Editor's Note: Cross country junior Conor Phelan will take some time over the course of the 2011 season to share his thoughts and experiences in an ongoing blog that offers readers an inside look into life as a Spider both on and off the course. Below is his eighth entry of the season.
It always amazes me how quickly time flies by. It is already the Sunday after the A-10 Championships, the third of my four overall as a Spider. A-10s has been an amazing experience every year.
Freshman year we traveled to St. Louis, Mo., where we ran four laps on a simple 2K loop in six inches of mud the entire way. We ran right up to the subliminal Gateway Arch next to our hotel and ate at a fun restaurant in downtown St. Louis. The following year we headed up to colder weather in Pittsburgh, Pa., where I learned that Pittsburgh apparently has the most bridges of any city in the world and ran on one of the toughest cross country courses up and down the side of a mountain. The highlight of that trip was of course bringing home the A-10 trophy, which is something we are looking to do next year as well. This year we headed down to balmy Charlotte, N.C... wait, it was actually 40 degrees. The course at the Frank Liske Park was full of sharp turns, thick grass and fast dirt trails meandering through the woods.
We ran well together as a team, with our top five having an only 30-second split. As a whole, we were farther back than we had hoped for, and that is something that we promise to change for next year. I know that on yesterday's course I was not the runner I know I can be and that next year I am going to show what I am capable of.
Among our top five runners this year were three freshmen! Andrew Valenski ran better than a 30-second PR to place 25th as the top Spider. If I could describe him in one word, it would be "fighter". Andrew does not go out on the race course and run but pushes his body to the limit, throwing himself up and down hills, tearing heedlessly around corners and using every ounce of his energy to make himself move forward. No, Andrew doesn't just run, he battles. His hard work this season clearly paid off, and you can definitely look for great things from him in the future.
The next freshman to finish was big ol' Billy Fayette. At 6'4'' Billy strikes you more as a NFL linebacker than a stellar distance runner. But watch him run and suddenly the thought of Billy wearing a helmet and shoulder pads instead of a racing singlet seems a bit ridiculous. Billy ran a gutsy race and placed third for the team in a time of 25:42.
He was followed closely behind by the third freshman in the top five, Matt Groff. Many might not know this, but Matt is a master of balancing. Along with the typical demanding Richmond academic workload, Matt is a member of the ROTC program and has to run on his own some days when he has to wake up at 5 a.m. to attend an ROTC training session. Just like Andrew and Billy, Matt has fully given himself over to Coach Taylor's training program, which in turn has allowed him to excel as a runner this season. Matt crossed the line in 25:46 yesterday to place 41st in the race.
Before I conclude this week's post, I have to mention the amazing race put forth by Jill Prentice to claim the A-10 women's individual title. Jill looked strong and focused from the gun, and with a half-mile to go put a 10-meter lead on the pack to take what was rightfully hers. At that point, it was clear there was no way Jill was going to let anyone come close to her as she powered up the final hill to the finish. Congratulations, Jill, on a truly inspiring performance.
I look forward to writing you all next week as we train for the NCAA Southeast Regional meet after hopefully getting in a workout on our newly-formed training grounds on university property out west of campus.
As always, many thanks to the parents, friends and relatives of our athletes who took the time and energy last weekend to make it out to watch us do what we love.