Journal: Eric Lawson

Submitted by Eric Lawson, Mauldin class of 2009

Day before, Oct. 12
Today we left for the Great American XC Festival in Hoover, Ala. We got out of school at 11 a.m., and grabbed a quick lunch at Sub Station before leaving for Alabama. Everyone is very excited for the race and the trip down.  
Compared to last year’s ride on a luxury charter bus, our bus ride was much more eventful. We took a mini bus, and every seat was filled, so it was a little crowded. We just got passed Atlanta when I heard all the girls scream, and Coach Howell began to pull the bus over to the side of an exit ramp. We had a blow-out on one of the inside tires of the bus, so we were going to have to take it to a shop to get it repaired. Coach was able to drive the bus up the exit ramp, and for the next hour we chilled at a gas station while he tried to find a tire shop nearby. Luckily we were at the most amazing gas station in the world, which had about 80 different drink choices, so we were able to stay pretty hydrated.
After we finally got four new tires put on at some random repair shop in Atlanta, we continued our trip to Alabama. By the time we got to our hotel it was already dark, and Coach decided that it would be best if we just skipped our normal run at the course. We were able to settle in at the hotel and relax while Mr. & Mrs. Morgan went and picked up our dinner that was being catered by a local Italian restaurant. Dinner was great! After loading up on carbs for the night everyone went back to their rooms and began to relax and get ready to sleep. Luckily with the time change from South Carolina to Alabama; my room was able to gain some extra sleep time. I went to sleep at around 10:00, and Coach told us we would be waking up to do our normal morning run.
Race day, Oct. 13
The next morning I was extremely tired, but was able to pull myself out of bed. It was very cold outside, so I headed downstairs to meet my teammates for our run. Coach usually leads us on a very easy 15-20 minute run the morning of our overnight races to shake out our loose muscles. I felt great during our run, and I could tell that Matt, Tyler, Daniel, Graham, Tyler P., and Kruger were very anxious for the race to come. After grabbing a quick breakfast everyone headed up to our rooms and got ready for the race. In my room I was talking with Daniel, Kruger and Tyler about the race, and I could tell all of them were ready to run, and feeling very good.

We finally got loaded up on the bus and headed out to the meet. After the initial confusion when Coach missed the turnoff for the school, we reached Spain Park High School with about 1 ½ hours before the girls were scheduled to run. I was able to talk to Alyssa, Hannah, Caroline, Lexi, Kathleen, Lauren, and Catriona and they were all excited about the very competitive field that they were racing.
Since I was the only guy on the team this year that went to the race last year, I took the guys team out and showed them the course. Everyone was feeling great, and we just talked about how ready we were to improve on our past performances. I was able to have some fun building up the suspense for the big hill at the end of the woods in the course. I was talking about it so much that the guys thought I was making it up. After they saw the hill, I told everyone that they needed to make their move there, and not look back. After the large uphill at about 4200, it is a pretty steady downhill to the finish.
We got back to our tent and I noticed that Chris Solinsky was at the Nike truck signing autographs. Chris Solinsky was the greatest high school runner to come out of the state of Wisconsin recently. He ran for UW- Madison in college and then became an Elite runner.  I transferred to Greenville two years ago from Illinois so I grew up hearing all about Chris Solinsky.   I went to get an autograph, and began talking to him about our mutual friend, Evan Jager, who is currently running for UW-Madison. Evan and my brother, Mike competed against each other in high school and are still very good friends.   It was really cool talking to an elite runner like Chris, and it gave me inspiration to run faster.
Our girl’s race got off to a great start, and I took the guys out for our warm-up while we watched the girl’s race. It was great to see them run so much better than last year.  They all looked so much stronger.  They were doing very good, and Alyssa was able to medal. They had a very good race, coming in seventh in a very competitive race. Last year our whole team did not do very well because of the extreme heat.  Alyssa was over a minute faster than last year’s time.  She came in 17th place with 19:03, then Hannah, Lexi and Caroline followed in 47th,48th and 58th place with a 20:03,  20:05 and 20:18.  Lauren Bennett was the 5th one in 74th place with a 20:18 followed by Kathleen in 80th 21:12 and Catriona Ewing 89th 21:41.  After watching the girls exciting race and warming up, we all headed back to the tent.

At the tent everyone got into their pre-race rituals, and I turned on AC/DC on my speakers. AC/DC has pretty much become our guy’s team pre-race music. I was feeling very good, and I was ready to do very well. I turned on what has become the last song we listen to before every race, How Far We’ve Come by Matchbox Twenty. After the song was done, we headed to our box, and did our stride outs. I called the guys away from the line and we had our pre-race talk, and then we all prayed.

The gun finally went off, and I was surprised by the race from the very start. I took it out at what I though was an easy pace, but after the first 100 meters, I was in about 10th place. I felt great, and moved to the front of the pack that I was in, and put myself in about 6th place. We went through the mile at about 5:10, and I just held on to the group that I was in. The second half of the race consists of rolling hills, and I was able to hold my position through there. My teammate, Matt Abraham was by my side, and we were able to work together and pick runners off.

We finally reached the hill and I saw our girl’s team waiting at the bottom to cheer us on. They were all facing the other direction and after I went by, I heard one of them yell “Holy cow, it’s Eric.” They were just as surprised as I was about my position in the race. I made my move on the hill, and never looked back. All the way to the finish line I kept passing people and speeding up. I finished in 24th place with a 17:42, which is a very good time for me on the slow course. Although the official results have me in 25th place, they gave me a 24th place medal. Matt Abraham came in close behind me in 32nd (17:49) followed Tyler Tesch 48th (18:14) and Daniel Weekes 57th (18:32).  Graham Harris 90th (19:18), Tyler Pommerenke 93rd (19:24), and Kruger DeKlerk 99th (19:35) all followed.   Compared to last year, the guys did a lot better, and my time was over two minutes faster. I was very excited because I had medaled, and all of the guys were in very good moods after their great races.

Going home
On the way back to South Carolina after the race, I talked to Chad Holt about the race, and he told me how proud he was of me and the other guys. Chad also had just had a very good race for Clemson at Pre-Nationals in Indianapolis.  I didn’t go back on the bus because our family was stopping off in Atlanta to see my brother at Georgia Tech.  I stayed the night with him and his GT teammates.  

Final note
Overall the trip to Alabama was a huge success, and it was very fun. It was great to have so many parents and grandparents make the long drive to support our team.  I was very excited for the guys and girls team and how well everyone had done. I am really looking forward to State now!  I am so proud of how hard our team works every day to get better.  Coach Howell really knows what he is doing, and I am very confident that he will be able to make me the best runner I can be. I am so glad that I have such a great high school coach.