My 2017 USATF Junior Olympics National Championships Cross Country Experience
By Kate Aman-Lavicky
In December I competed at the 2017 USATF Junior Olympic National Cross Country Championship. It was a great experience that Coach Scott from Badger Track Club asked me to share in hopes to inspire more kids to attend in the future.
My mom and I flew from Milwaukee, Wisconsin to Tallahassee, Florida on Thursday so that we had plenty of time to find our way around for the next few days. We stayed in a very cool hotel and everywhere we went there were tons of cross-country kids so we weren’t alone.
The hotel we stayed at was pretty close to where packet pickup and opening ceremonies were so on Friday my mom and I walked there. It was super cold outside and drizzling and we were wearing everything we brought. When we got in, we followed the signs and my mom grabbed the packet because there were no athletes in the packet pickup room allowed. Again, there were a lot of other people so it was crowded. At the packed pick up place, there was also apparel. The entire weekend, apparel lines were super long both at pick up and at the race. We decided to go on Friday because it was the least busy day of the weekend.
After all of that, we took an Uber to the race site. My mom and I didn’t rent a car and we ended up taking Ubers everywhere because it was a lot cheaper and faster than a cab. When we got to Apalachee Regional Park, where the race was, the first thing we did was look around for a little bit to find everything and went to the starting line. At the starting line, there was a man with a clipboard who helped us with questions and had a map of the route. (If you were there with a coach, they could probably help with your questions and explaining but I was the only one from my club who attended.) After figuring out the course and where to go during the race, my mom and I walked the entire first lap and worked out what I would do on race day. (Where to speed up, when to pass people before the narrow parts, where it was really muddy, how to start, where to run when it’s really crowded on the turns ect.) This whole time it was really cold and sprinkling and if I were to do it again I would definitely have packed warmer clothes even though I thought it would be warm. After that I warmed up a bit and did the second lap race pace and got a feel for the course when I was running.
After we got back to the hotel, we stopped for lunch and then I got my stuff ready for the race. I read the packet and put the chips on my shoes. Later that night, we took an Uber to the opening ceremonies. I really recommend going if you can because it was a really fun experience and there were tons of kids. You sit by region and they explain the race and have different people talk about USA Track and Field. Walking back to the hotel, it was pouring rain.
The day of the race we headed out to Apalachee Regional Park and had breakfast on the way. I ran at 1:00 so we left plenty of time to warm up and get into the tent. When we first got there it was really cold so I kept all my layers on and ran the full practice course. Then I did a lot of stretching and my strides with my coat off because I was feeling warmer. 30 minutes before the race they call everyone into a heated tent to wait before going to the starting line. You have to be completely race-ready when you go into the tent so it was chilly. We waited about fifteen minutes in the tent and then went out to the starting line. All 400 girls lined up by region and the starting line was really spread out, so for the most we were about 3 people deep depending on your region. While we were outside there were 3 whistles. 1 was when there was 6 minutes until the race, 1 at 3 minutes and 1 when you should be ready and on the line. The sun had been out almost the whole morning, but when we stepped out it was cloudy and cold so it was really important to stay moving and warm in any way possible.
When the race started, about the first 600 meters were super packed and crowded. It was really hard to gain ground because everyone was still going so fast. Eventually, the pace slowed and it spread out a little, running about consistently 3 across for the most part. The course in Tallahassee was really nice but also muddy from all the rain earlier. It was easier than my region’s qualifier because it was flatter, but harder because it was narrow. On the home stretch, it was pretty crowded and in the chute while everyone got their chips taken off their shoes. I had talked to my mom about a place to meet after the race because it was so tight getting out from the chute. The results flashed on the Jumbotron after. I had a personal best by over 50 seconds and my time was 16:35.87. I was very nervous but I am super glad I did it and it ended up being really fun. See some Pictures Below!