The UC Davis women's cross country team now holds a team and an individual title. Yet, these Aggies are still hunting for more. Follow the team throughout the 2012 season in the fourth installment of Distance Diaries.
2009 Distance Diaries
2010 Distance Diaries
2011 Distance Diaries
The 2012 season has passed in a blur for junior Alycia Cridebring and as she reflects on the season, she sees a wealth of success and opportunity, all of which will culminate in Friday's NCAA West Regional meet.
Exactly like it is said every year, and it's quite cliché, but this season has gone by so much faster than I expected. I could have sworn that yesterday was the first day of practice and the entire season was ahead of us. When on earth did I even become a junior? If things go according to plan, I only have one more season of cross country left, ONE. That means the majority of the girls in my class and I only have one more year to make our mark on this program, reach our goals, and walk away having given it everything we had. A daunting, yet exciting future if I say so myself.
Looking back, this season turned out much differently than I had pictured. Glorified successes at every turn and a back-to-back conference championship fell just beyond our fingertips. For those who have never competed in cross country, I'll admit is a lot harder than it looks. And its not even getting up early every morning to practice, running a million mile weeks, or sacrificing time to get more rest, it's the point in a race where you have to find it within yourself to keep going. In my opinion, ninety percent of this sport is mental, and the other ten percent is remembering to bring your shoes.
As a veteran, I have had the opportunity to see and experience a group of talented individuals join together to become a team this season. I have lived, laughed, and cried through our triumphs and disappointments and I can truthfully say they have only brought us closer, and made us stronger. Together we have bonded through happiness and heartbreak and that's what has made us a team. Being on this team requires knowing every strength and weakness, knowing things that make them tick, and things that help to inspire. Whether as a friend, a role model, or a leader, being a teammate means you are there for each other no matter what. Without even seeing their faces, I could name off my teammates hearing only the rhythm of their stride. That's what it means to be on a team like ours.
Although our potential hasn't yet shown up on paper, I believe it. Each one of my teammates has battled through so much this season, and each has grown with every stride. It's amazing to see how much everyone has improved and I know for a fact there is more to come. Through the disappointment of a second place finish at conference, we will come back fighting. In many ways, this season's results are giving us the opportunity to show up to regionals with more passion, pride, and most importantly something to prove when we step on the line in Seattle, Washington.
Erika Barr reflects on her first season as an Aggie and the pressure building on UC Davis as the women enter the Big West Conference Championships. But she also knows that pressure could translate into great things for the women and she is ready to help her team however she can.
Coming into this program, I knew the respect the women's team had earned the past year after becoming Big West Champions in cross country and track and field for the first time. I couldn't wait to join this team that was making history. I couldn't wait to be an Aggie.
It's hard to believe just ten short weeks ago, I became part of this team without any idea of what I was in for. However, I was fortunate to have nine other freshmen in the same situation to lean on. I remember the struggles my fellow freshmen and I went through to acclimate ourselves to the routine of the team. That first week of official team practice was one of the most painful weeks of my life. It's nice to be able to look back at where you came from and see where you are today.
An adjustment definitely had to be made coming from a high school program and moving to the collegiate level. I left my high school cross country team at the top of the food chain and being kicked back down to the bottom entering college was the biggest adjustment. The support from veteran team members is an imperative part of the transition process. Having so many people to look up to is truly inspiring. Everyone's desire to contribute to the team during the championship meets as made our team incredibly strong.
The focus of this team going into the championship part of the season is unbelievable. Every woman on this team has their eyes set on the goals made at the beginning of the season. With the conference meet just a week away, everyone is making sure to be doing everything they can to be at peak performance. Some may think we have a target on our back as the current conference title holding team, and they're right. But the pressure that comes with that will push the Aggie women even harder to live up to the expectations put on us. Conference is a stepping stone to regionals and we want to make sure we build a strong foundation leading into the regional meet in three weeks. I cannot wait to support my team in whatever way is best for the team's success.
Raquel Lambdin shares how the team's training trip to Point Reyes has made the women an even stronger unit which will be the most important factor in their success this year.
Entering my sophomore year, I realize that there are many things I have learned from my sport. The general understanding of cross country is that it's A LOT of running, which is very true. But it also goes beyond that. Cross country is a strong team sport and no team can go into a season or meet with the mentality of focusing merely on individual victory. Based on the way they breathe, the time in between their steps, and the pounding of their trainers I can tell you which teammates are around me and how far behind or ahead they are. That is how well each of us must know each other. This is how we work together and how we succeed.
Much of this closeness comes after we finish our five-day camp retreat to Point Reyes. This camp, in the middle of the coastal range, with no cell service or internet connection, feels isolated from the outside world, and it is on account of this seclusion that we are allowed to truly bond as a team and focus on one thing: running. To strengthen our relationship, we spend our down time at camp hanging out and learning about each other's strengths, weaknesses, personal goals, and motivation techniques. We come back from this experience knowing how to push each other beyond what we perceived as our limits and with a better understanding of the group's and individuals' potential.
You can't compliment a cross-country runner simply on her speed or endurance. Speed is more for a middle distance track athlete and endurance is for a 10k track athlete. Instead you might say about a cross country runner that "she is the fittest woman on the team." Fitness defines this sport, and that requires self-discipline. Fitness isn't who has the best abs or can lift the most weight. It's who gets the best sleep, avoids injury, doesn't get sick, and eats the healthiest food. This is what makes a good cross country runner. We have to make a lot of sacrifices to succeed in this sport and due to these sacrifices we are strong physically and emotionally. The foundation of our team is a group commitment to keep ourselves fit and to help our sisters when sacrifice becomes difficult.
It is still early on in the season for us but we already have seen the depth of this team. In previous years we made the conference title our dream goal. Last year we won it for the first time in UC Davis women's cross country history and before missing our goal of running well enough to make the national meet. This year is different. This year we are looking at the entire post-season and setting goals on a national scale as well. I have spent an a long time contemplating how to express in words the strength we feel as a team, but maybe the best thing to do is try to show people what that means when we race. I have never been as proud to call myself an Aggie cross country runner as I am right now. We are aiming to do great things this year and I can't wait to play my part.
Team captain Lauren Wallace shares the team's one singular goal for 2012: a trip to the NCAA Div. I Cross Country Championships.
There are two things that come to mind when I think about the journey that lies ahead for the UC Davis women's cross country team. The first thing is the memory of a day still fresh in our minds. November 12, 2011 was the NCAA West Regional meet; it was also the day we fell short of our goal to make it to nationals. We worked so hard last season, but in the end it was not enough. We came close to realizing our goal and were utterly heartbroken the instant we learned we would not be going to nationals that season and would instead have to sit at home and watch.
The second thing that comes to mind is a quote by Primo Levi which reads, "I also know how important it is in life not necessarily to be strong but to feel strong, to measure yourself at least once..."
In cross country there are no redos or make ups. There are not many chances to show your greatness. You have one moment. And every runner will tell you that this one moment does not come easy. This is what we learned last year on that November morning. We learned that just wanting and wishing to run at nationals would not be enough. In order to go to nationals, our team must put forth our best effort in every aspect of training and racing alike. We need to feel strong in everything we do - whether it be a workout, drills, or recovery. This strength, this feeling, is what is going to get us there.
This second part of the equation has already fallen into place. All of us feel strong entering the season, and we are ready to do something altogether inspiring. This fall, we will be measuring our strength on November 9, 2012 in Seattle, Wash. That is going to be our moment. We came here to be great and we are here to win.