Cross country: Twentieth annual Flyin' Hawk Invite brings the noise
High school cross country meets are organized chaos.
You've got people driving around in John Deere carts, and supporters are running beside the actual runners -- sometimes, you don't really know who's a fan and who's a runner, although the faster one is usually the one in the race.
Each school pitches a tent somewhere by the course, making it look, to the untrained eye, like they're tailgating for a concert. And the cowbells -- so many and so loud.
It would seem like it takes a lot to lock in. But apparently all it takes is a little bit of music.
Crystal Lake South senior Isabella Gonzalez (17:36.1), was running to Kendrick Lamar Saturday morning, and that was beneficial enough to take first in the varsity girls race of the 20th annual Flyin' Hawk cross country invitational at Bartlett High School.
"I listen to music, and I blast it," Gonzalez said. "I just get focused."
Even with the music up, she still loves the chaos and the noise and the cheering.
"That helps a ton," she said. "My coach was screaming and shouting at me, and that's where I separated. And it helps a lot just seeing like parents on the team and then my parents and stuff."
Fourth-place finisher, Jacobs senior Natalia Maciorowski (18:13.6), on the other hand, uses the quiet part of the course to lock in.
"I kind of tune into my senses," she said. "'This is what I smell. This is what I see. This is what I feel.' [I do it] to ground myself."
Cross country and running has actually been an important part of her life, as she said it's helped with confidence. Saturday morning was no different, as she hit a personal best with this 3-mile course.
All that being said, cross country is a team sport, and the support from peers keeps everyone together.
"I use my teammates in the race," Maciorowski said. "I used [Bailey Schwartz] as a visual. People use me as a visual, we all kind of help each other, and then the teammates that aren't running and racing, they're cheering you on. There's always someone there for you. So there's never a moment where you feel like you're alone."
Gonzalez helped Crystal Lake South win the girls race with 33 points. Jacobs (50) took second, Waubonsie Valley (118) third, St. Charles North scored 126 for fourth and Larkin 138 for fifth out of 15 teams.
Schwartz took second individually in 18:00.3 Other top 10 runners included Larkin's Heather Durrant in third, Crystal Lake South's Abby Machesky fifth, St. Charles North's Norah Dorrance sixth, then Lily Baibak (Waubonsie Valley), Colette Bacidore (Crystal Lake South), Ashley Gaba (Maine East) and Olivia Pinta (Crystal Lake South).
On the boys side of the invitational, Dekalb senior Riley Newport finished ahead of the pack with a 15:11.1 on the overcast day in Bartlett.
When dealing with the pandemonium of a meet, he just locks into his own world, and it's hard not to be when no one's in front of you.
"You kind of just gotta focus on your racing and focus on the rhythm of your running and just kind of always look ahead," he said. "Don't look to the side. Just kind of focus on yourself and keep looking forward."
Batavia senior Quintin Lowe (15:23.5), the runner-up of the boys race, echoed a similar sentiment saying that once the gun goes off, he is able to blur everything out and just lock in and just focus on the race.
So, to each their own. Whether they listened to the noise or they zoned it out and whether they listened to music or they listened to themselves, these athletes at the Bartlett Flyin' Hawk Invitational knew what they're doing.
• The rest of the boys top 10 started with third-place finisher Vijay Krishnamoorthi (Conant) in 15:31.8, then Andrew Beyer (Jacobs), Jacob Barraza (DeKalb), Aidan DeMuth (Jacobs), Zach Self (Waubonsie Valley), Alec Melendez (Jacobs), Ryan Kries (Burlington Central) and 10th-place finisher David Bednarek Batavia of Batavia.
Jacobs won the 19-team meet with 48 points followed by Conant (72), Batavia (79), Waubonsie Valley (96) and DeKalb (127).