PennTrackXC is excited to introduce one of our guest bloggers for this cross country season, Katie Dammer of Abington Heights. Dammer is one of the state's top returners this season after placing sixth in AAA at the PIAA State Championships last fall. The senior attends the same high school as Tessa Barrett, a former Foot Locker national champion and one of the best runners in state history.
But Dammer has made quite the name for herself. She holds a personal best of 18:06 for an XC 5,000 meters and 4:48.51 in the 1,600 meters. That 4:48 came in the finals at the outdoor state meet in Hershey, where she placed second.
Dammer is slated to open up her final high school cross country season on September 1 at the Lions Invitational at Moravian Academy, but before that, she reflected on her summer of training and a solid first week of official practice with her Abington Heights teammates.
We're thrilled to have Katie sharing her thoughts with us this fall. Check out her first entry below.
Hi everyone! My name is Katie Dammer and I am a rising senior at Abington Heights High School in District 2. I am really pumped to write some journal entries throughout my senior XC season. My summer was a good one, both running-wise and otherwise!
I spent my very first day of summer traveling to Greensboro, NC for New Balance Nationals, where I raced in the championship mile. I have never participated in a national meet before, so it was a fun and exciting experience and I learned a lot from being in a race with such a stacked field. My race was super hot, but the atmosphere was unique and awesome. Even though my race wasn't stellar, I came away with a PR for a full mile (I'd previously only raced that distance at Penn Relays) and, of course, a pretty cool backpack. Can't complain!
I had never extended my season beyond states before, so it felt odd only beginning my break in mid June. Usually I take three weeks off after track, but since it was later in the summer and I didn't want to mess with my training for the fall I took two weeks. It's nice having some time to recuperate mentally and physically after a such a long season. During my rest time, I was a counselor at Camp Kelly, an all-girls overnight camp in Tunkhannock, PA, where I have been spending some of my summers since I was nine. It's a very traditional summer camp and it's always great to see my camp friends and take a pause from regular life (I have to say goodbye to cell service).
After that, I had a bit of time to relax and then got back into training and some more traveling. My family and I took our annual trip to camp for a weekend in upstate NY. We also went to Point Pleasant Beach in New Jersey for a bit (I love getting to run at the beach, especially because it's so flat compared to what I'm used to). I went back to NC for cross country camp at Duke University in late July, and now that August has come around I can feel school creeping closer but I'm glad to be back with my friends, my favorite running spots, and my routine.
This Monday (8/14) was our first official day of XC practice as a team. Some of my senior friends and I have been planning weekly group runs throughout the summer but it was exciting to have everyone together again. We have a decent sized team, and boys and girls as well as junior high and varsity all practice together in the summers so it makes for a fun atmosphere. It's particularly fun for me this year because my little sister, Allison, is an eighth grader and is running XC for the first time this fall.
The girls varsity team lost some of our top seven this year. This is mostly due to graduation, but also because my teammate Blanca moved back to Spain to finish high school there. However, we have a solid group of freshmen moving up who I think will be able to contribute a lot. There are some new faces, and many of the returning girls put in very solid training this summer. I am VERY excited to see how much the less experienced girls improve because there is a lot of potential. Our team has won districts for two years in a row so we are definitely motivated to repeat once again, but along the way I'm hoping everyone just stays healthy and has fun.
Individually, I feel fit right now but I still have a lot of work to do! My mileage is still increasing and will do so for another couple weeks, and right now I'm just working on building a really strong aerobic base (the same approach I took last winter, which I think contributed to a successful track season). Part of that build-up period means that I try to do two things a day--some combination of running, swimming, biking, lifting, and yoga. Having so many teammates, graduates, and other runner friends to tag along with me keeps it fun even though it's hard work. This summer I also got to get some runs in with Tristan Forsythe (this year's 1600m state champ!) and Jackie Gaughan (All-American from NH who I befriended through college visits), who to me are examples of the great people running has brought into my life.
Overall, I'm very excited for this cross country season, and I'm hoping it won't fly by too quickly. It's hard to believe that there's only one trip up Poopout Hill to go...