Foot Locker Journal: Tori Gerlach, Pennridge High School

December 1st

The first journal I will be writing is my time between States and the Northeast Regional Race held in New York. After a devastating 12th place finish at the State meet, it was very hard mentally for me to bounce back. The race did not go as planned, and I debated whether or not even to run at Regionals. My legs did not feel fresh and I just wanted to be done. Cross country is a very difficult sport. It not only tests your willpower and determination, but it also tests your mental toughness too. Some days you have it, and some days you don’t, and for some, like me, that is very hard to understand. Anyway, after taking some time to think about it, I made the decision to run. I didn’t want to end my senior year with a race like that. I had set some high goals in the beginning of the season, and I wasn’t going to let this one race stop me from reaching them. After States, I decided to take 3 days off. Not only to give my legs a rest, but to also mentally get my head back in it. My coach decided to do some track workouts to boost my confidence.  My legs felt fresh and the week following Regionals, I had some great workouts. It reminded me that I could run fast and I mentally felt a lot stronger.

Exiting the picnic grove at Sunken Meadow - Photo by Marleen Van den Neste  

Going into the Regional race, I didn’t know what to expect. I placed 4th as a sophomore in the sophomore race, and I placed 23rd there my junior year in the championship race, so I already had some experience with the very challenging course. I was looking to do better than that and figured I had a shot at making it. I just wanted to do my best and end my High School cross country career on a good note. My legs felt good that week, so I knew the only thing that could get in my way of running well was the mental part of it. I just had to believe and stay confident. My coach was unable to make it to the race, but we exchanged a few words that week at practice and he really helped me mentally prepare for this. He got my head back into it, and I thank him for that.

My Mom and I headed up to New York on Friday morning. We got to the course around 12 and we decided to review the course before checking in to our hotel. When we got there, I anticipated it to be rather chilly outside (since it was for the past 2 years) but it wasn’t! It was beautiful outside and there was barely any wind. We walked the beginning part of the course and it was exactly how I remembered it being, flat. I don’t think of myself as a hill runner, so I was a little nervous about the two hills we had to go up, but I have run them before so I knew what to expect. They are pretty rough, but I expected them to be. Cardiac hill is probably the hardest hill I have ever run up and I started to get nervous and doubt myself while reviewing it. I had only done one hill workout in the 2 weeks I had to prepare for this race, so I got worried. My mom then reminded me of how much I wanted this and all the hard work I had done this year, and the years before. That helped me a lot. After Cardiac, the last mile is all downhill and flat, which I liked. I knew that’s where I had to make my move in the race. After reviewing the course, my mom and I went to check in to our hotel and that night, we went to Applebee’s with Conner Quinn and his family. I felt relaxed and calm because it was a time where I didn’t have to worry about the race.  When my mom and I got back to our hotel, she gave me a massage to get the blood moving in my legs and we went to bed early.

Since my race was at 11 am, I got to sleep in a bit which was good. That feeling of knowing everything you worked for now comes down to this one race, can be overwhelming. You have to mentally tell yourself, “you’re ready” and everything will fall into place. As I was warming up, my legs felt sluggish, and tired, but there was no time for excuses. I didn’t panic but there was still some doubt in the back of my mind. I was trying not to add any more pressure on myself than I already had.  This race was more of a self satisfaction and I wanted a good race to end with, whatever the result may have been. There were no expectations from anyone but myself and that made me feel relaxed. As I got on the line, I felt comfortable and all the nerves from that morning went away. I’ve never been more relaxed in a big race like this before, and I felt confident about it. Knowing you're racing some of the best girls in the whole Northeast Region is exciting and a great experience. The race went very well and I did even better than I expected. As I crossed the line, I knew exactly what place I was in and I have never been more relieved in my life. To know that all the work you put in that entire year finally paid off, is an amazing feeling. Since I was a freshman, my main goal for cross country was to make Foot Locker nationals. Since I reached that goal, I’ve never been more proud of myself. To also be one of the few in that white tent isn’t something to complain about either! I was also excited to meet my Northeast team! They are all so nice and they are just as excited as me to make that trip out to San Diego to represent our region well!!
Since I’ve been home, I have continued with my training and it’s going well. People at the Bucks Country Running Company raised enough money to help get my Mom to San Diego as well! I am so thankful to have that support and it means so much!

     I would also like to congratulate Angel on a fantastic win! And Meredith and Dustin for qualifying for Footlocker Nationals! I would also like to congratulate Ann Herman for qualifying for Nike Nationals! Pa represented very well!!! Good luck to all athletes in their meets.

December 8th

    Since my Mom and I had to catch an early flight at 6 am, we decided to stay at a hotel that night near the Philadelphia airport. We had to wake up at 3 am just to get there. I was exhausted, but very excited! As we boarded the plane, I was already feeling the nerves, but it was a good kind of nerves. I wasn’t nervous for the race just yet but for the whole experience itself. I got on my first flight with my Mom to Charlotte, North Carolina and had a connecting flight to San Diego. Everything went very well, other than the fact that I was really tired and it was a very long flight. The time difference was also kind of frustrating because it’s almost like I started my day all over again by the time I got there! When my Mom and I arrived at the Hotel Del Coronado it was like nothing I have ever seen before. I didn’t expect it to be that close to the beach!  It was beautiful outside and the sun was so warm. Seeing palm trees everywhere was definitely something new and everything just looked so clean. After we checked in, we were given a big bag full of lots of clothing, shoes, spikes, and of course, our uniforms!  This was amazing and I couldn’t believe we got this much stuff. Angel, Meredith, and I decided to go out to lunch together after our very long flights and that was very relaxing. It was beautiful outside! We also visited the beach together!! As the day went on, I met so many nice people and more people started showing up. I eventually met my two roommates Cali Roper from Texas, and Cami Chapus from California. They were unbelievably nice and I was so excited to be rooming with them! After everyone got settled, we went on a nice run and some of the pro athletes like Jen Rhines and Carrie Tollefson went with us. I usually don’t run in large groups like that and to know you are running with the best 80 runners in the whole nation is an awesome feeling. After we got done our run, we had a very nice dinner and the food was very good. Everything was set up like a buffet and everything just looked so official! After dinner, each region got to decorate their own shirts to wear during the scavenger hunt!! It was so fun running around with our team trying to take pictures, and find everything around the hotel. After that, everyone went to bed. It was such a long day and everyone was tired, but I was already having a blast and I couldn’t wait for everything else they had planned for us!!



Friday instructions - Saturday introductions - Saturday finish -- Photos by Don Rich

December 9th

    We woke up relatively early to eat breakfast. Again, the food was amazing and I was so excited to see what they had planned, but more importantly I was excited to go review the course. As we loaded the buses I was nervous and thrilled to go see the course because I have heard different things about it. Most of the girls who have already run here said they liked it but there is a hill you have to go up twice that isn’t too fun. I wasn’t worried because I couldn’t imagine anything worse than our Regional course. We ran the course all together with the professional athletes and practiced our introductions. To me, this was the best part. Just looking around and seeing all the people setting up for the meet got me very excited. It was overwhelming nevertheless, but I was pumped. The atmosphere was something I can’t explain. Just knowing you’re about to race with the top 40 girls in the nation is something special, and I can’t stress that enough. As we got back to the hotel, there was yet again, another fantastic meal. A magician was going around to each table performing tricks, and there was even a caricature artist drawing everyone too! By this time, I was still not used to the time change so I went back to my Mom’s hotel to take a quick nap before dinner. During the dinner the professional athletes sat on a panel and the athletes got a chance to ask questions. Some of the pro athletes included Jen Rhines, Adam Goucher, Suzy Favor Hamilton, Carrie Tollefson, Bobby Curtis, Jorge Torres, and others. It was so cool hearing what they had to say about their Foot Locker experiences! All of them went on to either become Olympians, NCAA champions, or setting some kind of world or national record. It felt good knowing that just a short time ago; they were also in the same spot I was competing in the Foot Locker Championship. It was all inspiring and it really made me feel special. They gave some great advice and after, they each gave us their autographs too! Since we had to be ready to go by 7:30, everyone got to bed early. Now it was almost race time and the nerves really started to kick in.

December 10th

It's race day and this is it! I noticed a dramatic change in everyone’s personality. The bus ride there, everyone was quiet, trying to focus, and this made me even more nervous. I was about to race the best girls in the country so nerves were normal. I was having so much fun in San Diego, but this day was in the back of my mind the whole time. Having my Northeast team there was also so comforting. Some of us talked about our race strategies and that made me feel so much better. We really wanted to win as a team, but we came in a close second to the Midwest region. They were seriously an amazing group of girls and I’m going to miss them so much! As I started warming up, I started to feel relaxed and comfortable. I was there to gain the experience and most importantly, have fun. I didn’t want to forget that. It was about making it to Nationals for me, nothing more. I had been doing track workouts leading up to nationals because I am so ready for track. I had done what I needed to do, which was making it, and now I was just going to try my best. The race went off, fast, and I started in the back and stayed there the rest of the way. As I finished, my Mom and the rest of the Northeast team were there at the end for me. I may not have finished where I wanted to, but I gave it my all and I gained experience running with the best. After cheering for the Northeast guys in their race, we all boarded the buses and headed back to the hotel. We were all hyper and couldn’t wait to eat! When we got back, all NE girls went to lunch together by the beach. We had interviews that were scheduled and there was a sundae bar there too! Some of the girls and I headed to the beach. The water was freezing, but it was so nice outside. There was a big banquet that night where we got our awards. We got a 5 course meal which was amazing! We also received a copy of Adam Goucher’s new book that was signed just for us! After the banquet was over, there was a dance and everyone had so much fun!! Since everyone’s flights were very early in the morning, none of us got much sleep. We didn’t want to waste any time so we tried to enjoy our last few hours we had at the hotel. Everyone just hung out together and I met some really cool people. It was really fun! We went on the beach at night, and some people even went swimming! All in all, this was an experience of a lifetime that I will never forget. I wouldn’t trade this for anything. I like track a lot more than cross country, but after this experience, it has made me really appreciate cross country so much more! The one thing I will take away from this trip is all the new friendships I’ve made. They will certainly last forever. The people I’ve met were amazing and it didn’t matter where we were all from. We were all like one big family.

I will now begin to get ready for indoor!! I already miss San Diego so much, and I’m sure the other girls do as well! I will now take a week off and then get right back into training. I would also like to say congrats to all the runners at nationals and most importantly, Angel and Dustin getting All-American! That’s amazing!! Great job to everyone!