On October 3, the girls cross country team competed in the New Balance Shore Coaches Invitational at Holmdel Park, where the state and championship races also take place. More infamously, it is the home of a large steep hill known as “The Bowl.” The team beat out over 15 teams in the competition at during this Invitational, finishing fourth out of 21 teams in the varsity race.
Aside from the challenge presented by “The Bowl,” the team faced rainy and windy conditions along with dramatic changes in altitude. Winds reached up to 25 miles per hour during the course of the race. “The weather was really bad,” said Head Coach James Smirk. “We also had kids taking SATs, getting there 20 minutes before the race, and not really having full warm-up time. There was a lot that went into us not having a great race.”
According to Lou Mialhe ’16, two of the seven varsity runners had to take the SATs right before the race, which affected their focus while racing. “It’s mentally draining and I think Holmdel is a course where you really have to be concentrated and save a lot of mental energy.”
The annual Shore Coaches Invitational is known to be a good indicator of how the team will line up for the start of the group and championship meets on November 14. “It showed us where we needed to improve and what fields we need to work on, [specifically] closing the time gap between the runners and working downhills,” Mialhe said. “We took a step forward from it, and we ran better at Fall Classics at Thompson [Park] because of it.”
Smirk asserted that the team’s performance at Thompson Park the following week, earning them first place, was a result of a more confident mentality overall. “Physiologically nothing had changed in a week, so how did we go from having a really bad day at Shore Coaches to having a really good day a week later?” Smirk said. “The answer is we brought that mental and emotional preparation and commitment and focus and drive to that moment and then we raced well.”