Graham Blanks: Day 3 & 4 NXN Experience

On Friday morning, we woke up a little earlier to get some breakfast and took the bus to Glendover Golf Course for the course preview. Upon arrival, we were taken to our respective tents in the athlete village which was inside a large building adjacent to the course All individual qualifiers had their own tent with lockers, while teams had their own private areas. After settling in and putting on our gear, a few of the Southeast guys and I went to preview the course. NXN didn't allow anyone to actually run on the course, however they allowed competitors to run in the designated golf cart path. On the day of the course preview, the conditions were great and the course felt very similar to Carrollton with short intense hills rather than long gradual ones like WakeMed. However, these conditions were going to change (foreshadow). After previewing the course, we headed back to Nike World Headquarters where we took it a little easier than the previous days as we wanted to try and rest our legs a little more. After hanging out all day, we went to get dinner and went to bed early.

I woke up at 5:45 on race day to get a short 1 Mile shakeout on the treadmill before breakfast. After getting those out of the way, we headed to the course bright and early and once again got settled in at the athlete village prior to the race. I tried to relax for about an hour before I warmed up 2 miles on a wood chip trail I found on the outskirts of the gold course. Once done with the warmup, we went through the athlete introduction where the 4 other Southeast athletes and I ran out on the finish line and then jogged over to the starting line.

There had a been a light drizzle from the beginning of my warmup but the rain was picking up ever so slightly a few minutes out from the race. The course was very muddy and at some points there was deep mud that was very difficult to run through. In the end and completely disregarding the conditions, I didn't quite have the race I wanted or planned on having. I came in 28th and finished with a time of 15:37. After the race, we headed back to Nike where we had closing ceremonies and dinner and then headed back to the hotel for the dance. I can confirm that the NXN dance is better than any school dance I've ever been to.

As I already discussed, although I didn't have the race I wanted on Saturday, I came out of this weekend with something much more valuable than a top 10 finish. Getting to experience NXN, represent Georgia, and make life long memories is something I wouldn't trade the world for and I couldn't be more grateful for the experience and this cross country season. These last four years of cross country hold some of my fondest memories and I'm grateful for my coaches, teammates, supporters, and competitors for making this sport and the last 4 years so memorable! Thank you!