Frances Koons began as a 12 minute two-miler in 9th grade and today, finished 9th in the Foot Locker XC Championships, starting to cry in shear joy at her achievment just before crossing the finish line in San Diego, California.
Frances Koons at Foot Locker Nationals, in a photo by Kirby Lee for Dyestat
Despite the hyperactive atmosphere of the event, Koons went to San Diego to "represent Pennsylvania well." And that she did, getting focused on the race itself when the time came to run.
"The race itself was a little different. They made nice introductions of all the runners. I did striders. I stretched. I prayed a little. I did more striders. And just like every other race, when the gun goes off, you start."
"It went out so amazingly fast. I thought it must have been a 200 meter race. But we all got out well and it settled down." The only thing that bothered her during the race was the dust and dirt kicked up by the lead vehicle as they crossed changing surfaces, including grass, dirt and wood chips. "I felt bad for the girls up front. It bothered me a little."
Koons ran with the Northeast pack, with Lindsay Donaldson beside her, and Nicole Blood just behind. She went through the 800 in 2:35. "There were not established leaders, except for Jennifer Barringer, who was out there a little."
Koons came through the mile in 5:20. "That's my style. I was excited about that. I like it fast. But with all the runners around me, I laughed to myself, 'I'm definitely at Nationals'."
At that point, Koons was content to lead the second pack, with runners changing places the entire way. "We were within reach of the lead pack the whole way. That's what my coach told me to do."
At two miles, Koons came through in 11:16-18. "I thought, 'wow', this is really moving. It was so fast. I just kept pumping, telling myself I can do this. That's what running is about anyway, it's so mental. I just kept pumping the positive. But I also told myself that the faster I ran, the faster I'd be finished."
The pep talk must have helped, because Koons experienced something in the last mile of this race that had eluded her all season… a closing kick. "I had a strong last mile. That part of my races have been kind of shaky all year. I haven't found a second gear all year. I normally get passed. But today, I even caught someone at the end. I finally found a closing kick."