I love Sunday mornings in the fall. It is the one day a week where I can sleep all the way until 6:30 instead of 6:00, and affords me the luxury of an hour or two of sipping coffee and perusing the Sunday Times, yesterday’s race results, and my email inbox. This particular Sunday morning has been especially satisfying, as I received two unexpected but excellent emails: one from Emmett Scully, reporting on week one as a member of the Boston College Cross Country team (to be read at practice on Tuesday) and the other from Matt McBrien, following through on a long held pledge to write a ‘guest blog’ to post here. It seems somehow appropriate that those two emails came to me on the same day, as Matt has very much risen to fulfill the role Emmett took on last season, leading in both word and deed.
Matt’s topic is one I have considered writing about myself: the meaning, and the peril, of rankings. There is no profit in denying it: we are ranked 1st in state by dyestat Illinois, 2nd in state by Illinois Milesplit, and 1st by the mysterious ‘Illinois Track Talk’ poster “HCXC2010” (after years of reading his thoroughly researched and amazingly insightful posts, I still have no idea who this individual is – but great job!). On the other hand, dyestat national’s first ‘midwest rankings’ list Neuqua Valley and New Trier in their top 5, but nary a mention is made of the Red Devils. All of which is to say, no one’s cards have been laid out on the table, so it is impossible to judge how good any team really is at this point.
In Matt’s post, he offers the best advice possible on how to react to these top rankings:
The Lost Blog
I’m sure many of you woke up this morning to a picture of a Hinsdale Central football player on the front page of the Chicago Tribune Sports Section. Our football team won their opening game last night 23-15 against Bolingbrook, the number one ranked team in the state. You may not know that the Hinsdale Central Boys’ Soccer Team, ranked number one in the state, lost their opening game 5-2 against Plainfield North, described to me by a varsity soccer player as “not very good.” Some of you may remember that last year a website ranked York number one in the nation pre-season. It almost seems as if being ranked number one in the state of Illinois is a curse.
We are ranked number one in the state of Illinois by DyeStat, but I do not believe that Mike Newman has cursed us. I believe that we now have a conscious decision to make. We can either “rest on the laurels” of rankings, summer training, and prior success, or we can earn our notoriety every single day. I’m not talking about running well in seven days or running well at the Lockport Invite or running well at the Conference meet; while those are undoubtedly important, I’m talking about making a commitment to take every workout, every recovery run, and every ice bath as an opportunity to outwork our opponents. At 3:15 every weekday we must all focus on two things: becoming the best possible runners and the best possible team that we can be.
We are entering a different phase of our season. The summer is our time to prepare our bodies for the demands of running for Hinsdale Central, and I know that we have trained as hard as anybody in the state of Illinois. We are now reminded by Bolingbrook and our Soccer Team that people love to see a giant stumble. We must know that nothing is handed to us and that the word “Devils” stamped on the back of our new uniforms screams, “PASS ME!” to those donning the green and white, the blue and yellow.
I know that our preparation for the 2014 season has been prime. I know that this team has the capability to do wonderful things in the coming months if we uphold that level of intensity. I also know that there is one thing that could hold us up even with the proper training. We could very well race to uphold some ranking thought up by a former York Duke, and I believe we would run terribly with that mindset. I urge all of my teammates to run and to race to be winners and to be champions. Race with passion. Race to prove that Hinsdale Central is far from a one hit wonder. Race to ask this question to everyone toeing the line: “I’m ready. Are you?”