Above: Abi Archer [#9] capped off her high school cross country career with a 10th place finish at NXN.
Nike Cross Nationals Journal
On the way Portland, I was unsure what to expect for the coming weekend. I only had ideas of what it would be like to compete at the national level in a race as hyped up as NXN. I knew it would be a completely new experience. From racing in the cold, to taking on the mud, to facing competition I had never raced before, it would all be foreign. The truth is I had no clue what would happen that weekend and I felt butterflies in my stomach thinking of what could happen.
The days leading up to the race were packed with events. The gear-up experience was incredibly fun, as well as spending time with the other runners in the athlete lounge. I got to explore the Nike Headquarters on a little shake out run with a couple Southwest teammates and we were stoked to take a few laps on the track around the trees. On Friday the course run-through brought the butterflies back to my stomach as I tried to figure out my race day plans. The Athlete Village set up at the golf course was like a runner's candyland; rollers, spikes, snacks, and personal lockers were all set up ready to go for race day. Back at the hotel I met up with my coach and we went over what Saturday's goals would be. We agreed that the hard part was over. I had qualified and I was there to enjoy the experience and perform however well I felt that day. There was no pressure and no expectations.
(Sam Schadler, Abi Archer and Riley Stewart at Glendoveer Park in Portland Oregon.-photo provided by Abi Archer.)
The next morning was race day. I could feel the nerves of those around me as I warmed up, and I tried to calm my own and maintain perspective. After introductions, it was a quick moment before I was lined up with a group of the best runners in the country. I was surprised to find that I felt a calm confidence as I toed the line.
The next 17 and a half minutes were a blur. Running with such a strong field of competition was extremely motivating and pushed me to perform. The mud and grass were challenging compared to the dry courses at home but it was incredibly refreshing to be racing in a completely new environment. It helped me forget my preconceived notions about how well I could do relative to others and simply focus on running relaxed. I fell into a rhythm and I worked on closing gaps ahead of me. The energy of the race was unlike any other. I soaked up a feeling that was calm, thrilling and bittersweet all at once as I neared the finish of my high school cross country career. When I crossed the line, I didn't know I had just become an All-American with a 10th place finish. I was just extremely content with how the race had gone and how far I had come in the last four years.
(Below: Archer post-race having secured a 10th place finish at Nike Cross Nationals.-Bryan Deibel)
The greatest take-away from this experience, and from this entire season, is to be patient and enjoy the process. Although this season had its ups and downs, it has been the most encouraging and transformative season yet. I am extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to compete at NXN and I look forward to a fast track season.