Love To Run
Chapter 16 ~ Coach Kappa Adds Pressure to Lisa
All members of the Jaguars varsity were going to states even though only eight would run. The Jaguars were on the team bus at seven a.m. States were held at the Governor Clara Geyser State Park an hour and a half away. The championship race was scheduled to start at 10 a.m. Coach Kappa wanted the team to arrive with plenty of time to warm up before the race and talk strategy.
Lisa sat with Marie across the aisle from Mia and Leah. Five miles from the state park, Lisa heard her text ringtone. She pulled it out of her backpack. A text from Nicole.
Good Luck Lisa! I dreamed you ran a great race. Text as soon as you can.
Lisa texted back:
The bus arrived at 9:05 a.m. The parking lot was already filling with school busses and cars. The driver parked the bus near the back edge of the parking lot. Coach Kappa stood up and spoke to the runners.
“Remember, you are the champions. You will be the champions until someone beats you. Do not let anyone intimidate you. If anyone trash talks, ignore it. We’re the champs, we’ve been here before. We know how champions act. Did you see the dam we crossed on the way here?”
The runners nodded.
Coach Kappa said, “The dam is an important part of the race. You’re going to cross the dam and once across the course leaves the main road and veers to the left. Pay attention, it comes fast right after you cross the dam. You’ll run the perimeter of the reservoir before heading toward Falcon’s Hill. Falcon’s Hill looks a lot like Mason’s Hill. I think it’s about twenty yards longer and maybe a degree steeper. Use the hill to your advantage. It can make or break runners in an important race. Once at you get to the bottom of Falcon’s Hill, the course goes for about a mile on a country road through rolling country terrain before returning to the large recreational area below the dam. I am going to have Jane and Debra standing one hundred yards before you begin to enter the recreational area. When you see them, you’ll know that a fifty yard downhill into the recreational area below the dam is coming up. Pick it up, don’t wait. Once your at the bottom of the dam, the course veers sharply left onto the large grassy area. At that point it’s a 300 meter sprint to the finish line. Any questions?”
Mia raised her hand, “Coach, what if we don’t see Jane or Debra?”
Coach Kappa laughed, “Don’t worry, they’ll be calling out your name loud enough to scare the birds out of the trees.”
Coach Kappa said, “One more point, I need to mention about the dam. recall last week when the Stinson runners blocked Lisa on the path through the woods?”
Lisa answered, “I do, Coach.” The girls all laughed.
“They’ll probably do the same here,” Coach Kappa said. “If we’re to win states you’ll have to beat the Stinson runners to the dam. Their strategy will be to sprint out with their runners. The six through ten runners will try to block the dam so the faster runners can get a big lead on the field. They qualified as many runners as we did. We were fortunate to edge them out in regionals. I know it’s unfair and I spoke to the state committee during the week. They told me if your team doesn’t like it tell them to get to the dam first. That’s what we’ll have to do. If any of you get to the dam first. I don’t want any blocking, run your race, and concentrate on finishing as high as you can. Got it?”
The team responded together, “Got it Coach.”
Twenty minutes later, the numbers were randomly selected and posted for the three-hundred runners who qualified from across the state. Lisa tried to jump up over the tall runners in front of her who were looking for their names and the number posted next to them. Being as small as she was, she was one of the last runners to find her name. Instinctively, she started looking at the numbers at the backend, beginning with three-hundred. When she reached one hundred-fifty, a little smile crossed her face, she’d be in the front half of the pack. Still she hadn’t seen her name. It was Mia Hale who patted her on the back, “Lisa, you pulled number four. The rest of us are three rows back. You got to go out strong. You can win this thing if I don’t break through.”
Lisa felt her heart thumping like a huge bass drum. She didn’t look at Mia. Instead she looked at her shoes, nodded and went to the registration table to get her number.
Moments later Coach Kappa called the team together one last time before the race. She said, “We got the draw we got. Focus on the race, not the draw. Mia and Marie are back a bit. Lisa, you’re going to have to run the race of your life if we’re to have a chance at five state championships in a row.” She paused for a moment, “We know the Stinson strategy. I don’t think it will change since the regionals. They’ll probably try to get to the dam first and block other runners from passing while their best runners build a big lead. We’re running two races. The first race is to get to the dam ahead of the Stinson runners. The second race is from the dam to the finish line. It’s the last race of the season. Don’t hold back. Give it all you got. Okay, let’s go!”