad said...

That's true, but then when they're on the podium their real coach doesn't get any of the recognition.

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