By Dwayne Morris
It is a joy, watching our kids develop their strengths in running. Angela and I have a front-row seat to their many opportunities to excel on the course or track. This includes local, regional and national Jr. Olympics, Footlocker South and Footlocker Nationals, and most recently, USATF XC Nationals. Holding fast to our God-given responsibility to help them grow and develop, we simply make the investments to help them expand their love and gift of running.
Seizing the opportunity to take Logan to Oregon for the USATF XC National Meet was more than just another investment: it was allowing her to pursue a dream she has had for some time, a dream to join Team U.S.A. Our conviction is that parents need to discover what makes their kids "burn," add as much wood to that fire as we can and leave the results to God.
Logan and I left Charlotte-Douglas on Thursday afternoon headed to Phoenix, Arizona for a short layover. Our seats were in the last row of the plane, but we lucked out and had an empty seat between us. Logan used the extra space for a nap, and worked on an assignment that was due by midnight
We grabbed a quick meal in Phoenix, then headed on to Redmond, Oregon, where we made a startling discovery. We had to exit the plane onto the tarmac and walk 100 yards in the snow to the terminal. Luckily, we had lugged our coats with us the whole way. It was time to quit carrying them and start wearing them. As I made arrangements to get our rental car, Logan grabbed her bag and submitted her homework online with about 15 minutes to spare.
The days leading up to our trip were filled with constant checks on the weather. Bend had accumulated over 50 inches of snow in the month of January and all webcams and social media photos supported the notion that this was going to be an interesting race. We were eager to get to the course on "Preview Day" to see the conditions. The course did not open until noon, so we took our time, ate breakfast and Logan did more assignments.
The course was hosted at River's Edge Golf Course. Snow-capped mountains of trees and houses surrounded this beautiful location. We knew the footing below the snow would be smooth, but the looming question was: would we see the grass or just more snow? We were relieved to see green as Logan stood next to snow that almost came up to her waist.
Logan did her pre-race workout which included an easy run over the distance of the race, some pick-ups and strides. The entire time, she was slipping and sliding. I was very concerned about a freak injury the day before the race. This would clearly be a race for spikes.
Our next stop was registration to get her bib and food. We contemplated going to see a movie, but it would keep us out a little later than we needed to be and Logan had more schoolwork to finish. The hard part about success in whatever you attempt is having to say, "No" to things that matter least in order to say, "Yes" to things that matter most.
Race day was upon us. I had noticed that Logan never expressed any regard or concern about the race. It was as if she was on a mission. Since her arrival at Clemson, her coach, Michael Porter, had begun to take gradual steps to elevate her running. She was faster than she was a year ago and they had compiled a clear race strategy that gave her a sense of confidence in what she was about to do. It was not over-confidence in her ability, rather a confidence that she was as prepared as she could be. All that remained was racing hard and leaving the results to God.
The question of the day was what to wear. She could not decide: leggings or no leggings, gloves or no gloves, and long sleeve or just the singlet? As she walked to the Start, she had all three on with ear-warmers. At the last moment, she decided to shed the leggings and the long-sleeve, but kept her gloves and ear-warmers.
The trickiest part of the entire course was going to be the start. Logan's race was the fourth race of the day. The three races before her had chewed up the Start and it was muddy and had a lot of puddles. If she could navigate that well and stay close to the front, she would be okay. That's exactly what she did. At the 1000-meter mark, the front pack had established themselves and Logan was in 10th place. That was her plan. This race was only about place; in particular, your place at the end of the race, not the beginning.
The course was a 2,000-meter loop with mostly rolling hills. There was not much level ground for making easy passes. Any progress was going to take place going up hills or down them. Due to the footing, most of the girls approached the downhill with caution. Logan chose a different strategy she learned from Coach Porter and her teammate, Grace Barnett...embrace the downhill. This kept her in the mix. While she would lose ground going up the steep hills, she would make it up on the downhill and be right there with the lead pack. On the final descent toward the Finish, she moved into a solid fourth-place slot and carried it in to make the U.S. National Team.
The smile on her face made it all worth the trip. It was exciting to watch her prepare, keep a great attitude, race to the best of her ability and achieve a goal. Many of our friends and family start talking Olympics and such. That is years away, not to mention navigating the many variables that go into becoming an Olympian. For now, she just works hard to do her best for today and to leave the future in God's hands. Oh...and keep doing schoolwork.