(Photo by Kyle Brazeil, Emily Crall #168)
Emily Crall (Senior)
At Nike Southwest the seven of us sat in a circle with our hands interlocked, our fingers turning white as we held onto each other, praying as we listened to the team results. "Emily Crall, Baylee Jones, Haley Wolf, Amanda Davis, Brooklyn Christofis, Madi Bucci, Kelly Harris." We stood up and Baylee hugged me as I burst into tears. On stage we shook hands with Bernard Lagat, received our second place trophy and came back down to celebrate with the rest of our team and family as Nike Cross Nationals qualifiers.
After our plane landed in Portland, we were bused to Nike Headquarters. The seven of us were escorted into the theater where each of us had a locker filled to the brim with Nike gear and the uniform we would be wearing in two days. We also spent time in the athlete lounge where we met people from other teams and regions. All of Thursday and Friday we were kept very busy with dinners, a course run through, time in the athlete lounges, a Q and A with professional runners (Shelby Houlihan, Hassan Mead, Shalane Flanagan, Mo Farah, Colleen Quigley, Galen Rupp, Emily Infeld, Evan Jager). It was incredible to listen to and learn from the biggest and most successful people in our sport.
The day of the race, we woke up early and made our beds. The night before, our coach had given each of us a printout of a UT graduation speech by Admiral William H. McRaven outlining 10 basic lessons from Navy SEAL training. One of them was "if you want to change the world, start off by making your bed." We then rode the bus to the golf course and got ready to race. We got to Glendoveer, sat down in the Ahwatukee section of the Athletes Village, some of us thinking about specific race plan, others thinking about anything else except the race. Our coach told us that we need to trust ourselves and trust our teammates, that this race was routine, that if we ran to the best of our own personal abilities like we did in every other race we can accomplish what we want. So we stuck to our routine. No crazy pump up for nationals, no big pep talk. We were there on a "business trip." 5 minutes before the gun went off Messer gave us the nod and we took off our sweats, exposing a white and red uniform that read Ahwatukee. The gun went off and our first steps into the course sunk down into the mud. The course itself was a very unique challenge. In Arizona, usually the hardest things we face on a course are hills and strategic turns. Glendoveer Golf Course posed a different challenge. Can you lift your feet up and out of the mud for 3.1 miles? The course conditions were unlike anything we have ever faced before and we handled it very well as a team. I think we all can look back and agree that that course was quite possibly the hardest terrain we have ever ran on. We got there by team effort, raced selflessly as team members and accomplished a team success. Our focus wasn't earning individual glory, but challenging ourselves and our teammates to run the best races of our lives and for each other.