The Finishing Kick with Katie Follett

Nov. 7, 2008

Blogger: Katie Follett
Meet: Pac-10 Championships
Location: Springfield, Oregon
Date: Saturday, Oct. 31st

Sundodger, Auburn, Pre-Nationals...Pac-10's, Regionals, Nationals. The Pac-10 Championships marked the transition from the beginning of the season into the championship phase, whittling down the number of teams to toe the starting line on November 24th in Terre Haute, Indiana. It also gave our women's team, which already had three opportunities to demonstrate its depth and hungry competitive appetite, a chance to do the one thing we hadn't done yet this season: compete against the #2 ranked Oregon Ducks.

I can not count the number of times I have ridden a bus to Eugene, Oregon in my last two years at the University of Washington. Between track meets and cross country meets I have raced in 'Track Town USA' a number of times. As a runner, it is always fun to enter an atmosphere where people love track and field in the spring and cross country in the fall, and come out to cheer on competitors. It was a relaxing change of pace after all the traveling over the last couple of weekends to get on the bus at 3:00pm and get off the bus directly at the Hilton in Eugene that night. We stopped for our regular grocery shopping and dinner at BJ's, followed by a delicious round of pizookies before arriving and settling in for a good night's sleep.

There was a feeling of uniformity and pride to be wearing the purple and gold as we walked onto the course on Thursday. The footing was fairly solid, something that helped a lot going into a rainy Friday morning. We jogged together, taking note of mile and kilometer marks, slight uphills and downhills, tangents, and key places for each of us to focus on individually. More strides and drills rounded out our pre-race routine and we headed to dinner. We ate at Mazzis, a quaint little Italian restaurant with a cozy ambiance. The mood was light and cheerful as we tried to figure out riddles and played a bit of team charades. Back at the hotel, the girls and guys teams met briefly with the coaches for a few minutes to go over our goals for the next day; to go out and compete like we have, gaining confidence from each other and chasing jerseys.

Riding over to the course Friday morning, headphones in, I glanced around and thought of how unique my team was. We came from different states, different levels of high school success, we have accomplished different things, yet we possess one singular goal: to compete as the highest level possible. Each member of the team brings something integral to our collective success. The bus was quiet, not because of tension or fear, but of quiet confidence. I had to smile to myself, as I began to think that this was just the calm before the storm.

A few hours later, we were standing on the starting line; muscles coiled and ready to spring...bang! We were off! The beginning of the race reminded me of a dual meet, as the purple of Washington and yellow of Oregon clashed together. Surrounded by my teammates, I settled into a familiar rhythm early on in the race. Continuing to build, I gained confidence from the fact that Mel, Anita, Amanda and I were working together, side-by-side, eyes focused on Christine and Kendra up ahead. As we passed we heard one Duck fan screaming at the Oregon girls, 'the Huskies are dying!' Mel fired back, 'Are we dying? I don't think so! Let's go girls!'

Our other teammates who had driven down from Seattle to watch the race were standing on the sidelines, encouraging us forward. We passed Coach Metcalf and Coach Kelly, the excitement tangible in their voices. We continued gaining momentum. Coming into the final straightaway, I saw only purple and it hit me, 'We've done it! We can score a perfect 15!' Kicking it in the homestretch I felt the joy of being healthy and able to enjoy using the body God has given me to compete. After crossing the line, I turned to see Amanda coming in after me. We all exchanged sweaty but well-earned hugs and high-fives with each other before exiting the finish area to greet our screaming, cheering and teary-eyed teammates.

Relishing the moment, but at the same time thinking ahead to the weeks and races we have yet to run, all of us eventually gathered at the tent and pulled our sweats on. After the cool down, we were all called up for the awards ceremony. Being able to stand at the awards ceremony and celebrate the moment with a team is, I think, in some ways more gratifying than any individual award. Standing and feeling the satisfaction in what you and your teammates have accomplished together is distinct because you could not ever feel that way on your own. Smiles all around, photos capturing the moment and all of our arms around each other, we received 'the baby,' a.k.a. the team trophy, to take with us back to Seattle officially ending the dry spell at Washington.

The Pac-10 Championships may have marked the beginning of our championship season, but that is all it was...the beginning. That night we talked about what things we can do to improve, and smiled knowing that there is more in the tank. There will be even better races in our future as we continue to look forward to Terre Haute, just as we have all season long.

-Katie Follett

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