Grace Tinkey Foot Locker Blog
Foot Locker XC Nationals 2011
(Cover photo by Victah Sailer, PhotoRun.net)
Friday evening after a relaxing yet fun day hanging out at the DEL with the South girls at the beach and pool, we had our pre-race banquet. The food was amazing, and The Del staff were really hospitable in making sure there was something for everyone, whether you ate pasta/spaghetti/chicken alfredo/rice/gluten-free, so that you could stick with your normal routine.
The desserts were always spectacular. They even had cookies with the Foot Locker logo on them. At dinner all the South girls sat together, which was routine because we always stuck together. The room was set up really nice, making it feel even more special to be able to take part in the Foot Locker event.
After dinner, just like at regionals, there was a question and answer panel session. Except this time, it was elite olympic athletes that shared their past and present experiences and advice. Suzy Favor Hamilton, Carrie Toleffson, Jorge Torres, Adam Goucher, Jen Rhines, and a few others were there throughout the course of the trip, encouraging and answering all the many questions we asked them.
After the session was over, they signed autographs for us before we headed back to our rooms to get some sleep. This year I had the privilege of rooming with Caroline Kellner, who's running for Cornell next year, and is an exceptionally sweet girl! I saw her mainly in the afternoons because everyone was running around and hanging out with different people. But after the race, she left me a note on my bag telling me congratulations, which was really sweet of her. I know Cornell is going to benefit highly having her be a part of their team next year!
The morning of the race, breakfast opened at 5:15 am, so we could eat before we loaded the buses around 7:30 to head over to Balboa Park. They had something for everyone, with all the hot foods, cereals, fruits, bagels, breads, and anything you would want to put on them. We all put on our Foot Locker attire, that Saucony so graciously provided us with, and we loaded the buses. The bus was definitely a lot more quiet than the previous day's ride to jog the course, because everyone was getting "in the mode" and listening to music. But the South girls were still chatting away and trying to keep nerves under control :).
We arrived at the course and headed to our "staging area" where we leave our bags and "shoe-up" after our warm-ups. I jogged the course with coach Sam then did a few comfortably fast strides then headed back to put on spikes before our introductions. As we lined up behind the Foot Locker sign, they played the national anthem while 2 sisters sang, and had a group prayer before we started out. Jorge Torres, our leader, kept us laughing which definitely kept us from being super nervous. I was so excited about it. It was one of the first times it wasn't nervous nerves, but excited nerves haha.
The introductions are always so cool as everyone cheers on all the athletes and recognizes their efforts in getting to this point in their cross country careers in high school. Luckily this year I didn't run down the wrong line of stars haha, so that was a bonus :).
After we ran down the line, we went to the "holding area" to finish up stretching, strides, and last run to the bathroom before we went to the starting line. We all lined up on the "green" starting box and sprinted out as the gun sounded.
The race went our relatively fast, with Erin Finn making a strong move, positioning herself as a top contender and making her stand to separate from the pack. This year was the first time I've ever experienced being in the chase pack during a race. It definitely was intense being up there with girls that are really strong and fighting all out. The first lap went by fast, and the chase pack was still just as tight as when we started, except for Molly Seidel who had gapped us as she took off after Erin.
The last mile was rough because everyone was just trying to hang on and make any last moves if they could before the finish. After going up the big hill the 2nd time, we were still all there together just like we were from the start. We worked off of each other just to keep pushing towards the finish.
I'm so honored to have raced these girls because they sure do know how to run a good race. Erin had a really courageous race, and finished in 2nd, doing great. When we crossed the finish, it was by far the hardest I'd ever run in my life. I'm pretty sure I speak for the other girls as well when I say this.
I ended up finishing in 6th, which I'm really happy with. God blessed me with amazing parents and coach that helped me out so much, especially throughout the course of this season when I was injured. Looking back I just am so thankful that God allowed me to bounce back like I did, just in time for Foot Locker.
The guys race between Futsum and Cheserek was intense because they were relentless, never easing up on the pace. They are two hard working guys, who really have a passion for running, which makes them the runners that they are. The South guys represented amazingly, winning the team title, and all finishing extremely well. Josh Brickell, also from Georgia, did amazing, finishing in 8th. We are all very proud of him also!
After the race, we went back to the hotel and took the group Foot Locker picture on the steps by the hotel, then got our lunch vouchers to go eat. We ate on the pool deck over-looking the ocean. The weather was perfect with a slight breeze and never getting too warm. All the South girls hung out at the pool and beach after the post-race interviews and ice cream sundae bar!
That night at the banquet we all sat together, and the room was set up so eloquent, definitely setting the stage for this banquet. They served us an amazing 4-course dinner while we watched the re-run of our races and the pictures they had taken. They called up the 16th-40th runners, then the 1st through 3rd all american teams!
Edward Cheserek did something really cool when he was presented with the laurel wreath and trophy plate. He called up Futsum, his fierce competitor and recognized him, calling him his friend. He allowed him to speak on the podium as well as be in the pictures with him. That shows true sportsmanship right there, and it was awesome seeing the top 2 guys in the nation behave like that.
After the banquet, Adam Goucher gave each one of us an autographed copy of his new book, "Running the Edge". I am definitely looking forward to reading it! There was a dance right after, and all the South girls just had our own fun off to the side haha, but we had fun. We all ended up staying up and talking for a bit before packing up our stuff and squeezing in 2 hours of sleep before our bus left at 4AM. Most of the South girls and a few Midwest all got to the airport together and we went through security and down to our boarding stations. We were there an hour early so we went to grab breakfast before we boarded. Right now we are on board our plane en route to Atlanta, Georgia :).
These past few days have been amazing! Each year has gotten even better, and getting to know all the girls, especially the South girls, we've all become sisters.
Hopefully, Lord willing, if I stay injury-free next year, I would absolutely love to make it back here one last time for my senior year of high school xc!
Thanks so much for everyone who has been so encouraging and uplifting to me throughout this year and believing in me! I love you guys and hope everyone has a Merry Christmas!
P.S. Thank you to MILESPLIT.COM for allowing me to share my story.
Some more photos
The Boys and Girls South Teams
Girls South team gets their shirts in the mail
Shoes in the sand
Today has been the most beautiful amazing day in San Diego thus far!!! The weather is pushing 60-62 degrees for the high, with a cool breeze blowing off from the ocean! Currently we are sitting beside the pool in lounge chairs, hanging out and relaxing before the race! This morning, awakening around 5'oclock California time, the air was crisp and cool outside, and I had the privilege of experiencing the most vivid, extravagant sunrise, rising behind the mountains off in the distance from our porch window!
One of the south girls, Lilly Williams, and I went to the breakfast when it opened around 6:30, which has an amazing arrangement of foods, ranging from belgium waffles to yogurt and granola, to an endless display of bagels!
After eating our fill of the most delicious foods imaginable we went back to the room to ice and enjoy sitting outside and conversing before we left for the course. That's what makes the Foot Locker experience so unique because it is not just that they put on a great organized race, but the relationships we form in such a short period of time. It feels exactly like a family, and there is a limitless amount of things that we all have in common and can relate too.
Around 9'oclock we boarded the charter buses headed out to Balboa Park. Two teams were aboard each bus, allowing us to meet the other qualifiers from the other regions. The course is directly beside the San Diego Zoo, and has a dog park near one of the loops in the course which is neat!
Once we got off the buses, we put our bags in the south "designated" area, and went through our introductions for the race tomorrow. This year we were assigned the "green" starting box and stars to run through for the championship! Max Mayo, the meet coordinator, went through the finishing chute instructions and other details before we jogged the course with our teammates, led by Jen Rhines and Carrie Tollefsen.
Coach Sam and I jogged the course and knocked out some strides after talking over the race. We loaded up the buses after, and we headed back to the the Del for lunch and relaxing. The room we had lunch in was beautiful with christmas decorations adorning all the columns, and overlooking the coastline! Once again they put out a great arrangement of food for us, every kind of bread, sandwich meats/dressings, and the most amazing desserts!
For now, we are just chilling till dinner when we get to hear the guest speakers and enjoy the pre-race pasta supper! Yesterday Foot Locker provided us with backpacks filled with shoes, wicking shirts, socks, jacket, and sweat shirt, along with the most gracious and helpful hospitality i've ever seen!
Can't wait till tomorrow!!!
Had a blast last night at the XC banquet in Atlanta hosted by the Atlanta Track Club, who did a great job arranging and running the event!! It was nice seeing all the runners again, especially not in running uniforms haha. Congratulations to all the coaches as well!! Keep up the good work :)
I really appreciated my parents, Coach Sam, and F.M Barron for being there last night as well! We have a great running community throughout Georgia and it feels almost like family by the end of the season , seeing runners from different schools and cheering each other on!
Wanted to wish Lindy Long, Kathryn Foreman, and McKenzie Nail the best of luck in Myrtle Beach this weekend for J.O. Nationals as well!! And everyone else who is, I apologize because I'm not sure who all is going , but have fun and run fast :)!!
We stayed in Atlanta last night after the banquet, knowing that we would be waking up early to go to San Diego anyways, so we didn't have to drive back up from Macon. We woke up around 5:30, finished packing up, and ate breakfast downstairs which had a nice variety of breakfast foods, and the festivity of Christmas was very contagious :) with multiple arrays of Christmas trees and tinsel everywhere!
We decided to take the shuttle to the airport , but not before we took a final picture with my mom before she headed back to Macon. My mom, if anyone of y'all have met her before, is the most encouraging and amazing mom anyone could ever ask for!!! She came all the way to the banquet last night with us, knowing of all the craziness going on at home. She's always there at every single meet ( always with her camera) haha, so if we are friends on Facebook you have probably seen all the pictures she takes. But she always makes sure to get one of every person on our team so they have a pic running if no one was there to take a picture! She hasn't been able to come to Foot Locker nationals the past 2 years because along with this, it isn't the only thing going on in the Tinkey household at the moment. My sister, Faith, is in the Nutcracker Ballet of Middle Georgia, once again for as long as I can remember. She's amazing at it, but all her performances run this week and conclude on Sunday, so my mom has her hands full with running to and from those performances and taking Christian to tennis, etc.. But God has blessed me so much with amazing parents and friends! So my dad is coming along, as well as a really close family friend, F.M Barron, and my coach Sam Martinez! I have no idea what I would do without those guys haha, they are always there for me, and never fail to be at the finish line no matter how I do! And I mean that literally too because Coach Sam is not only an awesome coach, he's a great runner as well, so he is literally always at the finish line because he finishes in front of me haha, well except for maybe once or twice :)
But back to where I left off. We left the hotel after checking out and we got to the Atlanta Airport at promptly 6:45, checked in our luggage, except for my running bag (just in case they lose luggage) and then headed to the security check!
I forgot that I had filled up my water bottle at the hotel before we left, so as we went through the scanners, they discovered it and told me to either empty it back outside or let them keep it. Well, I decided to go back outside, dispose of the water, and keep it because it's a special bottle haha, we take it to every meet. So I guess you could say its a "must have" necessity.
We didnt take the "train thing" in the airport , so we walked because our boarding site was close by. There was a bunch of unique artwork of African culture and vividly portrayed pictures of African wildlife along the walls as we walked to our boarding dock. Seeing the cheetah and lions on the walls, just remind me of how strong they are and never relenting till the end, kind of how runners are in races :)!
We met up with Murray our South Chaperone, who's been our companion the last 2 times out to nationals. If y'all don't know Murray, he's awesome. He's pretty much become the south's adopted grandpa, who's always there throughout the entire weekend, and knows how to run his part. We met up with Josh Brickell, who also was at the banquet last night, Olivia Ortiz , and Lilly Williams. Lilly and Olivia are both from Florida, where so many talented runners come from as well, like Bridget Blake and Shelby Davidson! Josh is from Georgia as well, so it's cool having a friend along from the same state!
Olivia, Lilly, and I are about to burst with excitement right now haha, and can't wait to meet up with all the others in about 2 1/2 hours when we land! Unfortunately we are all divided up in the plane but we all decided that's for the best for now so we can "attempt" to complete some school work with exams next week. As far as I can see Josh is being very diligent with his (row beside mine) while I'm trying to not get distracted by the people watching Harry Potter beside me haha. But studying biology is a lot easier to do when your confined to a small space between 2 people and unable to really be distracted by anything else, well except for this phone haha.
I'll keep y'all updated throughout the trip!! We are having a group "scavenger hunt" after dinner tonight , so that should be a blast! Go Team South :)
Also wanted to give a shout out to Wesley Frazier and Shelby Davidson! They are both the sweetest girls ever, and if anyone deserves to be here , they do! But everyone better be holding onto their hats because be ready to see them blasting incredible performances in track, indoor/outdoor coming soon! Because they are ready!!
Well I just figured out you can't send emails from a plane without paying about $15 dollars haha but I'll send this out as soon as we land!
Hope everyone has a great day!!