I find myself Saturday morning in Raleigh, North Carolina. I wake up and take a shower and walk downstairs to eat breakfast. Normally I would find myself at campus at University of North Carolina at Greensboro doing a morning run, but not today. The day before I had talked to a couple of Sherwood guys and found out that they would be at the Great American Invite in Cary, North Carolina, with Churchill. Normally this would have not been much of a surprise, but due to my awful sense of direction, I had never realized that my older brother's house would have been only 20 minutes away from the meet. So here I found myself heading towards the meet with my brother, my watch, and my chocolate granola bar.
Upon arriving, I ran down to the starting line. According to the weather channel the rain had cooled the temperature to around 65 degrees, but the course from what I could tell was not wet. I arrived at the starting line about 3 minutes before the boys seeded invite heat started. I could see Sherwood in the race lined up and after wishing them all luck, I ran down and got my watch ready.
The race starts off downhill through the first 1K and then loops around. Through the next 2K, the course follows back up towards the start/finish and follows a larger loop that continues through till the finish of the course. The course is relatively flat but there are some hills. Although on some of the previous days it had rained hard, the course had dried out pretty well.
The gun shot off and I saw Sherwood's runners take off.
" As a team our goal was to take top 5 overall. Individually Kyle and me wanted to break 16. The biggest thing to do on the course was to find a good rhythm and keep it. The course may be fast, but you have to able to run the speed necessary for a fast time, and you have to have lots of confidence on the last hill." -Jackson Reams
Jackson Reams, Kyle Tockman, and Alex Popeck took out quick and then settled near the front in decent position. As they went down the hill and continued, I realized that I had no clue where the course continued and where the mile markers were. I ran down and asked some Sherwood runners where the mile mark was and made my way down.
As I finally found my way to the mile marker I could hear the pack coming back towards me from the loop. I spotted the leader and I looked down at my watch to get their mile split, BUT apparently when I had went to click the start button I had accidentally hit the wrong button and switched my watch from timer to my alarm. "Blast you technology" I thought as the runners went by. Luckily some girl next to me was screaming her face red with the mile times. In about 8th place I saw Jackson Reams and Kyle Tockman working together running side by side. I believe I heard the red faced girl scream out 4:51 as they went by. About 20 seconds behind them around 5:13 was Alex Popeck and not far back from him was Vik Siberry and Matt Stitzlein.
As the race continued Reams moved his way up into 2nd place before the 2 mile mark and never looked back, running alone for the remainder of the race. Coming into the finish Sherwood finished with a 2-3 punch. Reams finished 2nd behind Tommy Curtin in 15:41.4 with teammate Tockman close behind kicking it in fast for 3rd place in 15:56.5. Popeck did well for running on a nagging hamstring, coming in at 16:55.6. Close behind was Stitzlein and Siberry in 17:00.3 and 17:01.7 respectively. Also note that that Siberry with a fever from the night before. Nicholas Lutschaunig and Nicholas Johnson finished in 17:55.6 and 18:06.8.
Sherwood placed 6th overall. The spread from 1 - 5 was about 1:20.
After the race I went back to the tent and talked to Zach Weinstein about his race previously that day. "Despite the rain, the course had dried up pretty nicely and it was soggy in only a few spots. As expected, everybody went out really fast. I knew that there weren't going to be many hills to save for and that the first mile was naturally fast, so I tried to go out pretty aggressively".
Weinstein found himself at the mile mark in the top 50 at about 4:55. Will Conway, Justin Rheingold, and Luke Shannon were in a close group not far behind. Another 10 seconds back was Alex Kim, Max Kogen, and Sushen Thiyagarajan. May I also note that Thiyagarajan's last name is unbelievably hard to spell, coming from a guy who has the last name Constantinides.
"I was able to pass some people going up the long, gradual hill at the beginning of the second mile, which was followed by maybe .25-.5 miles of flat grass. We had noted as a team that this was a good place to relax and go, which I tried to do but it seemed like everyone else was going just as fast. However, I took the next three down/up hills hard, so I passed a few people there. I heard 10:13 through 2 miles." - Zach Weinstein
Unlike the other race, Weinstein closed in a similar time to Reams but finished in 21st coming through in 15:41.0. Conway covered his last mile very fast and came through in an impressive 16:08.9. Behind him finished teammates Rheingold (16:23.7), Shannon (16:36.7), Kim (16:51.1), Kogan (17:07.5), and Thiyagarajan (17:18.8).
Churchill finished in 13th overall. The spread from 1 - 5 was about 1:00 minute.
"Apparently there was a crash during the first mile in which a few of our guys got tripped up in, but otherwise, everybody had a good race. We got 13th as a team, which was very humbling, but it was definitely a good experience to be in such a competitive and deep race" - Weinstein
According to both teams, everyone was happy with their race and most everyone PR'ed. Aside from the race, everyone had a good time on the trip. "I was really impressed with how everyone ran. It was also cool being able to bond with Churchill and really get to know them. Just the whole trip with those guys was fun" - Alex Popeck
As for me I went back to my brother's house and finished my run for the day. Good job to Sherwood and Churchill. I hope you guys had an awesome time.