Journal: Converse College's Kevin Licht trip to Nationals as a coach

Wednesday, November 20:

This is my third National Championship in Washington State, and my second in Spokane.  Admittedly, I’m not a big fan of Washington; I’m not sure if it’s my devotion to the San Francisco 49ers or the fact that neither of the previous two National meets were joyous occasions.  Whatever it is, I’m looking forward to Nationals not being in Washington State next year.  

After a long day of travelling we were able to get to the hotel and relax a little before heading out on a run.  As someone who only does morning run with the team, running with Ashly at her normal pace is torture.  My days of being a competitive runner are in the past, I now look forward to coffee and Krispy Kreme donuts as a pre-workout meal.  However, as the only running partner she has out here, I have no choice but to accompany her on the runs.  It’s moments like this that I regret having our athletes run twice a day.

Thursday, November 21:

Wow it’s cold!  I’m actually looking forward to a race day temperature of 38.  We found an amazing breakfast place this morning.  It tops any breakfast place in Chicago or South Carolina; granted I haven’t been to many breakfast places in South Carolina.  But it’s better than Waffle House, that’s saying a lot.

We drove out to Wandermere Golf Course to visit the site of the 2000 NCAA Division III National Championships.  I was there as a Freshman and watched my alma mater (North Central College) place 4th when we went into the meet as the favorite.  It was bittersweet to be back on that course, but I’m glad we had time to stop.  

This afternoon we were very fortunate to participate in the Community Outreach event the NCAA puts on.  What an incredible experience!  I look forward to doing these in the future; it was a great opportunity for Ashly and the other athletes to give back to the community.  We might even try to do more community outreach at Converse now that I’ve been exposed to how incredible this event was.

Friday, November 22:

Race day is now becoming a reality.  We went through our traditional pre-meet workout of 4x150m floating.  Ashly looked very smooth and in control, she’s ready to go.  

At the hotel we were able to meet up with Austin Steagall and his family.  I’m still blown away by the fact that Gaffney High School has two athletes competing in the meet.  It speaks volumes to what Tripp Patterson has done with that program.  I know he’s only an assistant, but his passion is infectious and that’s all it takes.  Our sport needs more people that share his passion and patience with athletes

Saturday, November 23:

My former teammate and current Mizuno sponsored athlete, Patrick Rizzo, has said after poor performances in his professional career that you cannot pick and choose which races are your good ones.  Today was a perfect example of the cruel side of our sport.  Just because you’re in peak fitness doesn’t mean you will run your best race.  Coaches know this, athletes struggle with this.  Plenty of athletes have had their worst race come at the wrong time.  Athletes and coaches need to reflect on the performance and everything leading up to it in order to figure out what adjustments can be made.  It is poor coaching to blame the athlete.  

The gun went off and Ashly put herself in perfect position, right around 40th to 50th.  We figured she’d finish anywhere from 30th to 80th.  Ashly has 2:17 speed, we’ve never worried about her not being able to go with a fast start.  The next time I saw her was about 1200 in and I knew something was wrong, she looked panicked.  Ashly never has a look of panic on her face.  Who knows what happened between 400 and 1200, but I would guess the physical nature of the race combined with the cold air put her mentally in a place she’s never been.  There’s a big difference in hitting 400 in 50th place versus her typical placing of fourth.  

As a coach, once you see that look, you know what is going to follow.  Your only hope is that the athlete doesn’t beat themselves up too much once they finish.   It’s important that Ashly doesn’t lose sight of what she accomplished this year.  Her growth over the nine months that I’ve been at Converse has been tremendous.   She’s taken herself from a Regional level runner to a National level runner.  She has become the spiritual leader that this team needs.  We’re a young team trying to accomplish things we never thought possible; without her leadership we wouldn’t be where we are.  Success is never defined by your finish at the National meet or what times you run.  Your success is determined by your growth, and over these nine months, there is no question that Ashly had a very successful season.  Now it becomes my responsibility to figure out what adjustments need to be made for indoor.