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Peyton Barish, Sports Editor

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Saturday still doesn’t feel real. I still don’t believe that the three years of hard work we put in really did pay-off in the end.  The Nike Southeast Regional was the race we had been training for since sophomore year, and it was finally here.  We had tested ourselves against the best teams in the country to prepare for this meet, and we felt confident that we could get the job done.  The weather was perfect with just a little wind, and temperatures in the 50s.  My team and I could not have been more excited for the race.  Loudoun Valley and Milton High School looked to be our main competition for the two automatic qualifiers. Although both teams had performed at a high level all year and each team had runners who could perform extremely well, I trusted my team to get the job done.

At the start line we were right next to Loudoun Valley and relished the chance to face off against them for a third time.  The race started off at a faster pace than I had anticipated, and we came through the mile marker at 4:38.  After that, the rest of the race was a fight to the finish and I was just hoping to hang on and finish as high as I could for the team.  

Immediately after my race I found the rest of my teammates and we figured out pretty soon that we had soundly defeated Milton, but we were not sure about the other team.  Soon enough we discovered that Bolles, a team we had beaten two times earlier in the season had run the race of their lives, and may have upset us.  Walking over to the awards ceremony we had resigned ourselves to the fact that we may be faced with waiting for an at-large bid later that night.  Bolles and Loudoun Valley both qualified, and we were only seven points out of second place.  My team and I spent the next 9 hours waiting to see if we had qualified for Nike Nationals.

Nike has a committee that selects four teams from the nine regions to receive at-large bids by examining their resume, and how they stacked up against any teams that had automatically qualified for the national meet.  We knew that we had a shot at an at-large bid considering that we had defeated two teams that automatically qualified. This headed our doubts for a while, but the other teams that were also eligible for at-large bids were extremely well qualified to go to Nationals as well.  My teammates and I spent the waiting hours playing video games just trying to focus on something other than the at-large bids.  Finally at 9:45 they released the names of the teams that made it, and we all huddled around Ryan Kemper as he read off the names.  The first team was Timpanogos out of Utah who had performed at a high level all year.  Second was St. Francis Mountain View, a team out of California who had made a late season push to compete for a spot at NXN.  Then our name popped up, and we lost our minds.  All of us were screaming and jumping up and down because our region had never received an at-large bid in the 14 year history of Nike Nationals.  

Every time I think about it, the feeling does not seem real.  We had set the goal of making it to Portland after our sophomore year, and had dedicated ourselves to making that happen by the end of senior year.  I would not have wanted to take this journey with any other group of guys, and regardless of whether we had received an at-large bid or not, I am incredibly proud of all we accomplished this season.  We have one more to go and it’s going to be a good one.  Let’s build!

-Peyton Barish

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