Tomorrow afternoon the NAU cross country team will be heading down the mountain to Phoenix’s Sky Harbor Airport enroute to beautiful Terre Haute, IN. Over the last half decade or so Terre Haute has really become a mecca of collegiate cross country; it is home to the NCAA Division 1 Pre National and National Championship meets. This weekend over 100 cross country teams will be flocking there — close to 1,000 runners — as well as countless friends, family and fans alike.
This will be my fourth appearance at the Pre National meet, and my sixth time competing in Terre Haute. The course isn’t really anything too special; rolling hills, all grass and several loops making for a good spectator experience. To many, however, I think Terre Haute holds a special place in their hearts. It is a place where dreams have come true, or have been crushed. The unthinkable has happened on several occasions (see Jenny Barringer and Stanford last year), although it has also been the stage for the favorites a few times as well (see Sam Chalenga last year; Oregon and Sally Kipyego of years past).
Luckily I will be showing up to Terre Haute with many more fond memories than bad ones. Last year I had one of my greatest cross country races of my long career there at the NCAA Championships, where I achieved my season-long goal of finishing within the top 100 and scoring for the fourth best team in the nation.
But this time I am hoping to be a different runner than in trips past. My goal this year is much more ambitious, to earn an All-American certificate. Achieving that goal is so much more than just showing up on November 22 fit and healthy. I have tried to keep an attitude of someone that has one last thing to prove. Each morning, as I leave my room, I see that Post-It note above my light switch that says “Do you want to be an All-American today?” Everyday I answer that with a simple “yes” and try to live up to that promise.
Saturday will really be some proving grounds for me. It isn’t nationals, so I obviously won’t be earning, or losing, an All-American certificate. But this will be my first opportunity to race many of the hundreds of other athletes with similar aspirations as me. I will no doubt be thinking, “this is your All-American season” as I try to show myself, and others, that my dream is within my grasps — I just have to seize it each and every day so that I can live it each and every day after November 22.