Milesplit.US Cross Country Journals
Angel Piccirillo burst onto the scene as a sophomore with a rather impressive rise up the elite ranks in PA (and now the US), with a win in the PTFCA Indoor State Championship mile in March of 2010. She used that race to qualify for, and win the prestigious High School Girls Mile Champioinship of America at the Penn Relays Carnival less than two months later. And she finished her sophomore year with a win in the PIAA State Championship 1600 in late May (and 3rd in the 800). She wouldn't have even been in the mile during indoor if it hadn't been for so much snow. (That's another story you can read by clicking below when you finish her journal). After finishing 5th in AA in 2009 in the PA cross country championships, she gained valuable experience at Sunken Meadow by winning the Sophomore race in 2009. Oh, and she was named the 2010 PTFCA Female athlete of the Year after winning the AA cross country state championship in early November.
Angel has PRs of 2:11.19 for the 800, 4:53.11 for the 1600, 4:53.41 in the Mile, and 17:56.0 in the 5000 during cross country.
(Jr., Homer City HS, Homer Center PA)
Journal Entry #3 (December 15, 2010 - Running along the beach in December - ice cream sundaes - and of course, the race in San Diego.
Hey everyone again!
In this entry I will mostly be talking about my Foot Locker experience. This whole experience was really amazing. I really think that the whole trip and experience was a whirlwind, I loved it and the beautiful weather didn’t hurt!
So I will start at the beginning. We were scheduled to fly out to San Diego on Thursday and my parents, my coach, and I would have needed to leave Homer City around 3:00 am to make it to Pittsburgh on time for the 7:20 flight. But we had to be there 2 hours early, which would obviously mean I would get about 5 hours of sleep, and I wasn’t 100% sure I would be able to sleep on the plane. Since I wanted to have a solid night’s sleep before we left, we left Wednesday night instead, and the fact that we were threatened with a lot of snow around Wednesday and Thursday wasn’t encouraging either. Trying to avoid disaster, we left nice and early and I was ready to go to Pittsburgh, then fly to Phoenix, then San Diego in the morning.
Thursday, December 9, 2010
On Thursday we went to the airport early, I got on my first flight and I was off to Phoenix, Arizona and a connecting flight to San Diego. This all went well, other than the fact that at the last second I wasn’t aware that my gate at the Phoenix airport had been switched and I almost missed my flight (things can’t go too smoothly )!! But then from the airport we met up with a few other members of the Northeast team and fellow Foot Locker Finalists. From there we rode a bus to the Hotel Del Coronado, which was sooo beautiful! I didn’t expect it to be wonderfully mastered and so close to the beach (my hotel room had an ocean view)!! When we first arrived at the hotel we checked in and were given a whole bag of free clothing, shoes, and our uniforms of course!! This blew me away! So after that and we got our rooms sorted out and I finally found out who my roommate was (Emma Brink, from Kentucky and she was soooo awesome and super sweet!!), there was an optional run planned for all the finalists together. I was wondering how this was going to work, but I was so excited. Being from a small school with limited runners, running with more than 3 or 4 girls at a time is completely foreign to me, let alone around 80 of the most elite boys and girls cross country runners in the United States!! This was really one of the highlights of my whole experience, it was great bonding and running beachside was so beautiful! After that, we got ready and had an awesome dinner!! The food at our hotel was super good and every night it was something different. On Thursday night, they also had airbrush tattoos (there are some awesome pictures on the Foot Locker website and some of us Northeast girls got tigers on our legs and NE on our shoulders). And they also had a really cool photo booth available to us and some of those pictures are on the website too.
Friday, December 10, 2010
On Friday morning we had breakfast and were bused over to Balboa Park to walk the course. This was the first time I was going to see the course so I was very excited. And I had also planned to meet my coach there after I had walked/ran the course with all the finalists. After we walked the course and I ran it a few times and I felt comfortable, I got to visit with my parents, coach and fellow teammates which was really awesome and the atmosphere there was unreal, everything looked so good and it was like a dream. And seeing a few familiar faces there didn’t hurt! It was awesome to get to see Don Rich out in California along with my parents and coach. After we saw the course, visited, and were ready to go we had lunch back at the hotel and had most of the rest of the day to relax. I got to see the beach which was really cool!! And crazy, it was December and I was in shorts walking on the beach!! Then later that night we went to a pasta dinner which was so good!! There was no lasagna sadly, but my parents went for an early lunch before the dinner and got me take-out lasagna for the night before (phew)!! Now it’s almost race time!!
Saturday, December 11, 2010
So Saturday morning is finally here and there’s no turning back. Throughout this whole trip, no matter how much fun we were having, this time has been in the back of my mind. I’ve kind of had to remind myself this is really happening but remember we are all here for one thing, the race. We ate breakfast and were on the buses ready to go to the course and get ready to race. I am happy that when we got there we didn’t have too much time to play with so there wasn’t too much time to fret. Next thing I know we are on the line and the guns about to go off. The race begins and as predicted, it went out fast. My strategy for this race was to mix it up from the beginning, be close to the front and stay in contact with the lead pack. After that rough first mile that plan wasn’t really working out, I was trying to stay as positive as possible but I felt like I was just hanging on and that’s not how I wanted to feel. So, although I may not have gotten the place I wanted in the end, the experience was like nothing else and I gave it my best. This was really the first time I had been in a race of this caliber and I think one of the major factors I hadn’t really thought about was the depth! You know you are hearing that it’s the best 40 girls in the country but you don’t really know the meaning of that phrase until you’re in that race, we are all so used to being in races where there are maybe 5 or 6 girls we need to worry about in any race, here we all had 40 girls and they were all completely legitimate contenders. That was really eye-opening but an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything. But after the race I saw a few more familiar faces, including one of my PA girls, Katie Kinkead!!! It was so nice to see her and talk a little bit more then we usually get to at these races! After cheering on the Northeast guys in their race, we were all boarded back on the buses and headed to the hotel. We had a really awesome sundae bar waiting for us back at the hotel and interviews to do but after that we had some free time before the banquet. I went to the beach again, I couldn’t get enough!! And the banquet was also really wonderful, overall I can’t say it enough how special this whole event really was and I may not be the biggest fan of cross country but having a carrot like this dangling at the end of the season is the kind of material that can really change my mind! But let’s not get too crazy
Also congrats to all the other awesome PA runners who just finished their cross country seasons’ at nationals, Zach and Chris at Foot Locker with me and Margo and Wade at Nike!! Great job everyone!
Journal Entry #2 (December 8, 2010 - With the cold in the western PA mountain, it was the pool and gym for Angel. Now it's off to San Diego.
Hello everyone again! I hope you all had a good week of either rest or training!
I have had somewhat of a weird schedule recently, because of the weather, but I got some good workouts in before it got too dangerous. I had a 5 mile tempo run at about 6:30 pace, which was even more difficult because I was running by myself. I mean I have gotten used to that, but it still makes it difficult to stay focused. Other than that and I was basically doing shorter miles and a lot of swimming, especially this week because of the cold snap we got! It was soo cold we were doing a lot of work on the elliptical, bike, treadmill, and in the pool to make up for the time we couldn’t be spending outside.
But it’s definitely weird to still be running cross country. I’m not really used to having a season this long, let alone a cross country season this long! But I can’t say I’m not super excited to go to San Diego and see what I can do there. The experience is going to be awesome, I just wish my family and friends could be coming with me (and I think they do too) . The day before I left, Wednesday at school, some of my close friends put posters up all over my school saying congratulations and good luck at nationals with pictures from regionals and states!! It was such a nice surprise and they have been so supportive of me and I can’t thank them enough! And I also wanted to mention that the spaghetti dinner at my church went really well and I can’t say how much I appreciated everyone’s help and support and now my parents and coach g will definitely be coming with me!!
Another surprise I received when I came home from nationals was a phone call from one of my biggest supporters (and I’m a super big fan of his too) Big Choc!!! I absolutely love it when he calls me and it never ceases to brighten my week! I can’t wait to see him again when track season comes around, someday!
I’m now packed and ready to go for San Diego and I’m so excited! Good luck to all the other Foot Locker Finalists, see you in California!
Journal Entry #1 (December 2, 2010 - Getting to Foot Locker Nationals from Homer Center PA via Sunken Meadow Park, Long Island NY
Winning the 2010 PIAA AA State's in XC - photo by Tim O'Dowd
The first journal I’m writing is about the time between States and when I ran in New York City at the Foot Locker Northeast Regional race. This may have seemed like a short period of time but it really felt like forever. I had a lot to do in this time and really for me, most of it was mental. My coach and I kind of broke the time up before regionals, but after states I had three days off to relax and keep my legs as fresh as possible, which was awesome. I had a week of some hard workouts, reminding me I could run fast and also that hills shouldn’t be a surprise. And then the next week right before we left for New York I had somewhat of a taper week. My training mostly consisted of me having those three days off, then we have this run that’s 3 miles all uphill!! (which means you get 3 miles downhill ) , then I ran mile repeats at sub 6:00 min mile pace, and a few days, as the week went on, I ran a few paced 400’s at the end of practice. We also just continued to run hilly runs at an easy pace, and when we did, I also swam.
Going into this race, as I mentioned earlier, I had a lot of mental work to do. If I have learned anything throughout this last year of serious running it’s that it’s truly 99% mental, and for me sometimes it feels like 100% mental. Especially this race was extra tricky, because at the beginning of the season I hadn’t thought much about Foot Locker and what I could do there, but I knew I was planning on going and that, I knew I had done well there last year (winning the sophomore race in 20:17.1) but it was a super stressful experience without my coach. But anyway, back to this season, I tried not to think about it too much and focus on these meets one at a time. So at the beginning of the season I was running fairly well against some seriously good competition so I started to think that maybe I would have a legitimate shot at making it to San Diego. But in the back of my head I couldn’t forget how “stacked” the Northeast is this year and that there are so many strong runners just here in PA, let alone the all the other states included in the Northeast. So I began to think, “Ok maybe I’ll be in the top 15 and get a good time” and anyone who knows me knows that cross country is not my favorite sport so I was ok with that. I was trying to convince myself to stay realistic and try to keep my head here on Earth. But then as the season's end drew near, I realized that maybe I did have a chance, especially because of how I felt after states. And now I think that was the hardest part of this time between states and Foot Locker, I had to get myself back into the correct mindset. I just had to constantly remind myself that it IS possible for me to make it, and that if I worked I MIGHT be able t make it. This was the hardest thing to wrap my head around, that fact that I might be headed to San Diego and I really had to believe that to make it true.
Finishing 6th at Foot Locker Northeast Regionals - photo by Don Rich
Then everyone begins to develop their opinions on the possible contenders, and who they believe has the best shots at qualifying. When I saw that someone had suggested that I had the best chance in PA to make it to nationals, this blew me away, I can honestly say that I never would have guessed I would be in that position in a million years, let alone this one! So now the pressure comes, and right before this meet I was chosen by the PTFCA to be the PA XC female runner of the year!! Now people were really expecting me to go out there and represent PA and that’s what I planned to do. But these previews and opinions can really show you where you are in the standings and as far as I could see, I was being called more of a “bubble” runner; by this I mean I was more of a “surprise” or wildcard. Which, I mean, I was honored to be mentioned among the best runners in the country, but it’s still so nerve-racking. So we finally leave for New York on Wednesday around noon and the most surprising part is that we made it there fairly painlessly (maybe because there was no school van involved). When we arrived at our hotel I was pretty beat so I went to bed excited for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade the next morning. The parade was definitely a highlight to this trip, I watched it from Central Park with my coach and his family. I was so awesome, but after that it was time to get back to business and visit the course. Now Coach G and I might seem pretty naïve, but we left for Long Island and Sunken Meadow Park allotting the amount of time that it “should” take, which was completely not realistic! We found out the hard way that an hour trip turned into 2 and half! But we finally did make it and I got to see the course (Cardiac was just as bad as I remembered!) but other than that everything was pretty good, I was definitely feeling more comfortable now. And I only had one more day until the big race! On Friday it was nice because we didn’t have much planned except getting to our other hotel which was actually on Long Island, because before this we were staying in Manhattan. So we get to our hotel and while my family and I are waiting for Coach G and his family to check in he calls and tells me we are going to be going to the meet headquarters to see Don Rich!! This was definitely another highlight to my trip. I think that really cleared my head and helped me to focus and get my head back in the right place. Thank you Don!! After that, we went to eat at Olive Garden (one of my favorites!) to get some good pre-race Italian food! I always have lasagna the night before a race!! I love it!
Piccirillo doens't just love lasagna - she devours it, as evidenced by this well-deserved
certificate from an Italian restaurant in Hershey PA - note the date,
the night before the 2010 state championships.
Now it's race day and I’m getting really nervous because it’s only a few hours until we are on the line and there’s no turning back. So I do my warm-ups, prepare myself mentally and I should be ready to go. So we get to the line and I’m finally ready and it’s time to do what we are all here to do. The race went pretty well for me, I mean there was definitely room for improvement, but I was just so thankful for the opportunity to race against that kind of competition and the fact that I was able to qualify for San Diego is still unbelievable. After the race was the best feeling ever, just being in that white tent was better than words can describe to finally know that I’ve just earned my trip to San Diego!! What an awesome Christmas present!! It was also so cool to get to talk to Aisling Cuffe and Emily Lipari after the race; they are both so nice and obviously great runners! I was also so excited to meet my new Northeast team; it’s going to be great running with them and getting to know them better!
Now that I’m finally back at home, I will be continuing my training and when we went to church the next morning my family and I were told that the members of our church would be having a spaghetti dinner for us to help raise money for my parents’ travel expenses and we are so thankful to have so much support. I also want to thank my coach and his family for going on this trip with me and being there for me 100%, it meant so much! And I can’t say how happy I am to be headed to San Diego!! Also congrats to all PA runners who competed at regional qualifying races!! Good luck at nationals to Wade, Margo, Zach, and Chris!!
Meet the top seed in the girls' Penn Relays Mile: Angel Piccirillo. Who knew? (publlshed April 19, 2010 on PennTrackXC.com)